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Old 07-21-2010, 01:30 PM
 
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Default Tracking in PPS

I've seen a few oblique references here to PPS being opposed to "tracking", but I cannot seem to find any clear info on the topic on the PPS website. I was hoping those who have experience with PPS could clarify.

At what grade are children first separated by ability? How is the split decided -- based on standardized test scores, teacher's decisions, some combo? For AP or honors classes, how is it decided who can participate?

I am interested in all grade levels. Thanks.
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Old 07-21-2010, 03:20 PM
 
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My kid was always in a class with children of all abilities from gifted to special need students. Finished 5th grade this year, and I am not aware of tracking.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caroline2 View Post
I've seen a few oblique references here to PPS being opposed to "tracking", but I cannot seem to find any clear info on the topic on the PPS website. I was hoping those who have experience with PPS could clarify.

At what grade are children first separated by ability? How is the split decided -- based on standardized test scores, teacher's decisions, some combo? For AP or honors classes, how is it decided who can participate?

I am interested in all grade levels. Thanks.
I doubt you'll find anything on the PPS website about "tracking" as that term is politically loaded with a negative connotation (because of the racial implications). You'd only use that word if you were trying to stop or damage something (e.g. attacking a program by labeling it "tracking").

For background, a good place to start is the Wikipedia article on tracking, here:

Tracking (education) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pay close attention to the difference between "tracking" and "ability grouping" as defined on that page, because the PPS does do "ability grouping" in their schools.

At Colfax, there are two programs going on in parallel that relate to this issue.

First, last year Colfax started using "clustered ability grouping" (also known as just "cluster grouping") to make classroom assignments. In "clustered" ability grouping the students are assigned to one of 5 bands of ability level: high achieving (HA), above average (AA), average (A), low average (LA), and low (L). The classroom assignment are typically set so that there are only 3 levels in one class (e.g. HA/A/LA or AA/A/L or something like that, the exact makeup depends on the student population that they have... they have an all day meeting to set the classroom assignments so that the cluster grouping criteria and other balance issues are met).

The district has a contract with Professor Marcia Gentry of Purdue to setup the cluster grouping. Her group has come to PPS a couple times to help them set this up. To learn more, check out this overview paper that Prof Gentry wrote:

NRC/GT—Spring '96 Newsletter-Total School Cluster Grouping: An Investigation of Achievement and Identification of Elementary School Students

The district in that study was rural, so she has been adapting her program for Colfax/PPS. I think it is a bit too soon to really judge this program at Colfax. Next year will be the second year for this program at Colfax, and it will be interesting to see how the staff applies the lessons learned from last year to build on what they've started.

The second program going on at Colfax is the gifted pilot program. PPS has a gifted program located at Greenway (which is way on the west side of the district, I think? It isn't very convenient to the east end at any rate). Prior to the pilot program, gifted students were bussed to Greenway one day a week. With the gifted pilot program, instead of being bussed to Greenway, the gifted students receive their gifted instruction in their home school (Colfax). As part of this, PPS has placed a couple of gifted teachers at Colfax full time (rather than at Greenway). There are two parts to the program: pull-out and push-in. The pull-out part are special gifted classes that the kids in the program go to that are taught by the gifted teachers. The push-in is when the gifted teachers are supposed to go into the classrooms and assist the normal classroom teachers in working with the gifted kids.

I would say that this gifted pilot program is a work in progress. The biggest problem at Colfax is the large number of gifted students (like 250 of the ~700 students at Colfax are in the gifted program). I've been told that this is a far larger number of gifted students than are at the other schools that are part of this pilot program. They've only assigned 2 gifted teachers for Colfax, and with the current load what has happened is that "pull-out" happens, but "push-in" does not. At the last PSCC that this was discussed, it is clear than no one is happy with the state of "push-in" and I hope they'll try and address it this year.


