Pittsburgh Schools Fail to Hit Progress Targets

Once again, Pittsburgh’s eleventh graders point to the failure that is the City’s school system. Because these students were unable to improve their scores on the state’s assessment tests, the District will not hit the modest Federal standards of adequate yearly progress. And adequate yearly progress is easiest to achieve when the students are already at low performance levels. Moreover, hitting an adequate yearly progress target does not mean students are doing well-just that they have made some improvement.

But the big issue here is Pittsburgh high schools’ abject inability to make progress despite program after program, spending vast amounts of money and launching the Promise Program. As we have pointed out repeatedly, why is progress at grade three or five ballyhooed as evidence that school policies are working when students near graduation continue to fall well below minimal requirements? It’s the equivalent of focusing on drawing up plans to build a house and then failing to pay attention to the flaws in actual construction. The house will turn out poorly and the money spent on plans will have been wasted.

Little wonder school enrollment continues to decline. Not even the promise of college tuition money for anyone who graduates is helping to boost scores or enrollment. Indeed, the Promise Program, rather than creating incentives to do well, is for many students probably being viewed as another entitlement that requires little or no effort on their part and for some formerly serious students could be seen as removing the need to work really hard in order to qualify for financial aid upon entering college.

As long as the school district and its defenders refuse to face up to their real problem they will never develop a way to get better. The schools and the community should welcome and adopt vouchers that will allow students who truly want to learn an opportunity to escape the education nightmare that exists in many City schools.