A+ Schools is an independent community advocate for equity and excellence in Pittsburgh Public Schools. We envision a public education system in Pittsburgh where: Overall student achievement continues to rise, with 100% of students graduating, and 80% finishing a training program, 2 year or 4 year university program, and Race is not a factor in determining which students: are in the highest and lowest achievement categories, graduate from high school or matriculate in training programs or colleges and universities. A+ Schools' purpose is to be a community force advancing the highest educational achievement and character development for every public school student. We choose to specifically focus on issues of educational equity because significant barriers exist that directly and indirectly deny groups of students a high quality education. To achieve educational equity in Pittsburgh Public Schools, we must deliver policies and practices that specifically increase opportunities and resources for African American students. Our work focuses community attention on the specific issues at hand through research and policy analysis; explicitly engages and elevates community voices from the communities most at risk; creates opportunities at multiple levels of engagement for citizens to get involved in removing barriers to student success; and seeks to build broad community will to advance change in the public education system.
Ms. Carey Ann Harris
A Plus Schools, Board Watch, Public Education
1901 Centre Avenue, Suite 302A
Pittsburgh, PA 15219 USA
Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (B01)
Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (S01)
IRS Filing Requirement
This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.
How does this organization make a difference?
Self-reported by organization
Empowered student voices: Our TeenBloc youth leadership program rallied 1,700 students in all PPS high schools to support a Student Bill of Rights. Students spent a year working to determine ways that the Pittsburgh Public Schools' Student Code of Conduct could be revamped with the input of student leaders. The Student Bill of Rights has garnered the support of some school board members and a vote is expected on it before the end of this school year. Learn more about TeenBloc here. Advocated for Great Teaching: Over the past year, we continued to focus and advocate for policies and practices that ensure every child experiences great teaching. We developed a workshop for parents and community members to better understand what the research says is excellent teaching, and we published a review of PPS' system of teacher evaluation with recommendations for improving its implementation and use. Most recently,we partnered with Civil Rights leaders to advocate for a robust evaluation tool and performance standards for teachers. Learn more about our teaching work here. Organized parents to make a difference at the school and district level - Parent Nation, a new organizing effort to engage parents in our most vulnerable schools, began to have some of its first successes this year. Parent led teams now exist in 7 of our most vulnerable schools, monthly meetings are held to share ideas across schools and neighborhoods, and parents helped overhaul PPS' Parent Involvement policy to make schools more welcoming. Community volunteers power research - Over 100 volunteers interviewed 26 PPS principals, counselors and teacher leaders about what they have and need for student success as part of our School Works action research. Over 600 students were also interviewed as part of this process and the results from adult and student surveys will be shared with the public the evening of April 29 at a community forum at the Children's Museum. Learn more about School Works.
Self-reported by organization
What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?
A+ Schools believes that in order to achieve a strong public school system we must have effective leaders who are fully accountable, fiscally responsible and strategically focused on moving the district forward. A district governed by a focused school board that functions with purpose, transparency, respect, responsibility and competency will allow students to achieve their maximum potential. Board Watch is a grassroots effort established by A+ Schools that is meant to ensure effective school board governance. It involves volunteers who are trained to observe Pittsburgh Public School Board meetings as independent, informed, nonpartisan citizen evaluators of the School Board's governance.
Pittsburgh will have a school board focused on setting and monitoring policies that improve student outcomes. The graduation rate in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will be 100%; 80% of Pittsburgh Public School graduates will graduate from post secondary education;There will be improved public confidence in the Pittsburgh Public School Board evidenced by Board Watch scores and longitudinal survey data.