I don't know as much about what is going on at the older levels. Clearly there are magnet options like CAPA for students so inclined. At the high school level, I think the gifted program becomes something called "CAS" (Centers for Advanced Studies). I found some info on CAS at Allderdice here:
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School | CAS (http://tinyurl.com/22wjow3 - broken link)
in particular, check this "About CAS" PDF out:

http://tinyurl.com/2ajcdo2 (broken link)

I hope this information is helpful.
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Old 07-22-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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Thanks, scrapp, that is extremely helpful (if disappointing! CAS seems designed to make sure that no one gets the level of instruction that they need!). You're right, once I know the right buzzwords to look for, my info search will be a lot easier.
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Old 07-22-2010, 03:33 PM
 
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Colfax and a few other schools are the exception, My son at Minadeo schelp's off to Greenway once a week. It is his favorite day to go to school.

Sterrett has advanced classes, so that may be a form of clustering, I am not sure.

5% of the population is gifted, (IQ>130) odd that Pittsburgh kids are way above average! Did they change the criteria? I hope they did, I thought the IQ cut off without looking at any other factors left some really bright kids in the dust.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:48 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideblinded View Post
Colfax and a few other schools are the exception, My son at Minadeo schelp's off to Greenway once a week. It is his favorite day to go to school.

Sterrett has advanced classes, so that may be a form of clustering, I am not sure.

5% of the population is gifted, (IQ>130) odd that Pittsburgh kids are way above average! Did they change the criteria? I hope they did, I thought the IQ cut off without looking at any other factors left some really bright kids in the dust.
I looked it up: there are 5 schools in the PPS Gifted Pilot Program (Colfax, Dilworth, Fort Pitt, Grandview, and Northview). Source:
City's pilot program for gifted students on hold
(note that the program is now underway, not on hold.)

The gifted criteria did change, along the lines of what is described here:

State seeking to beef up programs for gifted students

Basically, the state changed an "and" to an "or" --- rather than have to get 130 "and" meet other criteria, you now have to get 130 "or" meet other criteria. What I think this means is that if you score in the 120-129 range then you need to have a supporting portfolio to make your case (but if you are 130 or up, you don't need the portfolio).

But I think Colfax had a large number of gifted-identified students (greater than the 5% you quoted) even before the state changed the law. Some bright kids there...


I should also note that gifted identification is not tied to the cluster grouping I described earlier. There are gifted identified students who are not in HA (high achieving) groups, and there are students who are HA that are not in the gifted program.


As an aside, one of the frustrations of being a parent trying to track all this stuff is that you've often got to learn all the jargon and acronyms in order to fully understand what educators are saying. Rather than speak in plain english, you often get shorthand like AYP, GIEP, PSCC, PSSA, HA, NCLB, EFA, CAS, etc. etc. ugh.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:24 PM
 
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Minadeo has a high percentage of gifted kids too. We do/did have a full time gifted coordinator, who works with the kids and other bright kids, most likely HA. (Ty for the new acro!)

Do kids stay at Colfax after 5th grade? At Minadeo it seems like most of the high achieving students that did not get into Capa or Sci-Tech are going to private school in 6th grade.
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Old 07-26-2010, 12:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sideblinded View Post
Do kids stay at Colfax after 5th grade? At Minadeo it seems like most of the high achieving students that did not get into Capa or Sci-Tech are going to private school in 6th grade.
I'm not sure, to be honest. Our oldest is just starting 4th grade, so we haven't reached the middle levels yet. My guess is that you do get kids staying, since Colfax is a K-8 and you don't have to change schools to do the middle levels (e.g. you are already comfortable with the school and know the staff --- that makes it easier to stay). At a K-5 you have to do something after 5th grade, so that would make the issue more pressing at Minadeo.

I can't think of anyone that I know of in my area who did a public/private switch in either direction, except for one family that sent their kids to Allderdice for High School after they finished Falk K-8. Seems like folks stick with one or the other?
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