Launched in 2009, School Works is an annual community action research* program sponsored by A+ Schools that uses teams of trained volunteers to interview school staff to collect data on staffing, training, coursework, support services, resources, and learning opportunities for Pittsburgh students. Over the years, School Works has expanded to include student surveys and interviews with the city of Pittsburgh voters to better understand how various stakeholders experience or perceive Pittsburgh Public Schools.
School Works is modeled after the successful Ready Schools Project conducted by D.C. Voice in Washington, D.C.
*Community action research aims to involve those affected by issues in the research process while collecting data that can be used by the community to take action and help advocate for positive change.
Volunteers are independent and neutral citizens who are recruited, trained, and sent in teams to conduct private interviews with school staff. A+ Schools invites participation by all citizens who share our commitment to student achievement. Volunteers attend a training session led by A+ Schools that covers their responsibilities, instruction on how to use the survey, and an overview of what the collected data reveals about opportunities and resources for students. Volunteers are then assigned in teams to conduct a very specific, timed, interview with school staff and other stakeholders.
School Works Findings 2016-17: Voters
School Works Volunteers interviewed over 300 Pittsburgh voters to learn more about what the public knows about education in Pittsburgh and what issues matter most to voters. The results from this year’s interviews were used to help inform the questions that we asked candidates running for school board to include in A+ Schools 2017 Voter Guides through our Voter Education initiatives.
Schools Works Findings 2015: Principals
This year our volunteers interviewed 50 principals and found practices that are working to reduce chronic absenteeism, reduce suspensions, and improve outcomes for students in vulnerable schools.
Unfortunately, students in vulnerable schools are more likely to be suspended, have less experienced teachers, and have a higher principal turnover than students at less vulnerable schools. Therefore internal practices and external policies prevent vulnerable schools from creating conditions for student success.
School Works Findings 2014: Principals, Counselors, SELs, Students
Students called on the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education to adopt a Student Bill of Rights as a way to address systemic inequities found in this year’s School Works community action research.
The results of surveys done through A+ Schools’ School Works program completed by over 400 high school juniors and 26 principals, counselors, and teacher leaders in Pittsburgh’s nine public secondary schools demonstrated that poorer minority students face multiple school-based obstacles to college and career readiness. The key finding from the report provided was that school climate, positive discipline practices, and staff instability are concerns at high poverty schools.
School Works Findings 2013: Principals
School Works volunteers this year interviewed 49 PPS principals and 14 principals from suburban school districts. While we found that some progress had been made with regards to improving students’ access to opportunities across the district, we found that staff instability was high and that student’s conduct standards were varied with higher numbers of suspensions and referrals at our most vulnerable schools.