Friday, September 2, 2011

More on test scores at district Accelerated Learning Academies

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 6:35 PM

In City Paper's news feature this week, we took a look at how the Pittsburgh Public Schools' highly-touted Accelerated Learning Academies have performed since they were created by former Superintendent Mark Roosevelt back in 2006. The specialized schools, which feature longer school days and years, were designed to accelerate the learning curve of struggling students.

To date, district officials say, the ALAs are performing as promised. According to district stats, just 36.4 percent of all ALA students scored "proficient" or "advanced" on PSSA reading exams in 2007. By 2011, that percentage had jumped to 51 percent. In math, the percentage of ALA students scoring at least proficient increased from 45.1 percent in 2007 to 61.5 percent last spring.

But at individual ALAs, the longitudinal results -- those that track students as they travel from one grade to the next -- are largely a mixed bag. To illustrate, we've posted below how students at the district's seven ALAs have progressed (or regressed) on state reading and math exams over between 2007 and 2010.

(Note: Some students may leave, and others be added, to a school over the years. So the population of students being tested at the fifth grade level in 2010, for example, will not necessarily be exactly the same as the population tested in second grade in 2007.)

Arlington PreK-8: In 2007, 46.5 percent of Arlington's second-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading, while 60.5 scored the same in math. When those students reached fifth grade three years later, the percentage of students who scored at least proficient in reading dropped to 35.7 percent -- but the percentage of students who scored the same in math jumped to 81 percent.

Colfax K-8: In 2007, 55.2 percent of Colfax's fifth-grade students scored proficient or better in reading, while 74.6 percent scored the same in math. Three years later, when those students reached eighth grade, the percentage of students who scored at least proficient in reading improved to 71.2 percent. But the percentage who scored the same in math dropped to 60.3 percent.

Fort Pitt PreK-5: Students at Fort Pitt showed some gains and some losses as they went from second to fifth grade. In 2007, for example, 39 percent of Fort Pitt's second-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading on the state exam, while 30.5 percent scored the same in math. When those students reached fifth grade, their reading proficiency went down, but their math went up drastically. In 2010, 32.6 percent of Fort Pitt's fifth-graders scored at least proficient in reading, a less than 7-percentage-point drop from 2007. But the percentage of fifth-graders scoring the same in math went up to 60.5 percent, doubling the proficiency rate among students from three years before.

King PreK-8: The percentage of King students scoring proficient or better from second grade to fifth grade, between 2007 and 2010, dropped in both reading and math. In 2007, 31.8 percent of second-graders scored at least proficient in reading. Only 20 percent scored the same in that subject when those students reached fifth grade in 2010. In math, meanwhile, 40.9 percent of King's second-graders scored proficient or better in 2007. But when those students reached fifth grade, just 5.9 of them reached that mark.

However, during that time the percentage of King students who scored at least proficient from fifth grade to eighth grade increased drastically in both reading and math. In 2007, only 9.4 percent of fifth-graders scored proficient or better in reading, while 18.7 percent scored the same in math. At the eighth grade level in 2010, 61.4 percent of King students scored at least proficient in reading, while 42 percent scored the same in math.

Murray PreK-8: In 2007, 28.2 percent of Murray's fifth-graders scored at least proficient in reading, while 53.1 percent scored the same in math. Three years later, that same group of students improved significantly in reading but digressed significantly in math. In 2010, PSSA scores show, 75 percent of Murray's eighth-grade students scored at least proficient in reading, but just 37.5 percent scored the same in math.

Northview PreK-8: At Northview, the percentage of students scoring at least proficient dropped in both reading and math from the time students attended second grade in 2007 to the time they took the PSSA exams as fifth-graders in 2010. In 2007, for instance, 43.1 percent of Northview's second-grade students scored at least proficient in reading, but by the time that class reached fifth grade in 2010, only 32.1 percent reached that mark. The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in math, similarly, also dropped by 10 percentage points from second grade to fifth grade.

Weil PreK-5: In 2007, 34.3 percent of Weil second-graders scored at least proficient in reading, while 54.3 percent scored the same in math. When those students reached fifth grade in 2010, 47.8 percent scored proficient or better in reading, a decent jump, while 50 percent scored the same in math, representing a slight decrease.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Accounts of police, protest behavior at Aug. 24 rally differ

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 11:37 AM

[Editor's note: Our print edition this week includes a dispatch on an Aug. 24 rally held to oppose acts of violence against LGBT residents. As Lauren Daley's piece notes, activists have expressed misgivings that a series of arrests at the rally have, at least in subsequent media coverage, obscured the reasons it was held in the first place. That said, the arrests themselves have raised questions about police/community relations. In this post, Daley looks more deeply into the accounts of police behavior that night.]

The Citizens Police Review Board is investigating the conduct of police officers after they arrested five people during a protest last week.

"We have an open inquiry on it," says CPRB executive director Beth Pittinger. "There are some allegations of efforts to intimidate the crowd … the use of canines with the crowd. … There are still questions about [how the police] control crowds that are gathered peacefully."

