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Annual Report Shows Achievement Gap Closing in Pittsburgh Schools, But Long Road Still Ahead

More students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools scored in the proficient or advanced ranges for reading and math in the 2010-2011 school year than did four years ago. That's according to the seventh annual Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh, released by A+ Schools, an education advocacy group.

The report shows the achievement gap between black and white students continuing to close. It's at its lowest point in four years: 30.6 percent in reading and 27.2 percent in math.

"Both black and white students are moving ahead, but our black students are moving ahead faster. Neither group is moving behind, which is exactly what needs to happen if we're going to close the gap," said Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools.

Because of the progress made, the organization's estimate of how long it would take to close the achievement gap has decreased. A previous report stated that if the same progress seen in the last four years continues, it would take 40 years to close the gap in math and 34 years in reading. But, Harris said, if the progress of the last year continues, it would take 24 years to close both. Which, she said, is still too long.

"But we hope that students and families, teachers and administrators see that their hard work is making a difference and continue to press forward to get this gap gone and accelerate the pace of our growth," she said.

Still, she lauded the progress that was outlined in the report. Enrollment in the district declined last year by 453 students to 25,582. Nearly 65 percent of the district's seniors took the SAT test, a 4.2 percent increase, and the district graduation rate rose 6.8 percent to 89.2 percent. About 59 percent of Pittsburgh seniors had a grade point average that qualified them for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship, a 4 percent increase over last year.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is also seeing more racial diversity as the number of Hispanic and Asian students increases.

The report is available online, and a copy is being sent to all families with children in the public schools. But Harris said that it's important for the entire community to know what's going on in a system that their tax dollars pay for, because the city's future depends on a strong education system.

"What happens to those 25,000 kids is what's going to happen to the future of this city in terms of what kind of work force we have, what kind of community we want to live in, so we all need these kids to have a bright future, because our futures are intimately tied to them," she said.

The full report can be found at: aplusschools.org