More training proposed for new teachers on how to adjust to urban classroom

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Like other schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District, achievement at Brashear High School in Beechview has declined significantly over the past two years. Although perhaps not as drastic, the same can be said for the King Accelerated Learning Academy K-8 in the North Side.

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MARK ROOSEVELT and JERRI LIPPERT

But a new set of recommendations by superintendent Mark Roosevelt hopes to turn these numbers around and eventually have a rippling effect on the whole district.

On July 19, Roosevelt presented his proposal for the Teacher Academy to the School Board. The proposal is part of the district’s Empowering Effective Teachers Plan funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Grant.

“It’s been a multiple month process to get to these recommendations. A lot of times districts focus on things that create short-term improvement. This takes time to improve the effectiveness of teachers over time,” said Roosevelt. “When you look at the way the world was before this, it will look ridiculous. This is such a gargantuan change.”

The entire EET plan will cost $80 million with $40 million coming from the Gates grant. The creation of the Teacher Academies will cost $6 million.

The proposed sites for the Teacher academies are Brashear and King. The schools will be infused with a cadre of highly effective teachers and will serve as learning environments for new teachers.

As part of the proposal, new teachers hired by the district will undergo a 10-month residency where they will train under some of the most highly effective teachers also known as clinical resident instructors.

The teachers will receive training specific to urban education and work with different races and cultures. Applicants will go through a screening process to determine whether they will thrive in an urban environment.

“We really want to attract top talent so we really have to make it attractive,” said Jerri Lippert, the district’s chief academic officer. “We’re making an investment in (these teachers.)”

In choosing sites for the Teacher Academy, the district wanted to find schools with academic disparities, an adequate school population and a suitable facility where no other reform model was being planned or implemented. They also had to ensure the sites were eligible for the state School Improvement Grant and Race to the Top funding.

“We wanted it to be a high- needs school. We wanted there to be a clear impact on African-Americans. Brashear’s African-American percentage isn’t as high as other schools, but the number of African-Americans is larger than any school,” Roose­velt said. “Student achievement in these schools cries out for attention. “

According to preliminary data, the percentage of African-American students at Brashear who were at least proficient in reading and math is under 23 percent. At King the percentages rest under 36 percent.

In order to fund the proposal the district has applied for a number of grants including the Teacher Incentive Fund, School Improvement Grant and Fund for Excellence, which they have already received.

“There’s tons of federal funding opportunities,” said Roosevelt. “We’ve done very well with our financial situation.”

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