Pittsburgh Public Schools Advised to Repeat Same Mistakes Over and Over and Over…



“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

-Albert Einstein (attributed)


-Charlie Brown



If I crash my car right into a wall, the worst thing to do would be to get into another car and crash it right into the same wall!


But that’s what the Pittsburgh Post Gazette thinks city school administrators should do.


A new comprehensive report about Pittsburgh Public Schools concludes that standardization and Common Core have produced zero progress in the district over the last decade.


And the editorial board of the city’s largest remaining newspaper says this means administrators should stay the course – indeed, double down on test prep and uniformity.


The 175-page report by The Council of the Great City Schools affirms that the district showed little to no improvement in the last 10 years.


“In fact, analysis of student achievement trends shows little to no improvements since 2007,” the report went on. “Although some scores went up and others went down over the period, achievement gaps are about the same — if not wider — than they were when the work started.”


You would think this would be a scathing indictment of administrators during this time who focused on test prep and uniformity to the exclusion of more student-centered reforms. In particular, during the same time covered in the report, administrators paid for new curriculum designed to standardize instruction across schools and grade levels. They instituted a value-added bonus system rewarding principals who run the schools with the highest test scores. They even increased the length of the school day to drive achievement.


They did all this, and it didn’t help a bit.


Some might see that as proof of the error of past ways.


But not the Post Gazette.


In the minds of the editorial board, this is a ringing endorsement of those policies that got us nowhere.


Mark Roosevelt, superintendent from 2005 to 2010, and Linda Lane, superintendent from 2010 to 2016, are actually singled out by the paper as heroes of reform!


Wait a minute. These are the people in charge when the district apparently was stalled. If anything, these functionaries should bear the blame, not get a pat on the back. We should do anything BUT continuing their work which lead to this dismal report.


But instead, the editorial board writes, “[T]he work of Mr. Roosevelt and Ms. Lane was not in vain. They inaugurated a coherent system of reforms, made the federal benchmark known as ‘adequate yearly progress’ twice in three years, restored the district’s credibility with the foundation community, forged a closer relationship with the teachers union and generated a new sense of optimism. The course they charted is worth revisiting.”




Voters are fed up with number-worshipping flunkies who don’t see kids as anything but data points. That’s why the community has consistently replaced number crunching school directors and administrators with people who have a new vision of education – a community schools approach.


The editorial board may look down their noses at current Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet who took over just this summer and the positive changes he’s been making with the new progressive school board, but he’s only doing what the public wants. And given this new report, a new direction is exactly what Pittsburgh Public Schools needs!


In the ivory tower of big media, they don’t see it this way.


In fact, the PG goes so far as to imply that Dr. Hamlet and the new board are somehow responsible for Roosevelt and Lane’s failures.


“It may be that they [Roosevelt and Lane] did not stay long enough for their efforts to take root,” writes the Post Gazette, “that the reforms became too cumbersome to manage or that they were unable to fully impose their will on a sprawling school district with many constituencies.”


Please. Dr. Hamlet’s presence has not halted Roosevelt and Lane’s march toward progress. This report demonstrates that they achieved very little. Moreover, Dr. Hamlet has only been in office since June. He hasn’t been in the district long enough to flush student test scores down the toilet – especially when for more than nine of those years he was working in Florida.


Neither can you blame the community for being fed up with corporate education reforms that apparently don’t work.


No. If this report by a consortium of the nation’s 70 largest urban school districts shows failure in ‘burgh schools, that belongs to the bosses at the top during the last 10 years. If this is a failure, it is Roosevelt’s and Lane’s, not Dr. Hamlet’s. Nor can you place it at the feet of school directors, most of whom are new to the board.


But the media mavens can be forgiven slightly for coming to such an odd conclusion, because it’s supported by the organization that wrote the report – the Council of the Great City Schools. After all, the Council suggested this push toward standardization in the first place.



In February 2006, this same Council advised Pittsburgh to “recommit to a standardized, districtwide curriculum to ensure that every classroom is focused on a common set of rigorous expectations for student learning.”


