Pittsburgh Public Schools' Fulton earns praise for educational program
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, 11:52 p.m.
Kevin Bivins would not let his two older daughters go to Pittsburgh Fulton PreK-5 even though it was only three blocks from his home. Twelve years ago, he said, the school did not emphasize academics.
That has changed, and Bivins sends his youngest daughter, Kaylee, 8, to Fulton, where she is a third-grader.
That's not because he became principal there six years ago, he said. Bivins credits the school's staff, which he said renewed its vigor in advocating for students.
Fulton has become one of the top schools in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. In the past 10 years, scores on some state tests increased dramatically.
In math, for example, just 19 percent of fifth-graders scored at the advanced or proficient level in 2002, compared to 89 percent this year. During the same period, reading scores soared from 24 percent at advanced or proficient to 83 percent.
Fulton, a 118-year-old school on Hampton Street in Highland Park, has 381 students, half of whom are in its French magnet program. Last week, district officials named it a STAR school, an honor for academic growth.
Although Bivins points to teachers and parents as keys to the success, staff members said he played no small role.
“Under Mr. Bivins' leadership, we have virtually customized every student's education to meet their needs,” third-grade teacher Amy Nichols said.
Carey Harris, executive director of the education watchdog group A+ Schools, called Fulton a “sleeper” school.
“I hear a lot of good things, especially from parents,” she said. “It's a well-run ship.”
Bivins, 49, of North Huntingdon, who transferred from Pittsburgh Lemington, said Fulton's turnaround is partly a case of addition by subtraction. At least 10 teachers left since he became principal, and in his first year he suspended a lot of misbehaving students because he wanted to create a culture of accountability.
Superintendent Linda Lane considers Fulton a model for reducing the racial achievement gap in the district. Fulton is 86 percent black.
Lane said Fulton's younger students, while walking home, lose samples of their classwork in her yard three blocks away. Though not impressed with their littering, she said the papers demonstrate students' focus.
The changes at Fulton are “diligent attention to how the kids are doing as individuals, and a prescriptive solution not for the whole class, but for individual children,” Lane said.
Nichols demonstrates Fulton's diligence. She practically wallpapered the back wall of her classroom with sheets showing each student's progress — though they are identified by number only — on 31 state standards. The papers quickly show her problem areas.
“As a parent, you want to see your child's progress every week. The whole point is to watch before they get too far behind,” said Bivins, who holds a bachelor's degree in rehabilitative counseling from Clarion University and master's degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Ohio State University.
Fulton's changes caused some parents to come back as volunteers when their children graduated.
Sitting at a table in a hallway, Liz Morgan of Squirrel Hill used dice to tutor a student about multiplication. Her son Andrew left Fulton six years ago.
“The kids are very nice and helpful. They can help me carry my books or help me down the stairs,” said Morgan, who uses a cane. “I just love them.”
Tyrone Lyons, 9, a fourth-grader from East Liberty, joined Morgan for some math help.
“When our teachers teach us stuff, it's fun,” he said. “They don't just make it work.”
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Obama, Biden to announce $500M for job training grants during W.Pa. visit
- Comedian Gallagher gets his money from North Versailles promoter
- Several Duquesne homes damaged in fire
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto lays groundwork for different government culture
- Allegheny County employees sticking with Highmark to save money, send message
- Defense experts tell of disease they say claimed 4-month-old from Castle Shannon whose father is charged with homicide
- For undercover officer who tried to nab Lawrence County flasher, work can be ‘drag’
- Woman charged in Schuylkill County stabbing death