March 2013 Board Watch Report CardLeave a Comment
Pittsburgh School Board Decreases in Focus and Mission, Maintains Progress in Transparency
Maintains Overall B- on Board Watch “Report Card”
The Pittsburgh School Board received an overall grade of B- on its March 2013 report card — the same overall grade the Board received on the previous four report cards issued since February 2012. Other grades include:
- Focus and Mission – the grade decreased slightly since December to a C, which means that on average, volunteers reported that the Board spent about half of its meeting time managing time effectively, focusing on ways to achieve the District’s goals, and prioritizing student outcomes.
- Transparency – the grade remained a 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 grade increased slightly to an A-, which means that on average, volunteers reported that few Board members used sarcastic, contemptuous or disrespectful verbal or nonverbal communication. Volunteers reported that most of the Board handled differences of opinion respectfully.
- Role Clarity – the grade remained a C-, which means that on average, volunteers reported that the Board spent less than half of its meeting time focused on monitoring the extent to which the District is making progress toward achieving its goals and using policy as a way to create solutions. It also means that on average, the Board spent more than half of its meeting time focused on the details of agenda items (i.e., who participates, when items occur, what participants will do, etc.).
- Competency – the grade remained a C+, which means that on average, volunteers reported that slightly more than half of the Board members were prepared for the meeting, appeared to use research, district data, existing policies and other facts to inform opinions, and effectively fulfilled their roles as policy makers.
Progress Made Since the December Report Card
In the December Report Card, A+ Schools recommended that the School Board hold public meetings in rooms large enough to accommodate the general public, as seating was very limited in the room where Education Committee and Agenda Review meetings were frequently held (Board Committee Room). Since that time, the Education Committee and Agenda Review meetings have taken place in Conference Room A, which offers more seating than the Board Committee Room. We commend the Board for making this change and encourage you to continue to hold these meetings in the larger room in order to provide sufficient seating to members of the public.
We’re also pleased to report that the School Board has continued to post its Legislative meeting minutes in a timely fashion, as per our recommendation in September 2012. Transcripts are currently available for all but the most recent meeting.
Recommendations – Continued Meeting Accessibility and Supporting Policies of Educational Equity and Excellence
We encourage the School Board to 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 also recommend that the School Board commit to guarding and promoting educational equity and excellence for all of Pittsburgh’s students by signing onto the Pledge for Educational Equity and Excellence. Supporting the pledge is a way to demonstrate the School Board’s commitment to its mission and its role as a policy making board. The pledge has support from a growing number of community organizations, community leaders, parents, students, educators, and concerned citizens. It 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.
The pledge outlines steps the School Board should take in order to achieve the vision of educational equity and excellence in Pittsburgh Public Schools, including prioritizing resources for our most vulnerable students, ensuring all students experience rigorous coursework through quality teaching in every classroom, implementing positive behavioral supports in every school, and advocating for board policies that (1) guarantee students access to opportunities that boost learning and (2) make all schools safe, welcoming, and engaging to parents and community members.
Please visit our website to read the full vision and sign the pledge.
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 March 2013 report card is the seventh 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.
What You Can Do
- Volunteer for Board Watch
- Contact your School Board Member
- Testify at a Public Hearing
- Attend or Watch a School Board Meeting