Higher graduation rates. Greater enrollment in advanced placement courses. Today education watchdog group A+ Schools released their annual report to the community, highlighting achievement growth at local public schools.
But in addition to the positive stories emerging from the report, two schools continue to hit sour notes. Of the Pittsburgh Public School District's five 6-12 schools, Westinghouse Academy and Milliones University Preparatory School consistently rank at the bottom.
"It's heartbreaking," Hill House President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell says of UPrep. "I'm concerned with the trajectory of that school. There are schools in other challenged neighborhoods around the city. Why this school is struggling more, I'm not sure."
At UPrep, a school with a "post-secondary focus" according to the report, only 34 percent of students are eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship for post-secondary education. And according to survey responses from 2013 only 29 percent of students were attending college or a trade school.
"It's certainly disturbing, but not shocking unfortunately," says community activist Tim Stevens who mentors students at UPrep. "It's a long-range issue. These are long-term deep-rooted problems."
For Westinghouse, the data is worse. Only 20 percent of students were eligible for the Pittsburgh Promise and only 22 percent were attending college or a trade school. Conversely, CAPA, a creative and performing arts school, boasts an 89 percent rate for Pittsburgh Promise eligibility and 80 percent of students were attending college or a trade school.
"There is some progress but it's just too slow. We're losing too many kids. Too many kids are dying. Too many kids are not Promise eligible," says Wanda Henderson, a member of the district's equity advisory panel. "Westinghouse has seen too much uncertainty. There needs to be some stability."
Another way the report measures success is through the algebra milestone, looking at how many students are taking algebra in 8th grade.
"The algebra milestone is very important," Superintendent Linda Lane said in her remarks at the press conference. "If you think it's only for people going to college it isn't. There are many many technical fields, very highly compensated technical fields that require higher math."
But at UPrep and Westinghouse none of the 8th grade students took algebra in the 2013-2014 school year. At CAPA 73 of the 111 8th graders took algebra. At Obama all 8th graders took algebra and at Science and Technology Academy 20 of the 55 students took algebra.
In other areas, UPrep and Westinghouse lag behind their peers to a smaller degree. Westinghouse had an 83 percent graduation rate while UPrep's is 79 percent. At CAPA, Obama and Sci-Tech, the rates are 97, 85 and 93 percent respectively.
"I'm not trying to make the case that there's been phenomenal growth," said Lane. "But nevertheless it took a lot of hard work to get there. We have to recognize the work people did to get the results we did."