Friday, June 11, 2010

The Pittsburgh Promise: Working Fabulously?

Looks what's buried in news of $100,000 donated by American Eagle:

Before the program began, approximately 30 percent of city school students pursued and completed some form of secondary education, Mr. Ghubril said. That number has increased to 76 percent, which is superior to any urban district anywhere in the U.S., he said. (P-G, Team Effort)

What? Really? That sounds incredible. Has there even been time to pursue and complete some form of secondary education since the program began what, not quite two years ago?, and necessarily affected only a percentage of students. Then there's this over here:

At the time, Jamiah was what Ghubril recalls as a "classic high-risk, dead-end kid." Beginning his senior year with low grades, and less hope, Jamiah was one of eight children living with a single mother in the Northview Heights public housing complex. Staring down the gun barrel of a 1.7 GPA, he needed a 2.25 to cop the cash. Meekly, he asked Ghubril if he had a chance.

Whipping out his trusty calculator, Ghubril did some quick math. Well, he demurred, "it's still mathematically possible for you to get your GPA up." What that meant was that Guillory had to ace everything for the rest of the year. Which the young man did, just clearing the bar with a 2.28. So emboldened, and armed with his scholarship money, Guillory went to Penn State, there to major in petroleum and natural gas engineering. At last report, his grades were a 3.5. (Pop City, Mendelson)

Your results may vary, but still -- this is said to dovetail with a slight but unprecedented increase in new kindergartners, or an "an uptick in enrollment for the first time in decades."


  1. Guillory went to Penn State, there to major in petroleum and natural gas engineering.

    Great. More oil men who won't pay attention to anything until the last possible minute.

  2. Ugh, I hate to go here -- the story is slightly different on the Promise website:

    "Several teachers at Oliver High School saw great potential in Jahmiah and continually told him that he had what it took to succeed. In the fall of 2008, Saleem Ghubril, Executive Director of The Pittsburgh Promise, came to Oliver High School to tell students that The Pittsburgh Promise had a gift for them: a $20,000 college scholarship, if they graduate with at least a 2.25 GPA. But what really got Jahmiah's attention was the next thing Saleem said. 'Even if your current GPA is as low as 1.7, it is still mathematically possible for you to get your grades up to the required minimum and earn a Promise Scholarship. If you earn a 4.0 each quarter of your senior year, you will be awarded The Promise.'"

  3. I agree that the percentage increase sounds incredible (would dubious be a better word?) but I have to say that I happened to be at the graduation ceremony for CCAC and it was noted by a speaker that there was a group of students who were the first graduates to receive the Pittsburgh Promise scholarships. So two years is enough given that the community college is higher education.

    BTW, FWIW, I was actually quite moved at the CCAC graduation ceremony at the joy shown by graduates and family for the accomplishment. Maybe it's been too long since my own college graduation (since I skipped out on going thru graduation for my MBA) but I actually got a charge out of the sense of accomplishment that pretty much all in attendance had that night.

  4. Enjoyed the post, Blue Number 2.

  5. I can vouch for the kindergarteners in the schools. We are on a waiting list for a magnet school in Highland Park, and rumor has it that there are waiting lists at some schools for the first time in years.

  6. A 2.25--a low C--to get a scholarship to a highly rated public university? What a racket!

    Could it be that there's a waiting list in part because of school closings? Or perhaps there are only waiting lists at the more desirable magnet schools?

    Bram - Are you saying that Pop City rewrote a Promise press release and presented it as news, or simply that they passed along a Promise press release, and somehow managed to blow/overinflate it?

  7. Anon 9:13- Either one of the writers misunderstood the account ... or some curious creative license employed by one of them ... OR ... only conceivably, possibly ... both stories were made up, because somehow this student was identified from the get-go as an excellent PR prospect and assigned a back story. The concern is that if he was identified and groomed as a PR prospect, he might have been offered tutoring or assistance and considerations which would not be sustainable if applied to all scholarship-seekers. Just a thought.

  8. I attended Oliver High School in the late 80s. Most of the teachers did not hand out text books because there were so few students who could read them. A whole wing of the first floor of the school was dedicated to a nursery as so many of the 9th graders already had children.

    The students who graduated co-valedictorians of what would have been my graduating class could only obtain admission at CCAC. The salutatorian, who was a minority, female student could only obtain admission to Duquesne University as an ACT 101 student.

    The teachers and guidance counselors were completely inept and largely uncaring, other than a particular male teacher who was a bit too caring, as he used to feign disabilities in order to entice the 9th grade boys to him home in order to “help him bath.”

    When I transferred out of that Hell-hole of a school, my guidance counselor was incapable of filling out the transfer papers. He had to ask me how to spell each and every word on the form. I finally offered to complete it for him.

    The Pittsburgh Promise would not be enough enticement for decent, middle class, folks to want to put their kids into our junior incarceration, until we can lock them up in state correctional facilities, school system. What incentive is $40,000 in scholarship money if your child never learns how to read in the first place?

    It is very telling that even in the Mayor’s own promotional piece for the Pittsburgh Promise that all of the graduates matriculated at CCAC, a non-competitive, school.

  9. How did he get accepted to Penn State with only a 2.28? Furthermore, how did he get accepted into the engineering program with only a 2.28?

  10. it is possible to enter Penn State branch campuses and major in "undecided" with the intent to enter engineering later. (my son had planned to do this as well) I suspect this student is not in the engineering program yet.