Increases in voter turnoutIncreases in contested racesIncreases in media coverage of school board governanceChanges in citizen expectations of school board governance measured via longitudinal studyImprovement in Board Watch scoresSchool Board Implementation of Board Watch recommendationsVolunteer participation in Board Watch
Since the program was launched in 2009 we've seen the following successes: 7 out of 12 (58%) Board Watch recommendations have been implemented by the School Board. Voter turnout in the May 2009 primary increased by 9%; turnout in the May 2011 primary was up only slightly in district 8. 3 out of 4 races in 2011 were contested.132 volunteers have been recruited, trained, and mobilized as Board Watchers12 Board Watch report cards have been issued.72% of Pittsburgh residents polled in 2011 said that voting for school board was a good way to influence public education.
Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh
Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh: Consistent and accurate information is necessary to engage the public in discussions about equity, school quality and reform progress. A+ Schools has issued Report to the Community on Public School Progress in Pittsburgh every year since 2005. The report provides information about student achievement and other school performance indicators by school and level. The report includes an executive summary analysis of district trends. This year will be the 10th anniversary edition of the Report following a one-year hiatus. We hope to include more information than ever before and provide a review of progress made over the last decade in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Pittsburgh has a school system that is equitable in its distribution of resources so that every child attends a school that works and the achievement gap disappears.The Pittsburgh Public Schools graduation rate is 100% and 80% of PPS graduates graduate from post secondary education.
The Report to the Community distributed annually to every PPS household and households in the City with children under 5.Family satisfaction with the report as discovered through response cardsPresentations about report data to at least 500 individuals at schools and community groups.Web traffic to the online version of the report
The 2011 Report to the Community included an executive summary. The report was presented to over 466 individuals and 16 schools and community organizations. Responses cards continue to indicate a high level of satisfaction with the type of information reported and the ease of understanding the information.
School Works: An A+ Schools Opportunity Program: We know that when the learning conditions in a school are ideal for students, school works. When children are given access to the education resources they need and caring, quality educators, school works. When expectations are high and students are challenged and supported without excuses, school works. Our aspiration for public schools is that they be places where all children can be educated to reach their full potential without being held back by factors that are out of their control like race, poverty, ethnicity, religion or gender. School Works is community action research, through which members of the public are invited to serve as volunteers to interview high school and middle school principals using a research instrument developed by A+ Schools and its partners. The volunteers are trained to be neutral interviewers that collect specific information regarding the learning conditions and opportunities that exist for the students in each school; the things that make them work. The information gathered is reported as a description of the conditions in high schools and middle schools. Findings from the interviews are used as a basis for community deliberations pertaining to the issues of equity and opportunity and provide data to schools and other organizations to use as fuel for change.
Every Pittsburgh Public School student attends a school that works.Pittsburgh Public Schools graduates 100% of its students and 80% of PPS graduates graduate from post secondary education.
School Works findings should show improved access to resources over time because of community mobilization for system changes.Volunteer participationPrincipal participationCommunity participation in advocacy
School Works successes include Engaged more than 350 volunteers over three years to interview middle and high school staff - 23 principals, 21 guidance counselors and 106 teachers. Teacher, principal and volunteer evaluations indicate a high level of satisfaction with the interview experienceMore than 500 Pittsburghers have participated in community discussions about the School Works interview findings over the past three years. Participants represented broad range of roles and geographic diversity. Participant ratings of the meetings were very high.Recommendations resulting from the interview data and community process will be released in August 2010 for community action.Community priorities for equitable access to opportunities and resources are being acted upon in Pittsburgh Public Schools, including improved teaching and learning environments, increased access to rigorous courses, and improvements to the teaching system. More information on these improvements in schools can be found at www.aplusschools.org/pdf/sw/sw_out.pdf.
Teen Bloc: Students Engaged in Leadership educates and empowers Pittsburgh Public High School students as participants in school reform, rather than just as reactors to it. It is our belief that the students are a vital part of the community that, when seen as partners, have the potential to be a force that pushes the improvement of schools to a level unachieved by other urban school districts. Students are supported by staff from A+ Schools and MGR Youth Empowerment.By engaging students in leadership and organizing, we seek to support them to develop their voice as informed citizens and empower them to seek to find the most effective ways to create positive change in their communities. Over time, the result will be generations of adults who seek to make informed decisions to lead future Pittsburgh.
