PPS leaders look for solutions to alarmingly low math proficiency, especially among Black students

Illustration above by Kinsley Stocum courtesy of PINJ.

If all goes as planned, next year students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools who are struggling with math will be able to access a tutor around the clock whether they are stumped by homework after school or working independently in class. The tutoring service is one effort the Pittsburgh district is making to deal with math proficiency rates that have plunged to alarming levels, particularly among Black students, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions to education.

At five Pittsburgh elementary schools, the math proficiency rate among Black students was 0%, according to results of the 2021 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams released in March. The proficiency rates at five other Pittsburgh elementary schools were under 2% for Black students.

The Pittsburgh district doesn’t stand alone with its achievement declines or search for solutions.

The problem is pervasive among Allegheny County school districts where a Black subgroup was identified in grades 3-8, the grade span tested for math and reading on the PSSAs. It takes 20 students per school to create a subgroup by the state’s standards, and in elementary and middle schools that have those subgroups math proficiency percentages frequently rank in the single digits.

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