In a recent article, Pittsburgh Public Schools are implementing a new initiative to improved math scores by promoting positive student-teacher relationships. The new project, DEbT-M – Designing for Equity by Thinking in and about Mathematics – is designed to reduce the racial achievement gap in mathematics. The project that is funded by an $8-million, five year National Science Foundation grant is flawed in its implementation design.

The new Pittsburgh Public School initiatives began with thirty-five teachers who participated in professional development during the summer with the intent on bringing the program into the school in the fall. The 35 teachers represent 13 schools which include 3 high schools, three 6-12 schools, two 6-8 schools, two k-5 schools, and one specialized school. Within the Pittsburgh Public Schools there are twenty-four K-5, twelve K-8 schools, eight 6-8 schools, six 6-12 schools, five high school, six special schools, and thirty-two early childhood schools.

The thirteen teachers who are participating in the program are paid $30 an hour, for up to 220 hours per year, for an additional $6,600 per year.

Since the inception of the program, teachers have developed at least two program activities. One teacher has a calendar of school events displayed on her wall and attends the sporting events with the children. Another activity developed by teachers is a scavenger hunt. The activity was developed by three of the teachers before the beginning of the year. Teachers visited local landmarks and took selfies. The pictures of the selfies were placed on a bulletin board in the front office for all students and other stakeholders to view.

The problem with the first activity, which is to attend school activities, is that it will only impact the students who attend the sporting events. Even the seating capacity of many athletic facilities limits the number of students who attend the athletic event. The next challenge is that all of the students are not going to know if the teacher attended the athletic even, therefore limiting the effectiveness of the activity.

What would have been more effective for Pittsburgh Public School teachers is an interdisciplinary project regarding athletics. Since the focus of the program is to improve math scores, math teachers can use the athletics that are in season as an opportunity to teach the mathematics of the athletic sport. Teach them about the different employment opportunities associated with the sport. Your can even take them of a field trip with an emphasis on the mathematics.

The problem with the second activity, like the first, is that it is teacher focused and not teacher-student focused. Who cares that the teachers finally showed the nerve to visit the local landmarks. If it were something that they truly wanted to be involved in, then they would not have had to be paid to complete the activity. Parents and students are aware that it is really about the teacher getting a paycheck and not about improving the education of each child and definitely not about improving student-teacher racial relationships in the Pittsburgh Public School District.

The one plus for the Pittsburgh Public School initiative is the quantity of teachers involved. The initial thirteen teachers represent a very small number of teachers in the Pittsburgh Public School District. Whenever, you have a new initiative in an organization you must use a pilot group. Most school districts implement a new initiative and require that all teachers participate. The fallacy in this process is that there is not such thing as one size fits all. A pilot group allows the program to learn what needs to happen to ensure the success of the project. Once the thirteen teachers have ironed out all of the intricacies then they should role the entire program out to all schools.

The major problem with the Pittsburgh Public School initiative is that it does not use the appropriate transition model.

The present model is a train the teacher model. This model has proven ineffective and is the major reason why the Pittsburgh Public School initiative will not improve teacher-student relationships nor will it improve racial relationships between teachers and students. The Pittsburgh Public School initiative will improve the academic progress of Black and Hispanic students by following the process outlined in the book – Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships.

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Teacher Qualities that Promote Positive Racial Classroom Relationships

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships


“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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