PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has given Pittsburgh Public Schools a failing grade for its racial achievement gap.
For decades now, the racial achievement gap in Pittsburgh Public Schools has defied efforts to close it. Wanda Henderson filed initial charges with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission back in the 1990s.
“The problem is that students of color are just not learning in Pittsburgh Public School. They have continually failed to educate them decade after decade after decade,” she said.
In its report, the commission finds little to no improvement under the administration of Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, raising special concerns about early grade reading scores of African American students. Educators contend that if a child cannot read proficiently by third grade, he or she will fall hopelessly behind and face bad outcomes.
Third-grade reading scores have remained horrific. In 2015/2016, only 37 percent of African American students could read at proficient levels compared to 68 percent of white students, an achievement gap of 31 percent.
And as of last year, that had not changed: 38 percent African American proficiency and 75 percent white, an achievement gap of 37 percent.
And while third-grade math scores showed some improvement, the report says science scores have worsened in the later grades.
“In conclusion, the achievement gap in the students’ performance remains stubbornly high,” the report reads.
Board President Sylvia Wilson said Hamlet, who was just granted a four-year contract extension, needs more time.
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“It is not something that you can change systematically in a year or two or three of four years. Change, especially that kind of drastic change, takes time,” Wilson said.
But Marie Searcy, who serves on the Pittsburgh Public Schools Equity Advisory Panel, says time’s up.
“I don’t have anything personal against Hamlet, I just don’t think we have the right people in place to make the change we need in the Pittsburgh Public School system,” Searcy said.
The district is under a consent order to improve and will be monitored by the commission.