Two years ago, in 2005, new Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt inherited a troubled school district. In fact, Pittsburgh Schools were placed on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s district improvement list in 2005, based on results that did not meet requirements on the Pennsylvania System of Schools Assessment (PSSA).
When Superintendent Roosevelt took over the Pittsburgh Schools, he needed a plan to improve the school system in order to move Pittsburgh Schools off of the improvement list. At that time, he described and implemented an ambitious plan with objectives not only for moving every student toward proficiency, but also for increasing the number of students who are achieving at the highest levels.
“When setting our objectives, we wanted to be realistic yet inspirational. We recognize that we must change the hearts and minds of everyone – kids, parents, teachers, central office staff and the entire Pittsburgh Schools community – so we share in a common belief that every child can achieve excellence,” said Superintendent Roosevelt.
To that end, Pittsburgh Schools wrote a new mission statement, which states “Pittsburgh Schools will be the one of America’s premier school districts, student-focused, well-managed, and innovative. We will hold ourselves accountable for preparing all children to achieve academic excellence and strength of character so that they have the opportunity to succeed in all aspects of life.”
Board Chair of the Pittsburgh Schools Education Committee Thomas Sumpter also noted, “Raising the achievement level of all students is paramount, and that is what the District must be held accountable for.”
Not only are Pittsburgh Schools working towards these goals and beliefs, but they are also offering a generous incentive plan for high school seniors. Hoping to encourage more students for getting graduate, and continue on to college, Pittsburgh Schools and the City of Pittsburgh are issuing what is called “The Pittsburgh Promise.” The promise pledges that starting in 2008; all graduates who meet certain standards will have the means of getting post-secondary education. The district and the city hope to raise $5 – $7 million a year to make college or other post-secondary education affordable. To access the money, students will have to attend a city public school, do their work, stay out of trouble, and graduate.
So how are Pittsburgh Schools doing so far? At the request of Superintendent Mark Roosevelt, an organization known as RAND completed an analysis of the implementation of major district initiatives so far, and has suggested opportunities to strengthen future implementation. RAND analyzed how each initiative supports Excellence for All, the district’s improvement plan for increasing the academic performance of all students. Findings showed improvements throughout Pittsburgh Schools so far, but more work is needed.
“We are firm in our commitment to being a learning organization that seeks to self-correct and constantly improve,” said Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent Roosevelt. “We know improvements are needed and have already begun to make significant changes with our partners to address many of the recommendations …presented by RAND.”