For teachers to be effective, the classroom needs to be an environment that is conducive to learning and teaching.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is committed to ensuring positive learning environments in all schools. In fact, Pittsburgh was the only district to receive a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that included improving teaching and learning environments as a strategic priority.
The District has worked for years to improve learning environments, and make schools safe and welcoming. Instead of layering on more programs, the District began by assessing the existing teaching and learning conditions in schools, and developing a method for measuring results.
Central to this approach was the implementation of an anonymous, confidential Teaching and Learning Conditions survey of all Pittsburgh licensed educators and paraprofessionals conducted in partnership with the New Teacher Center
. Teachers, counselors, social workers, and nurses were also brought along to work alongside the District's central office leadership team and union leadership to co-design plans, processes and tools for improving its learning environments.
There have been impressive response rates for the survey:
In 2009-10, 85% of Pittsburgh Public Schools professionals responded
In 2010-11, 93% of Pittsburgh Public Schools professionals responded
In 2011-12, 94% of Pittsburgh Public Schools professionals responded
Not only are school teams using last year’s survey results to create and implement action plans toward improvement at the school-level, but the following steps have been taken at the District level:
- Creation of the Teacher’s Guide to Understanding, Preventing, and Responding to Bullying, which provides strategies and resources to address negative student behavior before it escalates into bullying.
- Creation of an Exemplary Schools Report, which showcases best practices among schools in the District that have seen the greatest growth on the survey and what specific actions their school has taken to support this growth.
- Differentiated Support to Schools, which includes recommending areas of focus for schools that did not achieve a positive teaching and learning environment; providing detailed feedback on each school’s action plan for improvement; and connecting schools with resources to support their action plans.