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CONGRATS GRADS—Pittsburgh Obama’s Class of 2013 at their graduation ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, June 7. (Photo by J.L. Martello)


According to a report recently released by Education Week, the national high school graduation rate reached nearly 75 percent in 2010. For African-American students the rate was lower, with only 62 percent of Blacks earning a diploma, an increase of 13.2 percent in 10 years.

While many across the nation decry the growing number of African-American students dropping out of high school, the Pittsburgh Public School District is seeing an overwhelming number of Black students graduating from its magnet schools.

This year marked Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy’s first graduating class since it was opened in 2009. Of the school’s 56 seniors, every student graduated.

“In terms of actual dropouts in this actual class there are none,” said Sci-Tech Principal Robert Scherrer. “I think it has to do with the fact we’re a school centered around an area of focus so I think it’s an opportunity for students to take something they’re passionate about and work hard at it everyday.”


ONCE IN A LIFETIME—Emotional moment after graduation with Kelah Cash, crying, hugs Gabrielle
Alexandra Davis-Jones. (Photo by J.L. Martello)


The district’s magnet schools are designed to allow students to pursue special interests, talents or career goals. At Sci-Tech students focus their studies on science, technology, engineering, and math.

“There are things we do different at the school,” Scherrer said. “We still have an achievement gap (between Black and White students) but the achievement gap has decreased every year since we’ve been open. Our achievement gap is lower than the averages.”

Sci-Tech’s success isn’t unique among magnet schools in the district. Last year Pittsburgh Obama  boasted a 100 percent graduation rate. In 2011, Pittsburgh CAPA saw 100 percent of its Black seniors graduating, higher than the 97.5 percent graduation rate for White students at the school.

In terms of the achievement gap, both Sci-Tech and CAPA reported gaps that were less than district averages of 31.9 percent in reading and 30.9 percent in math. At CAPA the gap in reading was as low as 9 percent.

The students at these schools are also planning to attend college in larger numbers than district averages. According to a recent survey of Obama seniors, every student identified an intent to enroll in a post-secondary institution or the military.

The district’s average graduation rate in 2011 was 68.5 percent


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