At A+ Schools, we share the community’s concerns about the quality of education and equity in Pittsburgh Public Schools. We serve as a resource and catalyst for change, collecting and distributing critical information and providing specific ways for the community to help make our schools great.
5 Ways A+ Schools Makes a Difference
Here are key ways we partner with the community to improve Pittsburgh’s schools:
1. We Keep Watch Over Pittsburgh’s Schools
A strong public school system needs effective leadership that is fully accountable, fiscally responsible and strategically focused to ensure a high quality education for all students. Our work provides important oversight and helps ensure accountability at all of Pittsburgh’s public schools.
- Through our Board Watch program, volunteers attend School Board meetings, serving as independent observers and evaluators of the Board’s performance. Report Cards and recommendations based on their reports are issued quarterly.
2. We Mobilize the Community
We strive to involve the entire community — students, parents, the general public, neighborhood associations, religious groups and non-profit organizations, as well as school administrators, teachers and public officials — in the quest for quality education in Pittsburgh’s public schools. We partner with a wide range of community organizations, including the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, the League of Women Voters, the Black Political Empowerment Project, the Pittsburgh Promise, and many others in addition to the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and Pittsburgh Public Schools. Working together, we are a catalyst for change.
- Our School Works program recruits and mobilizes community volunteers to visit Pittsburgh Public Schools to conduct confidential interviews with teachers, principals and guidance counselors. These interviews let us gather information on the inner workings of Pittsburgh’s schools and make recommendations for improvements.
- TeenBloc brings together high school students from across Pittsburgh to participate in leadership development and community organizing aimed at improving public education in Pittsburgh.
- Parent Nation consists of school teams led by parents working together to support and demand equitable and excellent education at some of Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable schools.
3. We Collect Critical Data
As an independent community advocate for improvement in public education, we serve as a resource for facts, evidence, best practices and research. We gather information to determine if Pittsburgh students have what they need to succeed in school and be prepared for college and careers. We look closely at issues such as equity and the racial achievement gap and make recommendations aimed at providing a quality education for all students.
- Findings and recommendations resulting from our Tools, Rules and Schools initiative independently confirmed the need for change — particularly in our most vulnerable schools — and led to our support of the Empowering Effective Teachers Plan.
- Interviews conducted by School Works volunteers during visits with school staff each year produces valuable information on current conditions and supports available for quality teaching and learning — and has resulted in improved practices in schools.
4. We Keep You Informed
Parents and community members need facts to understand what is being proposed, talk things through, and provide feedback. A+ Schools provides that information and brings the public together in community meetings to discuss the findings and determine priorities — even using handheld polling devices to gather input.
- More than 300 community members took part in online survey and community forum entitled Choosing our Next Superintendent (download a PDF of our report from this meeting).
- At least 1,400 Pittsburgh residents attended a series of neighborhood meetings in 2011 and 2012, weighing in on the massive budget cuts facing the school district.
- The annual Report to the Community provides detailed information so families can monitor progress in each of Pittsburgh’s public schools and charter schools — and make informed decisions on school choice.
5. We Inspire Community Action
A+ Schools uses the data generated from our projects to create political pressure that influences policy and creates change that improves our schools. Our members, volunteers, partners, staff and board members organize community outreach events, engage the media, and testify at hearings before the School Board and other elected officials. We encourage the public to get involved.
- Our Equitable School Budgets campaign engaged over 1,400 supporters to demand that PPS distribute and allocate resources to schools based on student needs. PPS responded by developing a new educational delivery model that increased financial equity, while still cutting $22 million out of school budgets.
- Our Community Campaign for Empowering Effective Teachers collected more than 1,800 signatures supporting the plan. Supporters wore campaign t-shirts, signed petitions, testified their support and carried signs at public events. The innovation is now being implemented in every school in the district.
- Our Make Great Teaching Count effort with 10 community partner organizations collected more than 1,500 signatures demanding that PPS and PFT keep the District’s best teachers when making painful layoff decisions. Parents, students, educators, and community members sent postcards to PPS and PFT demanding action, sent letters to the editor, testified at hearings, and participated in a rally to keep the best teachers. Unfortunately, PPS and PFT could not agree on a way to put student interests first, forcing the layoff of 170 classroom teachers with no consideration of teacher quality. A+ Schools will continue to press for changes so future staffing decisions include measures of effectiveness.
- Our Voter Education efforts challenge city residents to register and vote in the Pittsburgh Public School Board elections. Community volunteers and partner organizations help A+ Schools collect pledges through canvassing, phone calls, meetings and mailings. A+ also conducts candidate forums and issues voter guides.