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Pittsburgh Schools Report Slipping Test Scores

In its annual report to parents, the Pittsburgh Public School District said that on average, reading and math scores in all types of schools fell in 2012 with the worst scores going to the district’s four high schools where 50.5 percent of all students scored “proficient” in reading and just 36.1 percent hit the “proficient” mark in math.

The report has been posted on the district’s website and will be mailed out to all parents in March.

Moving on, Moving up

The graduation rate for all of the district’s high schools came in at 73 percent but only 51-percent of all seniors were “promise ready” meaning they had a GPA of 2.5 or higher and a 90% or greater attendance rate. "Pittsburgh Promise ready" students are eligible for scholarships at Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

Attendance rates throughout the district set off an alarm bell for Superintendent Linda Lane.  “Our teachers can’t teach to empty chairs. While we have focused our work to ensure that a highly effective teacher is in front of each student every day, it’s critical that our students are in school to gain exposure to that effective teaching,” Lane said. 

The percentage of students who attended classes 90 percent of the time or better ranged from 95 percent to just 40 percent at schools throughout the district.

Teaching and learning

The report also tries to measure the effectiveness of each school by comparing test data at the beginning and end of the year and then comparing the progress of students in Pittsburgh to students in the rest of the state.   A score of 50 means students in a given school are learning as well as those in the average Pennsylvania school.  Pittsburgh elementary (K-5) schools grabbed a 52 in math and 50 in reading. 

“We know that this information does not reflect in totality what is happening in each individual school, but it does tell us where our students are, where we are seeing academic growth, and where we have teaching and learning environments that support positive outcomes,” Lane said.

The schools where higher grade levels are housed did not fair as well, with the high schools scoring a 33 in math and 32 in reading.

In recent years the district has been working to narrow the achievement gap between African American students and white students.  “Approximately 55% of our students are African-American and they, on average, have lower achievement scores than other students. We have set a plan in motion to eliminate these differences within seven years,” reads the report.

The numbers show the gap in elementary schools at 23 percent for both reading and math, it drops in the district’s middle schools and then increases to 35 and 41 percent respectively for the high schools.