And now that same Council is saying that doing so resulted in a fat goose egg.


Great advice, Guys!


Pittsburgh residents spent $156,545 of taxpayer money to find that out.


Still, it’s not a total waste. It’s probably the most comprehensive look at the district in recent history and drew expertise from two dozen executives from eight different city school systems. It also included interviews with 170 staff and community members.


The third-party review was part of Dr. Hamlet’s transition plan and “acts as a blueprint” to transform the district, he said. It includes a detailed review of the district’s organization structure, staffing levels, instructional programs, financial operations, business services, disciplinary policies, and research and data functions.


Of particular interest is school discipline data showing that the district has an “extraordinarily high” suspension rate compared with other cities and that its disciplinary actions disproportionately affect students of color. In fact, this seems to justify moves by Dr. Hamlet to enact a restorative justice disciplinary program instead of a strict zero tolerance policy.

The report includes numerous suggestions for improvements across the board including revamping the district’s central office structure and updating the district’s outdated PreK-5 literary curriculum – initiatives that are already underway.


But when it comes to a repeated call for standardization and canned curriculum across the district, it should be ignored.


Put simply, we’ve tried that crap. It doesn’t help.


We’ve got to get beyond our love for standardized tests. We know that poor students don’t do as well on these types of assessments as middle class or wealthy students. It should be no surprise, then, that an urban district like Pittsburgh with a high percentage of impoverished students will also have low test scores.


It’s the poverty, stupid!


We need to do something to address that directly, not attack a district that’s lost almost $1 billion annually in state funding for the last five years.


Moreover, this obsession with Common Core is completely unfounded. It has never been demonstrated that aligning curriculum to the Core will increase test scores or increase learning. In fact, there is mounting research to show that these academic standards are developmentally inappropriate and actually prevent authentic learning – especially in reluctant learners.


The Council of the Great City Schools is enamored with these policies because the organization has taken millions of dollars in donations from the Gates Foundation and other organizations connected with the testing industry. Even many charitable foundations have aligned themselves with this lucrative business model where corporations cash in when students fail and then cash in again by selling them the remediation and Common Core texts they convince us we need to pass the tests.


The editorial board of the Post Gazette is likewise blinded by dollar signs and data.


Like far too many non-educators, they give far too much credence to a person’s bank account than her expertise. The same people pushing testing and new academic standards also benefit financially from them. They have created at least one PAC in the city with deep pockets looking to unseat unsympathetic board members and discredit Dr. Hamlet so that they can install their own representatives.


This is a battle with plain sense and logic. It’s also a battle for control of Pittsburgh Public Schools.

12 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Public Schools Advised to Repeat Same Mistakes Over and Over and Over…

  1. Sounds like Oregon. The ODE recently admitted SBAC data isn’t designed for improving teaching and learning. The SBAC doesn’t report specifics like whether kids understand fractions or punctuation rules. The deputy superintendent’s conclusion? It’s time to purchase additional interim tests. WTF?

    Liked by 1 person

    • rbeckley58, we live on a farm and used to raise beef cattle until we got too old to do so.
      We never once thought that the way to put more weight on our cattle (and they are sold for more money if they weigh more) was to purchase a large scale and weigh them all the time, thinking that was the way to get them to gain weight and be healthy.
      More testing for kids in school doesn’t do a d@mned thing to teach them what they need to know, just as weighing our cattle frequently wouldn’t have resulted in them gaining weight.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Way too many newspapers and others are blinded by whoever has the most money.
    I mean, a big fat “zero” and they think that Pittsburgh schools should “stay the course” (of Roosevelt and Lane)?
    This is delusional.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been seeing the same pattern for some time now. The corporate, public-education wrecking crew, all psycho pirates and con men, keeps repeating the same failed script, just like Littlefingers Donald Turmp did during his campaign and he is still doing. They attack and keep claiming the same crap no matter how much evidence shows they are wrong. They never admit they are wrong, and never acknowledge the rational people with the studies, research, and facts even exist.

