The Pittsburgh Public Schools watchdog group A+ Schools has thrown its support behind the District’s “Empowering Effective Teachers Plan.” The plan aims to put an effective teacher into every classroom and is supported by a multimillion dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A+ is calling on the district and the teacher’s union to focus on three main aspects of the plan:
Changing the hiring process to give candidates and schools more time, information and freedom of choice, establishing a core team of highly effective and committed teachers at the most vulnerable schools, and addressing specific needs at vulnerable schools to provide teachers with the learning environment and resources they need to deliver quality instruction. A+ schools executive director Carey Harris says, “Our students, especially our neediest students, need teachers who have sufficient support and want to stay and make a positive difference.” Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt says it is “extremely helpful” to get the endorsement of groups like A+ Schools and notes that is validates their efforts. Roosevelt says the district still needs approval from union members to implement some aspects of the plan but other aspects are already being put into action including changing the ways hires are made and the importance of making tenure. Roosevelt says making the plan a reality and making it work will be the district’s main focus for the next six years. Harris of A+ Schools says, “This gives teachers the opportunity to build relationships with the community, parents and other teachers. It creates a culture where people — including students — feel they are part of something important and that what they do matters.” The recommendations are the result of a 15-month study of “Tools, Rules and Schools” conducted by A+ Schools and its partners at the Learning Policy Center at the University of Pittsburgh. In their report, researchers identify “vulnerable schools” as those with the highest percentage of low-income students, higher number of disciplinary incidents and lower student achievement.
Harris called on community members to support administrators and federation leaders in taking the steps needed to implement the plan.