Pittsburgh Public Schools tackle racial disparity

Kristen Kaelin, North Campus Editor

The Pittsburgh Public Schools system has recently begun to carry out changes aimed at reducing the district’s racial disparities in support and academic achievement.
These changes were outlined in an initiative called “On Track to Equity: Integrating Equity Throughout PPS.”
According to the Pittsburgh Public Schools website, “On Track to Equity: Integrating Equity Throughout PPS is a comprehensive implementation plan that seeks to reduce racial disparities throughout the District and elevate the achievement levels of African American Students.”
The “On Track to Equity” initiative was developed to achieve one of the four long-term outcomes listed in the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan: Expect Great Things.
In an introductory letter to the Expect Great Things plan, District 2 Board President Dr. Regina B Holly wrote, “We have much work to do. In 2015-2016, only 47.9% of students were proficient or advanced on the English Language Arts state assessment in the third grade. Dramatic gaps exist between the performance of white students and African-American students in every grade level. Our graduation rate has dropped, enrollment continues to decline, and disciplinary actions have disproportionately fallen on students of color, causing them lost instructional time.”
The equity section of the PPS site lists seven areas the “On Track to Equity” plan will focus on. These areas include making sure disciplinary measures are distributed equitably, which keeps students of color in the classroom, and constant data collection to see which implementations work and which ones don’t.
The plan was developed following Superintendent Hamlet’s “Look, Listen and Learn” tour. The tour, which took place during summer 2016, saw him visiting every school under the PPS umbrella, as well as holding a number of forums aimed at getting feedback from staff, students, and community members that make up the many Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The plan’s other outcomes are focused on creating a standardized curriculum that results in both increased test scores and greater practical application after graduation for students of all races.