    Why are we continuing to attempt debating them? This strategy goes nowhere. It’s time to figure out the next step and stop talking to them.

    This is what’s left.

    1. organize to win elections
    2. go to court often

    And if 1 & 2 fails to stop them.

    3. revolution/civil war


    4. surrender and become another puppet/minion/victim


    • Lloyd, Mr. Zorba and I were just talking about this. I said that the demographics of this country would spell doom for the Republican Party eventually (and not that long in the future). He maintained that, the way that the Electoral College is set up Constitutionally, and the out of proportion influence of the small (population-wise) states, which tend to be very Republican, especially with gerrymandering, means that it will be a very, very long time before any profound changes are made.
      I responded, in that case, it may come to some kind of violence or revolution, because at some point the people of color, the disadvantaged, will get sick of being screwed over. And eventually, even the white working class will realize that they have been sold a bill of goods and that the decent jobs are not ever coming back (most of them are being done by automation now, as opposed to workers in China, anyway). So what happens then? It’s going to get ugly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I think it will get ugly, very ugly and dangerous. That’s why we all should have at least a shotgun in our homes, because there will be violent criminals and violent mobs, that will take advantage of the chaos caused by a civil war and the criminals will victimize innocent people to turn them into slaves and/or rob them.


      • Lloyd, we live on a farm in a rural area on top of a mountain. We grow much of our own vegetables and fruits and can and freeze and otherwise preserve them. We have a freezer full of venison and fish caught by Mr. Z.
        And we have wood stoves, acres of wood to stoke them, two smokers and a grill.
        As well as two shotguns, a rifle, and a legal, registered handgun.
        If it gets ugly, we’re as prepared as we can be. And we may go down if things get really bad, but we won’t go down without a fight.
        Republicans aren’t the only ones who are armed in this country. We are, too.


      • Tactically is sounds like you are in a much better location and position to survive than I am. If the country unravels into Civil War and goes up in flames, will you be accepting recruits to help guard your mountain top farm? I have two shotguns, a rifle, two automatic pistols, and one revolver, ammo, knives, pepper spray. You know what they say about Marines, once a Marine, always a Marine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You would have to live in the barn (our house is small) but there’s plenty of hay out there.
        And lord knows, we have tons of food. How are you at hunting, fishing, and gardening? We need to continue to feed ourselves while holding off the mobs.
        BTW, we were never in the military, but my husband (who grew up hunting) made sure I knew how to use the shotguns, rifles, and also the Glock. I can use a bow and arrow pretty effectively, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have all the gear for trekking into the wilderness and staying for a week or so depending on how much food I carry in. Big, heavy backpack (full about 60 pounds or more), with sleeping bag, ceramic water filter, shelter, etc. But my weapons would probably, combined, weigh more than the full backpack. I’ve never carried my arsenal when on a week-long trek into the Sierras.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lloyd, it sounds like you are well prepared, yourself.
        We have a well (good mountain water) but if the electrical grid goes out, our electric pump wouldn’t work. Although we also have an older, hand pump connected to the well, that was here when we bought the place. Plus we have a stream on our property, and a small water purifier we used to take camping with us. And we can always boil water on a wood stove.
        I am actually thinking of buying a crossbow, to supplement our rifle/shotguns. We have two compound bows (both Mr. Zorba and I used to participate in archery in school), but they are not that good for hunting. If we run out of bullets and shotgun shells, we could make our own crossbow arrows. And you can recover your crossbow arrows/bolts (if you are paying attention) and re-use them.
        Yes, we have thought about all of this in the past, not just recently. Does that make us paranoid?
        Maybe, but better prepared and not need all this, than unprepared.


      • I have thought about buying a crossbow. I wonder if it’s possibly to buy one of those machine gun cross bows the Chinese invented centuries ago. I read that the same mechanism was used to make the first bullet throwing machine guns.

        Liked by 1 person

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