Two-Thirds of Pittsburgh Families Recommend Local Schools

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that findings from a recent district survey show that over two-thirds of parents with children in the Pittsburgh Public Schools think well enough of their local school to recommend it to others.

The district mailed its 2012 parents survey to families around the city earlier this year, and received replies from over 15% of the targeted households. This reply rate, which added up to more than 4,000 families, was the highest that the district has seen in years.

About 57% of responses were from white families, while a bit under 31% of those replying were black. This is an almost exact flip from the ethnic makeup of the district, which is more than 55% black and 35% white. In light of that, when the findings were presented at the district's board meeting earlier this week, some attendees protested that it didn't provide an accurate picture of the parental attitudes towards the educational options available to their children.

While past surveys focused on questions about the district, this one asked questions about the individual schools. Schools then will review the results, looking for ways to improve parent participation and respond to the survey results.

On the question of whether they would recommend their child's school, 35 percent strongly agreed and 34 percent agreed.

Parents expressed more enthusiasm about about schools catering to younger students, with 85% saying that they were satisfied with K-5 schools and early childhood centers attended by their children.

The answers also revealed some ambivalence about what the parents thought about the quality of instruction available in the schools. Of those who recommended their local schools, 67% thought the quality of instruction was improving. Only 16% of those who didn't think that the schools attended by their children were worth a recommendation thought the same about the teachers working there.

Some of the other teaching questions that separated the two groups included whether the child is challenged to do his best, discipline strategies for disruptive students are effective and teachers believe all students can learn at high levels.

Some communications questions that separated the two groups included whether the school provides useful responses to questions, considers a parent's recommendations or gives useful information on how to improve a child's progress.

The Pittsburgh school district recently took steps to substantially overhaul its elementary education program. In addition to traditional staples of early childhood learning like story time and free play, PPS students also began receiving instruction in science and computers. The effort to add STEM components to the elementary education curriculum was funded by a $10,000 Grable Foundation grant, which allowed the district to build a state of the art Entertainment Technology Center open to students of all ages and grades.

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