Do our schools offer a quality education?
Unless you live in the City of Pittsburgh, you’re likely to think highly of the quality of the public schools. And student achievement data is more likely to support such perceptions if you live in a high-income school district.
Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area residents are generally pleased with the quality of their children’s education, which two-thirds rate as “excellent” or “very good” in our Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey. Only 2.5 percent grade it as “poor.”
In Allegheny County, 70 percent of residents describe the quality of education as excellent or very good. In the city of Pittsburg, however, only 57 percent in the City of Pittsburgh feel the same way. And 14 percent of city residents describe the quality as poor.
There is no definitive measure of the quality of education, which varies among school districts and schools within districts.
One broad measure, the Pennsylvania Department of Education Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), considers outcomes such as attendance and standardized test scores. In 2012, 58 percent of Allegheny County public school districts were considered to have AYP. Pittsburgh Public Schools, one of the 18 that didn’t, received “Corrective Action II,” the most serious level of under-achievement.
Looking at the six other Pittsburgh MSA counties, AYP was achieved by 100 percent of the school districts in Armstrong, 65 percent in Westmoreland, 64 percent in Beaver and Washington, 57 percent in Butler and only 17 percent of the school districts in Fayette.
Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test scores – another often-used performance measure – vary widely. Scores from the past five years show that higher-income districts consistently have high rates of students at or above proficiency levels in all subjects while districts with significant low-income populations consistently rank among the lowest.
High school graduation rates generally improved across the region in 2012, when 78 of 102 districts graduated at least 85 percent of their seniors on time. And more than 92 percent of Pittsburgh MSA residents 25 or older have at least a high school diploma – the second best rate among PittsburghTODAY benchmark regions.