About 100 people gathered in front of the Bloomfield Drug Store on Liberty Avenue on Aug. 24 to rally for LGBT rights. Lauren Jurysta a 23-year-old Bloomfield resident, says she was confronted the night before.

Jurysta says she and Cheryl Sedlock were walking down Liberty Avenue from Armand's hand-in-hand, when a group of three men in white t-shirts and baggy jeans exited the Pleasure Bar. As both groups were crossing Liberty Avenue, Jurysta says one of the men began to harass them, calling them "fucking dyke bitches" and other slurs. Jurysta says she fired back with her own comments, and the two met on the other side of the street when the man pulled a gun out of his pants and pointed it at her face. The two continued their fight until their companions pulled them away from each other.

Jurysta has filed a police report.

Mobilizing via text message and Facebook, members of the city's LGBT community turned out for the impromptu protest. "It was an immediate response to the gather the community in support and solidarity, and for the community to learn what happened," Jurysta says. "We've got a tight-knit community that won't put up with this bullshit."

But the protest was met by another community: law enforcement. City officers showed up, according to police reports, after a report of protestors blocking traffic.

"A Zone 5 Supervisor explained the procedures to the group for conducting an orderly protest and provided the option to move to Friendship Park where they could peacefully rally," says a press release from the police bureau on the event. "They were permitted to march but they had to keep moving and could not block the sidewalk."

But "The crowd got very disorderly," says police spokeswoman Diane Richard. "That's why officers had to step in."

In a video of the Aug. 24 rally, one protestor is seen asking repeatedly why someone is being arrested. The officer in turn says "keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving. You are now under arrest" and cuffs the protestor.

Police charged five from the protest: Adam Staniszewski, Ryan Lee Williams, Stephan Goodman, Chelsea Toone and David Japenga. All were charged with obstructing highways and failure to disperse; Williams and Japenga were additionally cited with resisting arrest.

According to criminal complaints charging the five, police wrote that they were dispatched to the group blocking traffic. After repeated warnings, police say that the majority of the group moved to Friendship Park and the remainder "left a path on the sidewalk for pedestrians to pass." Zone 5 Lt. Jason Lando "ordered all police units to monitor the two groups and not to intervene as long as they were moving towards the park and not blocking the streets. K-9 units were in the area but did not deploy their dogs so as not to incite the crowd."

As the group left Friendship Park and began walking toward Children's Hospital, police reported, the sidewalks were completely obstructed. As more police arrived, "a group of 10-15 individuals dressed all in black, with black bookbags and black flags, marching in the street on Friendship. Traffic was unable to pass and the demonstrators were loud and unruly."

Five were then taken into custody.

"These were the demonstrators that were either blocking the street and/or playing an active roll [sic] in inciting the rest of the group by their loud and vulgar language," officer David Derbish wrote in the criminal complaints.

Thomas Waters, a local gay blogger says police started off "pleasant" and tried to help the protest go on peacefully. He says some protestors were calling the officers "homophobic pigs." But tensions escalated, according to Waters, as the protest moved along toward Friendship Park. "I watched one boy get pulled off the sidewalk and slammed against a car ... Everyone said, 'He didn't do anything.' The situation was very tense and out of control."

Police, he says, even confronted him for videorecording the event, forbidding him to photograph them then demanding to see his driver's license.

Other protestors say police were the ones agitating the crowd; one had an angry canine, says Ryan Williams, and others made comments to protestors, like telling one woman her child would go into protective services. "They were pointing and laughing at us," says Jessie Holmquist, who attended the rally. "They told us to march and that's what we did, then they arrested us." Holmquist also points out that at an anti-LGBT violence rally last year, police didn't even show up.

"I've been in protest situations where it's the most peaceful situation and the cops come in and make disgusting comments," says Williams. "How can you expect those people to protect you?"

Williams says police arrested people "seemingly at random," but also seemed to target some. Indeed, in the police report and subsequent media reports it's been noted that Japenga, who smashed $15,000 worth of windows during the G-20, was among those rounded up by police. Police event pointed that out in the charging documents for all five protestors, writing that "it should be noted" Japenga was the protestor responsible for the G-20 damage.

In a statement to City Paper, Japenga said he came out to support Jurysta, a friend of his.

"I saw the negative results of what happened at the G20 protest and I choose to get involved with this rally because I wanted to voice my opposition to homophobia and support of assault survivors in an atmosphere that was free of the criminal activity that marked the G20 protest."

Japenga has since reported for custody based on a probation violation – he's currently serving a five-year probation for the G-20 charges. He and the other four arrestees – since dubbed "The Friendship Five" face a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

Staniszewski says that he doesn't believe the arrests overshadowed the cause for the rally: violence against the LGBT community. In fact, he says, it just put it on public display. "If anything a lot of people have experienced police intimidation and harassment in the past," he says. "This is par for the course."

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