A+Schools: Achievement gap closing

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Last year, an annual report produced by A+ Schools, discovered it would take 40 years for the racial achievement gap to be eliminated in the Pittsburgh Public School District. Their latest report, released Nov. 14, shows this number nearly cut in half, with a new estimated timeframe of 24 years, if the district continues to make the same amount of progress each year.

“We found more progress last year than we’ve seen in any previous year since we began publishing this report,” said Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools. “We congratulate students, teachers, principals, families and the community in Pittsburgh for the hard work that has produced great results. But, much work remains to be done to make sure school works for every child in every school.”

The A+ Schools Seventh Annual Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh uses data from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests to determine student achievement across the school district. Overall, the report showed increased student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap between the percentage of Black and White students who scored proficient or advanced on the PSSAs.

According to the report, the achievement gap between White and Black students is 30.6 percent in reading and 27.2 percent in math. Last year the achievement gap was 33.1 percent in reading and 30.7 percent in math.

However, high school achievement continues to be the greatest problem, with 11th graders seeing a drastic drop in achievement on the PSSAs from 2008-2011. While achievement at all other grade levels in math and reading saw an increase, achievement for 11th graders in math saw a drop of 8 percentage points.

Harris said the good news in the report should not diminish the continuing struggles of the district’s 11th graders and the racial achievement gap that “is still far too large.”

The report also showed that 43.4 percent of African-American seniors are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, based on their grade-point average. This compares to 76.7 percent of White students and 39.9 percent of Black students in the previous year.

Graduation rates at some of the district’s poorest performing predominantly African-American high schools saw huge increases, while the district’s overall rate went from 82.4 percent in 2009 to 89.2 percent in 2010. Oliver High School’s graduation rate went from 44.7 percent in 2009 to 73.9 percent in 2010. Westinghouse High School’s rate went from 67.6 percent to 87.8 percent.

Mirroring a steady decline in enrollment in the Pittsburgh Public School District, enrollment declined by 453 students to 25,582 since last year’s report. However, for the past four years, enrollment has risen at the K-5 level.

This week, A+ Schools will mail the report to 20,000 city households with children enrolled in PPS and children ages 5 and under. The report will also be available in local libraries, city schools and at elected officials’ offices, or by calling A+ Schools and can be accessed online at http://www.aplusschools.org.

A+ is also offering tailored presentations to school and community groups interested in learning more about the report and how to use it.

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