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Way better outcomes for students

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Last night, the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board held its first Superintendent search input hearing. Here’s what we had to say:

Good Evening.  My name is Carey Harris.  I am the executive director of A+ Schools and the parent of two Pittsburgh Public School students.

A+ Schools commends the school board for making such a significant investment of time and resources to collect community input during superintendent search process.   We are delighted to participate and will be encouraging our networks to do the same.

A+ Schools is an independent advocate for equitable and excellent public schools in Pittsburgh.  For more than a decade we’ve organized parents, students, community and civic leaders to work together for high expectations and great results.   Both out front and behind the scenes, we have won important changes for Pittsburgh’s students, including:

  • Multi-year state approval for Pittsburgh’s world class teacher evaluation system that provides accurate, reliable feedback for improvement.
  • Increased access to AP courses
  • Student Bill of Rights – crafted by our Teen Bloc students and supported by more than 1,700 PPS high schoolers – now part of the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Kindergarteners and first graders in Homewood have needed teachers, Sheridan students have bus transportation, and Brighton Heights students have a crossing guard and a safe route to school because A+ Schools’ organized parents to secure these changes.
  • Immigrant families through PPS now have access to a multilingual parent hotline and website because A+ Schools and its partners organized and supported Latino Parents United for Change’s efforts.

For the past eleven years we have published the annual Report to the Community on Public School Progress which provides families and community members with common, accessible information about the District’s schools and public charter schools. It is designed to help the public monitor school progress and identify areas where more information is needed. We thank current and past superintendents and their staff who have understood that information in a public system is essential to accountability and improvement.

Our hope for our next superintendent is a continued commitment to transparency, accountability and on getting way better outcomes for all students, especially those who are farthest behind.

While PPS has made some significant strides to improve opportunities and outcomes, there are still persistent challenges that the next superintendent must address.

We hope the next superintendent will continue the good work that has led to:

  • increased graduation rates and Promise eligibility for both black and white students;
  • A growing number of PPS schools showing contributions to student academic growth greater than the state average
  • high teacher performance and satisfaction levels within the district.

But, the next superintendent will need a vision for how to address these persistent challenges:

  • eliminating racial disparities in achievement, graduation rates, and promise eligibility
  • increasing the number of high quality public school options for families
  • significantly improving the percentage of third graders reading at grade level; currently only half do;
  • reducing suspensions and chronic absenteeism which continue as major barriers to student learning.
  • Dealing with declining enrollment and its impact on schools, finances and students.

These are tough challenges and will require tough decisions, hard work and perseverance.  We are confident that you can find a leader willing and able to making real change for students.  Thank you for your service to students, families, and community.  We look forward to working with you for way better outcomes.