Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Schools Want More Time to to Close Racial Gap

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Schools Want More Time to to Close Racial Gap

Article excerpt

A 20-year quest for racial equality in Pittsburgh Public Schools likely will last at least two more years.

The city school board is scheduled to vote later this month on a proposed memo of understanding with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission that gives the district two more years to reduce racial inequality for students, including academic achievement, discipline and resources.

"The measures put in place have produced significant, positive results, but the work is not done," said Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the Human Relations Commission.

The roots of the memo are a 1992 racial discrimination complaint filed by the Advocates for African-American students, a group of parents and educators.

The school board voted in 2005 to settle the long-standing case, and the agreement was finalized in 2006. The district contended many of the action steps were covered in its Excellence for All agenda.

Time has run out on the conciliation agreement, so a memo of understanding -- which also is legally enforceable -- is in the works to extend at least some measures from the conciliation agreement.

At its agenda review meeting Wednesday, the board is scheduled to review the proposed memo of understanding. The memo is expected to be up for a vote Sept. 26. The commission is to sign off after the board votes.

The commission would review the district's progress twice annually. When the memo expires Aug. 30, 2014, the commission will issue a finding as to whether the district has made significant progress.

If it has not, the district would have to review and revise its equity plan based on an independent evaluation.

While the commission recognizes the district has made progress, the proposed memo states:

"The PHRC, after review of materials submitted by the district pursuant to the agreement, is not prepared to conclude that the district has achieved sufficient progress with respect to elimination of the academic achievement gap and other measures outlined in the agreement to justify termination of the agreement."

The memo notes that the advocates and the district "share a common goal of providing equal educational opportunities for all children, regardless of race, within the district."

The memo commits the district to continue having a coordinator of the district's equity initiatives as well as to continue having an equity advisory panel.

It calls for reviewing and acting on certain data according to race, including achievement, discipline, special program data as well as capital and professional support available at each school.

It also calls for the district to evaluate various initiatives it does now and make any necessary modifications.

At the same meeting, the board is expected to vote on the district's new equity plan, called "Equity: Getting to All."

In the report, a consultant, urban sociologist Pedro Noguera, an education professor at New York University, said Pittsburgh was doing the right things but needed to do them with a clearer, more coherent strategy. …

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