Students Engage in Leadership will result in generations of young adults who will make informed decisions to lead the City of Pittsburgh.
Student participation rates in the program overall, in weekly sessions and in advocacy activities.Pre and post leadership surveys with studentsStudent impact on advocacy initiatives
Teen Bloc creates a space for students to build collaborative relationships that lead to a sustained voice for you in the public dialogue about Pittsburgh Public Schools' reform agenda. 44 students, representing 7 out of 10, public and charter schools participated.71% of students demonstrated leadership outside of Teen BlocStudents hosted 3 student led workshops on the PPS budget at their schools - reaching 40 students.Working with the Philadelphia Student Union, organized a rally in Harrisburg to advocate for restoration of public education funding. More than 400 students participated. Reached over 2,500 people through social media, news stories and articles, radio appearances, and A+ Schools' hosted events.
Other Named Groups
Parent Nation is a network of parents and community members working to teaching and learning environments, champion equity and excellence in our schools, and grow the voice and involvement of families. Parent leaders with the will and capacity to enlist others to enact change in their neighborhood schools are needed. In schools where parents play a role in decision making and problem-solving stronger relationships are formed and students are better served. Parents and community leaders will take part in trainings to learn about issues facing students, how to grow power, and what their rights and responsibilities are. We are looking for parents and leaders who will champion policies and practices that will ensure all children, especially our most vulnerable, are given the resources and opportunities they need and deserve.
Every student in the Pittsburgh Public Schools will benefit from excellent classroom instruction every year.
Number and percentage of highly effective teachersPercentage of highly effective teachers in vulnerable schools Teaching and learning environment assessmentsCore team of highly effective teachers in every schoolTurnover rate at vulnerable schools
Recently A+ Schools and its partners have rallied over 1,000 parents, students, teachers and community members to demand that PPS and PFT use teaching effectiveness, in addition to seniority, to make painful furlough decisions. We've published three documents related to this demand and driven considerable public and media attention to the issue. More information on why teacher effectiveness should matter and what you can do to ensure that it does can be found at www.aplusschools.org/urgent.shtml
An equitable and excellent public school system will take nothing less than a mobilized community. Please join us in this important work: Board Watch Volunteers - Volunteers are needed to observe school board meetings and evaluate school board governance using A+ Schools rubric. Volunteers must be City of Pittsburgh residents, attend a training session, and be available for one evening school board meeting per month. Parent Nation Team Members - Parent Nation is looking for parent and community leaders to join teams at some of our most vulnerable schools to help address issues of equity and excellence facing students. We provide training and organizational support to help volunteer leaders become a powerful voice for change in their schools and district wide. Believers - If you share our commitment to an equitable and excellent public school system, demonstrate your commitment by standing with us: join us mailing list, receive our email newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter.
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Ms. Carey Ann Harris
Carey Harris joined A+ Schools in October 2003 part-time as the Interim Co Director and then Deputy Director. Ms. Harris was appointed Executive Director in May 2007. Prior to joining A+ Schools in 2003, Ms. Harris was the Executive Director of South Side Local Development Company - a nationally recognized community development organization that develops residential and commercial real estate, develops and manages community plans, and engages in a variety of programs to build and support human and physical development in South Pittsburgh. Before joining the South Side LDC, Harris worked at the Mon Valley Initiative - a coalition of community development organizations- as a community organizer and lead organizer. Harris is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Certified Economic Development Professional and a graduate of EPLC's Education and Policy Fellowship. Harris serves on the Board of the Birmingham Foundation and resides on the South Side with her husband John Werling and their three children all of whom are Pittsburgh Public School students.
Ms. Judy Johnston
Term: Jan 2012 - Dec 2013
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Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?
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