A group of 10 Pittsburgh citizens, representing educators, parents and community members, collaborated online to write Artisans and Inventors of a New and Brighter World: Remaking Public Education in Pittsburgh. The 41-page report, presented to Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Linda Lane on Oct. 17, 2013, outlined five key recommendations and 25 actionable solutions for improving the student experience and teaching environment in PPS.
The 10-person Writing Collaborative represented more than 180 educators and community members who participated in the first phase of the online VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange that began in late July.
The overarching theme of the recommendations is Pittsburgh parents and community members welcome an increased partnership with the school district to improve the curriculum, rebuild trust, improve school climate, and supplement resources.
The five recommendations in the report are:
- Assure systemwide delivery of a relevant, coherent curriculum that makes learning a joy for students.
- Provide educators with the tools and support they need to effectively use the curriculum.
- Establish practices and communication infrastructure that promote trust among parents, students, educators, and public officials.
- Create a nurturing social-emotional climate in all schools to allow students to develop as productive members of a democratic society.
- Take innovative approaches to budget reporting and planning to build community trust and be transparent about the use and impact of public funds.
The 25 specific solutions identified by the Writing Collaborative include several concrete action items, such as
- Make free play the main teaching tool with young students. Shorten periods of instruction in early grades to allow more time for free play. Incorporate play into the daily school routines. Look to community partners to augment opportunities for creative play.
- Train teachers to use new curricula until they are confident they can use it in the classroom. Create a repository that houses all curricula that is easily accessible to teachers and families.
- Survey the community and provide opportunities for community members to share their unique knowledge in the schools, and structure partnerships with organizations that already engage children and families to access talent in a way that maximizes students’ educational opportunities.
- Provide comprehensive wraparound services for all students, particularly those who are isolated or have experienced trauma.
- Implement restorative justice models in which older students take responsibility for their actions rather than receive punishment, with companion programs that prepare elementary students for these approaches.
The Writing Collaborative also outlined detailed strategies for creating Learning Resource Centers, in partnership with parents and community organizations, to extend learning resources beyond the school day and into the neighborhoods where students study and work, as well as attracting new public and private resources to support public schools. For example, the group proposed engaging local businesses and professionals to create supplemental programs for students, “especially for lower-income students who do not have access to all the support and experiences that contribute to higher academic achievement.”