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Pittsburgh Public Schools report tells of academic growth, absenteeism, perceptions

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 12:25 a.m.

More than 75 percent of parents connected to 17 Pittsburgh schools would recommend their child's school to another family, while fewer than half of the parents at seven other schools would do the same, according to a district report.

Pittsburgh Public Schools' first State of the Schools Report, released on Monday, includes data and information on students' academic growth, chronic absenteeism and the perceptions of students, teachers and parents about individual schools.

District administrators say the value of the report is mostly in pulling together information in a sort of one-stop-shopping document.

“We believe if we want to engage parents and our families, we have to begin the conversation with how our schools are doing,” Deputy Superintendent Jeannine French said.

The report shows parents would endorse Banksville, Beechwood, Brookline, CAPA, Colfax, Carmalt, Dilworth, Fulton, Greenfield, Liberty, Linden, Montessori, Phillips, Roosevelt, Science and Technology, Weil and Woolslair schools.

Meanwhile, fewer than half of parents would recommend Carrick, Faison, Lincoln, Manchester, Mifflin, Perry and Westinghouse schools.

The report shows the district's strength is the academic growth students are making with their teachers, French said. In contrast, a problem highlighted in the report is the number of students who are chronically absent, those who miss at least 10 percent or 18 days of school for any reason.

In K-5 schools, an average of 18 percent of students were absent at least 10 percent of the time, the report said.

“I commend the district for releasing it and making this information accessible to parents,” said Carey Harris, executive director of the watchdog group A+ Schools. “It's definitely a conversation starter.”

Harris said the report could affect whether A+ Schools continues producing its own report on the district or how it writes it.

“Our report is different enough,” she said. “We'll keep an open mind and see what parents want.”

District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said it will cost about $20,000 to mail 30,000 copies of the report to parents' homes, libraries and community partners. The money will come from the district's general fund.

The report is available online at www.stateofthedistrict.org and will be mailed to homes in the March edition of “The Pittsburgh Educator.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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