Education

We cover how our residents are growing and learning, starting from pre-K, through higher education, and beyond, into adulthood. 

Coverage of education in western Pennsylvania on 90.5 WESA is supported by a generous grant from
The Grable Foundation.

There are more nonwhite teachers than there used to be. But the nation's teaching force still doesn't look like America. One former education school dean is out to change that.

New research shows that the number of K-12 teachers who belong to minority groups has doubled since the 1980s, growing at a faster rate than the profession as a whole. But big gaps persist, with around 80 percent of teachers identifying as white.

New Report On PA Charter School Growth Finds ‘Stranded Costs’ Linger 5 Years Later

Sep 14, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY, file

A new study finds that expanding the charter school sector in Pennsylvania creates a significant toll on traditional public school systems, which, based on an array of fixed costs, can't downsize at the same rate that students leave.

Always Shooting / Flickr

University of Pittsburgh graduate students who want to form their own union say they’ll have enough signatures by the end of the semester to ask the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to put the issue to a vote. For the union to become reality, a majority of the more than 2,000 graduate students employed by Pitt would have to approve the measure formally.

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The West Mifflin School Board approved the terms of a settlement Thursday night in a special meeting, ending a years-long legal fight over funding with the state Department of Education.

The district argued that neighboring Duquesne School District wasn’t paying enough to send students to West Mifflin.

Duquesne began sending students to West Mifflin in 2007 when the state closed the financially distressed high school because of low test scores. Five years later junior high students also transferred to West Mifflin.

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What's the point of public school? To foster academic and critical thinking skills? To prepare students for the workforce?

A long-running national poll says a large majority of Americans are willing to sacrifice the former for the latter.

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Nearly two months after the state's budget deadline, lawmakers still haven't reached a consensus on how to pay for the spending plan they authorized in June.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Kindergartners dressed in blue shirts and khakis sit on the gym floor of Allegheny K-5 with their classmates. A few are visibly nervous, but the moms and dads standing around them are the ones shedding tears.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Carnegie Mellon University will publish an anthology of poetry and prose pieces in the fall, written by high school and college students. They're winners of the school's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards, which started in 1999. 

90.5 WESA's Sarah Schneider spoke to the CMU English professor and the director of the program, Jim Daniels, about compiling the pieces. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

SARAH SCHNEIDER: What do you encourage students to write about?

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Gina Murphy pulls box after box from shelves in her Brookline Elementary School classroom. Each one is a hodgepodge of toys, fabrics and flashcards.

Point Park University

The faculty of Point Park University have reached a tentative agreement for their first ever union contract.

Faculty voted to join the Communication Workers of America, or CWA, in 2003, a decision which the university continued to appeal until 2015.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Five former Woodland Hills School District students filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court alleging the district and administration perpetuated a culture of abuse, perpetrated by the former high school principal and a school resource officer.

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Pennsylvania's state-owned university system has agreed to forgive $30 million in loans to a financially struggling historically black college if the school can maintain a balanced budget over the next four years.

Gerry Broome / AP

Professors at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania have come out in support of a petition urging the school to revoke the honorary degree of President Donald Trump after he said both sides were to blame for the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kelly McCoy, a recent graduate of the private university in Bethlehem, started the change.org petition. Trump received his honorary degree after he served as commencement speaker in 1988.

Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

A powerful coalition of Pennsylvania lawmakers is promoting a forthcoming education savings account (ESA) bill that would allow hundreds of thousands of students in the state to use public money to pay for private school tuition.

The proposal could dramatically alter the state's K-12 education landscape, potentially siphoning away about a fifth of the state's overall support for public schools.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Officials with the Ellis School, a private all-girls preparatory school in Shadyside, said their decision to switch cleaning contractors earlier this month was because of performance issues, not wages, as the union representing the school’s former cleaners has suggested.

Alberto G. / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced changes to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, to reduce the time kids spend studying for the standardized achievement test in the classroom. 

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The United Steelworkers will no longer represent workers of a local cleaning company that are assigned to the Ellis School.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling Helps School Districts Limit Charter Expansion

Aug 10, 2017
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a ruling this week that gives traditional public school districts more power to limit charter school growth.

