Cover: Assessing the Performance of Public Schools in Pittsburgh

Assessing the Performance of Public Schools in Pittsburgh

Published Dec 2, 2005

by Brian Gill, John Engberg, Kevin Booker

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To assist the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) in decisionmaking about the realignment and closure of schools, RAND addressed three key issues by analyzing student-level achievement data in the district. First, achievement gains in the middle grades (6–8) are examined, finding that students in Pittsburgh’s K–8 schools and magnet middle schools generally outgain students in Pittsburgh’s comprehensive, feeder middle schools. K–8 schools in Pittsburgh appear to have especially beneficial for the achievement of African-American students, at least in grades 6 and 7. Second, an index of Average Student Achievement (ASA) in each school in the district is created, combining results across tests, subjects, and grades, and anchoring the index to proficiency results on the Pennsylvania System of Student Assessment (PSSA). The ASA index provides a simple but robust composite snapshot of current levels of student achievement in each school. Third, RAND developed a School Performance Index that uses statistical regression techniques and longitudinal analyses of the achievement of individual students over time to estimate each school’s contribution to the achievement growth of its students. The SPI is being used by the district to ensure that decisions about school closings and realignments are made in ways that maintain and promote strong educational offerings for Pittsburgh students. This report concludes with SPI ratings for each school in Pittsburgh.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Pittsburgh Public Schools and conducted within RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND working paper series. RAND working papers are intended to share researchers' latest findings and to solicit informal peer review. They have been approved for circulation by RAND but may not have been formally edited or peer reviewed.

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