Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday: I Have a Bad Feeling About This...

The district improved overall math and reading scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests -- by wide margins in some grades. In reading, math or both tests in various grades, the district also decreased the percentage of bottom-scoring students, increased the percentage of top-scoring students and narrowed the racial achievement gap. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

This is certainly welcome news.

The district did not provide test results for individual schools; officials said they would be provided to principals Aug. 4 and to the public after that.

No one can begrudge the Comet its opportunity to review and interpret the data before joining in the huzzahs.

There will also be a degree of grousing about "teaching to the test". We remember taking similar exams in our day -- the California Achievement Tests (CAT) or the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. Students were keenly aware that the exams were strictly a measure for our teachers and administrators -- in other words, a fine day for sniffing glue.

Hopefully things have changed. Be sure to alert us when SAT scores go up, or better yet, when dropout rates decline.

Roosevelt introduced students and faculty members on stage to talk about improvements in their schools, and the session ended with a standing ovation for Roosevelt. (Trib, Tim Puko)

There'll be no living with him after this.


"As this job slips behind for days, or months, or even years, the price of the casino will double -- and that's if the casino is built on its current location. The cost will be even more at another location," said Mr. Keating, who added the price of steel and other construction materials have jumped considerably in recent months. (P-G, Tom Barnes)

So the question you've got to ask yourself is: do I feel lucky? Well, do ya? Punk?

"If things go OK and they open and demand is relatively good and there's a better economy and there are no delays in construction, then they could fare OK," Mr. Parmelee said.

Who's up for Wheeling Island?

State Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Mary D. Colins said she didn't feel "intimidated or threatened" by a 60-second phone call from state Rep. Dwight Evans, who stressed the importance of continued black ownership in a planned Pittsburgh casino. (P-G, Tom Barnes)

They're intent on making Pittsburgh have this argument full-on if it's the last thing they do, aren't they?


A proposed $72 million debt refinancing by Pittsburgh, expected to net $3 million in savings, is facing one city councilman's high-noon deadline today and a Wednesday showdown in City Council over how to spend any windfall. (P-G, Rich Lord)

The P-G is trying to tell you that debt refinancing can be interesting somehow. Be a sport and play along.

"Council has been informed from the very, very beginning of this process," said city Finance Director Scott Kunka. Some members, including Mr. Peduto, were notified July 14. "It's very disingenuous for Councilman Peduto to say he hasn't been informed.

Now that is interesting. Usually the administration responds to this kind of criticism with something more along the lines of, "Well, maybe next time. The dog ate our homework. We know exactly what we're doing. Just sign this before the city explodes."

There is a side-issue brewing over how to invest the $3 million. It may be a ruse to suggest first that there will actually be a $3 million, and that it cannot become $4 million or $5 million if we were to shop around outside the contributor database.


The Pittsburgh Housing Authority board voted yesterday to... (P-G, Rich Lord)

Can it vote on things without a council member present? We mean, if somebody had a problem with a decision or a contract, and was inclined to get litigious, what then?


A playground quarrel has created tension between the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and its neighbors in the Schenley Farms section of Oakland, where residents fear that the squeals of kids could disrupt the quiet nights they savor.

Center officials and residents faced off before the city's zoning board of adjustment yesterday, and the three-member panel has about 12 weeks to decide whether to grant the code exceptions the playground would need. (P-G, Rich Lord)

We surmise that this article comprises a civics lesson on what the Zoning Board of Adjustment is supposed to contribute to society.

Ye Olde Lamare Advertising LEDe was finally to have come before the ZBA yesterday, but earlier in the week it was delayed again until September. In related news, George Bush is still preparing NASA for its manned mission to Mars.


Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority will lose its finance director, marking the second time in three months that a top, long-serving official has chosen to leave the authority. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

When it rains, it pours.

Ravenstahl said he doesn't think the state Ethics Commission's investigation of suspended Executive Director Pat Ford is behind the recent departures.

Gotta figure we're going to hear something on that score sometime today.


  1. The price of the new slots parlor -- please do NOT call it a casino -- will not double if it is built within the existing building, such as the new, under utilized, white elephant, green, landmark, Convention Center.

    Furthermore, the price will be much less for the long haul if that building moves into private hands and off of the back of the public.

    Another place to put the slots -- within the Civic Arena.

  2. Could someone please tell me who was in the audience that gave Roosevelt a standing ovation after his slide show? Something tells me it wasn't a room full of PPS parents or city taxpayers . . . The answer to that question will probably tell us who Roosevelt believes is his real boss.

  3. How come the full results won't be available to the public until after 8/4? You can watch the entire meeting/presentation on the district website.

  4. The more useful charts are on this document from the district:

    That shows grades 3-8 and grade 11 PSSA scores for the last 3 or 4 years. It compares this year's grade 3 to last year's grade 3, etc. So, the same kids aren't being compared. But, without the breakdowns by schools, race etc., you see only overall performance. It's not such a dramatic picture.

    In a couple of years, results are up over the last two years' scores, but still below the scores in '04-'05. So you can call that a gain, but it's only clawed its way back to the level of several years (re-Mark Roosevelt) ago.

    Math looks a little better than reading, overall.

    For a different take on the data, we used those same numbers they give and compared the scores of the same kids over the years.

    For instance, you can see current 6th graders' scores from 3rd grade through this year. Looking at the data this way, the only big gains are in this year's 7th and 8th grade reading scores.

    Be interesting to see what the big data set shows. I think the state does this every year -- I know that the PSSA data usually comes out to the public in full, for the entire state in mid-August. Sounds like they've gotten faster this year.