Are Pittsburgh Public Schools Among the Nation’s Best?

A recent national ranking said the Pittsburgh Public Schools were 7th best among large cities in the nation. (HT Grassroots PA). This was quite surprising, as the Pittsburgh school districts has historically been considered underperforming. In 2008-09, for instance, only 43% of 11th graders were deemed proficient in math, and 50% in reading on the PSSA – a test which inflates proficiency (compared to the NAEP) by 80%. This, despite the fact that the Pittsburgh school district spends over $20,200 per pupil, one of the highest in Pennsylvania, and far above the state average of $13,000.

The Allegheny Institute details why this ranking so distorts the performance – starting with the important fact that the report looks at all schools with a Pittsburgh mailing address , which includes 21 other school districts, in addition to the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The report also rewards the city for a low median home value and low unemployment rate (at the time of the study).

Moreover, the comparison group isn’t that impressive – “the large city ranking is a selection of the best of not very good school systems.” The Allegheny Institute sums up, noting the performance of the Pittsburgh school district remains far from one that would entice many families to move there.

The final educational score given to Pittsburgh (including all suburban districts that use the Pittsburgh mailing address) is 6 out of 10. Not exactly a strong score worthy of a national ranking, and remember that Pittsburgh City schools had a Great Schools education score of only 4 out of 10. And this is supposed to induce people with school-aged children to move to the City?