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June 2013 Board Watch Report Card

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Pittsburgh School Board Makes Progress on Transparency and Focus and Mission but still has work to do to improve Role Clarity and Competency according to volunteers

Maintains Overall B- on Board Watch “Report Card”

June 2013 Report Card

Highlights

The Pittsburgh School Board received an overall grade of B- on its June 2013 report card —

Minimum Score     Grade
  5.00  A+
  4.67  A
  4.33  A-
  4.00  B+
  3.67  B
  3.33  B-
  3.00  C+
  2.67  C
  2.33  C-
  2.00  D+
  1.67  D
  1.33  D-
  1.00  F

the same overall grade the Board received on the previous five report cards issued since February 2012. Other grades include:

Overall: The overall grade is a 3.35 (B-), nearly the same grade as in the previous Report Card. The grades were calculated from 18 surveys from 9 different volunteers.

Focus and Mission: The score is a 3.28 (B-), which went up from a C. On average, volunteers reported that the Board spent more than half of their meeting time managing time effectively, focusing on ways to achieve the district’s goals, and prioritizing student outcomes.

Transparency: The score increased slightly from a B to a 4.03 (B+), which means that on average, volunteers agreed that they felt welcome at the meeting and understood the information presented and the rationale behind the Board’s actions.

Conduct: The score is a 3.94 (B+), down slightly from an A-, which means that on average, volunteers reported that some Board members used sarcastic or disrespectful verbal or nonverbal communication. They reported that some of the Board handled differences of opinion respectfully.

Role Clarity: The score is a 2.47 (C-), remaining a C-and continuing to be the lowest grade, this score reflects that on average, volunteers reported that the Board spent less than half of its meeting time focused on how the district is making progress toward achieving its goals and using policy to create solutions to Board member concerns. Volunteers said the Board spent more than half of its meeting time focused on the details of agenda items (i.e., when items occur, who participates, etc.).

Competency: The score is a 3.02 (C+), remaining a C+ from the previous Report Card, which means that on average, volunteers reported that slightly more than half of the Board members were prepared for the meeting and appeared to use research, district data, existing policies and other facts to inform their opinions.


Progress Made Since the March Report Card

In the March Report Card, A+ Schools recommended that the School Board continue making meeting information accessible to the general public by ensuring that meeting agendas are posted in advance, especially for the Education Committee meetings. We’re encouraged to report that meeting materials have been posted with more time for the public’s review prior to meetings.

We also recommended that the School Board sign onto the Pledge for Educational Equity and Excellence, which outlines a community vision delivering on the promise of opportunity made to all children with regard to public education, specifically, that each student receives the individual support s/he needs to graduate from high school and successfully complete post-secondary education or training. We believe that supporting the pledge is a way to demonstrate the School Board’s commitment to its mission and its role as a policy making board. Before the primary election in May, all 9 candidates running for School Board signed the pledge, as did 27 community organizations, and over one hundred community leaders, parents, students, educators, and concerned citizens. We encourage the School Board to adhere to the principles of the Pledge and to enact the policies found within.


Recommendations – Supporting Policies of Educational Equity and Excellence through Envisioning Process

As the district continues its Envisioning work, we urge the Board’s leadership in guarding and promoting educational equity and excellence for all of Pittsburgh’s students, especially as the School Board passes a new budget at the end of the year. Undoubtedly, difficult decisions must be made, and we ask that the Board prioritize decisions that will result in our district and schools better serving our most vulnerable students.

We hope the Board accepts this report card and recommendations in the constructive and collaborative spirit in which they are offered. We thank the Board for its continued leadership and dedication to ensuring all of Pittsburgh’s students have access to resources that will help them thrive and reach success in high school and beyond.


Since the launch of Board Watch in January 2009, A+ Schools has issued 15 report cards on Pittsburgh School Board governance practices based on observations of meetings by trained volunteers.

The June 2013 report card is the eighth report card to be issued using the new reporting form (Version 2.0) introduced by A+ Schools in 2011. Version 2.0 reflects higher expectations for the School Board’s governance and allows for more specific feedback and recommendations from Board Watch volunteers.

 

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