Pittsburgh’s ‘Promise-ready’ teams

The Pittsburgh Promise guarantees college scholarships worth up to $20,000 to public school students with a 2.5 grade point average and 90 percent attendance. The Promise Readiness Corps of teachers is pushing ninth graders to step up to the challenge, reports the Post-Gazette. Next year, corps teachers will follow their students to 10th grade.

The corps is being piloted this school year in eight city schools.  Starting in the fall, corps teachers will earn an extra $9,300 a year to take on more responsibilities and work a longer day and year.

At Langley High, one team — which includes a special ed teacher and a “behavioral intervention liaison” — teaches all of the school’s first-time ninth-graders.

In the room where the team meets daily before or after school, one of the walls is covered by frequently updated charts of each student’s progress on academics, behavior and attendance.

Color coding reveals at a glance which students are in good shape academically, are most in need of academic improvement, are disengaged or are disruptive.

Two mornings a week, the team meets with students or parents. In an advisory period two or three times a week, each teacher meets with a small group of students to discuss their progress toward meeting individual goals.

After the first semester, each student received a report showing whether they were Promise ready or not. Those who weren’t had to compute how much their grades would have to go up to clear the bar. That was coupled with a visit by seniors who talked about mistakes they’d made.

The Promise bar isn’t very high: Most students with a 2.5 GPA and 90 percent attendance will be headed for remedial college classes. But it’s a lot more than most students have been achieving. At Langley High, only 26 percent of last year’s ninth graders ended the year with Promise-ready status; 33 percent of this year’s students were Promise ready at the end of the first semester.

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