Hearing To Resume In Deadly Fall At Penn State Fraternity

Aug 10, 2017
Bebeto Matthews / AP

Members of a shuttered Penn State fraternity accused of crimes related to the death of a pledge earlier this year are due in a Pennsylvania courtroom for what will be the fourth day of a hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to send the case to county court for trial.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

A group of state lawmakers are introducing a bill they say would give students in Pennsylvania’s lowest-performing schools more options for their education.

The plan would create school savings accounts, which would allow parents to take control of the money that would be spent on their kids in the public school system, and enable them to use it for alternative education options.

Republican Senator John DiSanto of Dauphin County described the savings accounts as being about giving kids and their parents more agency.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Shakespeare is a staple in high school and collegiate classrooms, but the Bard isn’t always taught in elementary school.

Pittsburgh’s Classic Theater wants to change that, introducing kids to Shakespeare through week-long summer camps for children as young as 7.

PA's New School Accountability System Puts Less Emphasis On Standardized Testing

Aug 7, 2017
Brad Larrison / NewsWorks

The Pennsylvania Department of Education will unveil a new school quality metric in 2018 — dubbed the Future Ready PA Index — that it believes will foster a more holistic student experience, one less narrowly focused on state standardized tests.

Cannon Designs / YMCA Facebook

A lot of kids have big dreams of stardom, but not everybody can be a singer, rapper or performer. Still, there are aspects of the music and entertainment industry outside of those specialties.

The Community College of Allegheny County’s new partnership with the Homewood-Brushton YMCA aims to inspire young creators with a free, one-semester introductory course on music technology for students ages 16 to 24.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Darrell Pullie is standing on a film set between the camera and actors holding a clapperboard, the black and white object you see in film outtakes that mark the start of a new scene or take.

Summer School With No Walls Keeps Kids Engaged, Active

Aug 3, 2017
Emily Cohen / NewsWorks

The mention of summer school might conjure images of students stuck inside on beautiful days and kids upset at their parents for forcing them to attend.

But there's a summer program that's the opposite of that — and it's outdoors.

Families are already at the community pool, splashing and squealing in the water before 9 a.m.

Outside the fence, 6- and 7-year-olds stand in a circle, playing a rhyming game outside a picnic pavilion at the Boyertown Community Park in Berks County.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Many colleges send incoming students a copy of the same book, or common reader, in the summer. The idea is to give students a shared experience before coming to campus.

Some schools send books to just freshmen and incorporate the themes of the text into orientation. Others expect the entire campus to read the book.

In Pittsburgh, only two universities have common read programs.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Asia Parker wants to be a mathematics professor.

“Math is just amazing. You can do anything,” she said.

Parker, 17 from Carrick, waited in a Duquesne University laboratory near a kiln heating materials she was using in semi-conductor experiments. Semi-conductors are often used in computers and solar panels. The high school senior wants to make new compounds for Jennifer Aitken’s research, which is looking at shifting the wavelength of lasers.

Elaine Thompson / AP, file

The attorney representing three former students who sued the Pine-Richland School District says the parties are expected to sign a settlement in the next few days.

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, with New York-based Lambda Legal which advocates for LGBTQIA rights, declined to comment on the terms of the settlement until then.

Alexander Popichak / 90.5 WESA

High school can be hectic enough, but 3,000 students in Allegheny County experienced homelessness during the last school year. 

Eight students who had spent time homeless received scholarships from the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, or HCEF, Thursday during an awards ceremony at the National Aviary.

Students can use the $2,500 awards toward tuition, books or other college-associated costs. For graduating seniors like Monet Spencer, the award comes as both financial relief and as a means of connection.

After 4 Years, Head Of PA Higher Education Retiring

Jul 20, 2017
Steve Cannon / AP

The head of the system overseeing Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities intends to step down Sept.1. 

Chancellor Frank Brogan will retire after four years at the helm of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

His announcement comes a week after consultants advised an overhaul of the system's governance after a strategic review of the schools, which include West Chester, Millersville and Bloomsburg.

Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the state system, praised Brogan for obtaining more funding for it.

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