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.

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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The Community College of Allegheny County has been issued a warning by its accrediting body, which requires the college to re-evaluate how it measures student learning.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Consultants hired to review Pennsylvania's financially strapped state-owned university system are not recommending any of the 14 campuses be closed or merged.

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems is sharing its findings Wednesday with the governing board of the State System of Higher Education.

The system is suffering from dropping in-state high school graduations and cuts in state aid.

PACast

Data from 2016 is still being calculated, but according to Gov. Tom Wolf, the number of drug overdose deaths is continuing to rise in the commonwealth. 

In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, he is encouraging anyone connected with the fight to take a newly created certificate program.

Detective Describes Probe Into Penn State Pledge's Death

Jul 11, 2017
Daveynin / Flickr

A police detective was questioned for a third day Tuesday about the events at a Penn State fraternity house earlier this year that led to the death of a 19-year-old pledge who endured a series of falls during a night of heavy drinking.

Lawyers for members of the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi house have been pressing State College police Detective Dave Scicchitano about his investigation into the pledge ceremony and subsequent party that preceded the Feb. 4 death of Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey.

Chris Knight / AP

A judge is hearing evidence of worried texts from Penn State fraternity brothers as he considers whether there's enough evidence to send charges related to a pledge's death to county court for trial.

Testimony resumed Monday in a preliminary hearing for the Beta Theta Pi chapter and 16 of its members, accused in the February death of 19-year-old pledge Tim Piazza after a night of heavy drinking.

Prosecutors introduced a text from the house pledge master that said "it's over" and that he didn't "want to go to jail" for it.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The contract for nearly 3,000 Pittsburgh Public School Teachers and paraprofessionals expired Friday. Negotiations began in the fall between the district and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

Union president Nina Esposito-Visgitis said she’s disappointed, but hopeful for a contract by the start of the school year.  

“We’re going to have a new school year, we have a lot of great initiatives with community schools, (Career and Technical Education), early childhood," she said. "I don’t want any distractions because we have a lot of work to do.”

Mark Goebel / Flickr

The Carnegie Science Center has received a $7.5 million gift from PPG and the PPG Foundation – the largest in the science center’s history. The donation will go towards the construction of the PPG Science Pavilion, which is scheduled for completion in June 2018.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The XPRIZE, known for its lunar program that aims to send private companies to the moon, is also funding an effort to develop educational software. The goal is to enable children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic in about a year. Semi-finalists for the $10 million  prize were announced last week, including a CMU project called Robo Tutor.

Daveynin / Flickr

The office of the state auditor general has released a report reviewing Penn State’s rising tuition costs, background check practices and transparency in the wake of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse conviction.

Penn State is an important asset to Pennsylvania, and in his presentation of the report, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale repeatedly stressed the necessity of keeping its reputation intact.

In order to do that, he said PSU still has to improve its background checks in the post-Sandusky era—particularly for employees who have contact with kids.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Board unanimously agreed Thursday that the district needs a committee to create a plan to address what one board member called "an alarmingly high" rate of suspensions.

City education advocates have been pushing the Pittsburgh Public School district to address the high number of suspensions for years. For several months they’ve asked the board to ban suspensions for non-violent offenses for students below sixth grade.

Ally Ruggieri / 90.5 WESA

The first day of summer might make one think of a sunny stroll along the river or a fresh lunch on an outdoor patio. At the Carnegie Science Center, it’s snowballs.

Each year, the science center hosts its annual “Snowball Launch,” to ring in the warm season. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own snowball (likely saved in the back of the freezer since winter) to receive free admission and throw them via slingshot into the Ohio River.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

By eighth grade, Christian Carter had been suspended from school a dozen times. The first time was in 3rd grade for what he described as questioning his teacher. Most were for one or two days.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Penguins officials estimate 650,000 people showed up for this year’s Stanley Cup victory parade after captain Sidney Crosby led the team to their second consecutive NHL title. 

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Recently, the East Allegheny School District broke ground on its first charter school.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University’s provost and chief academic officer, Farnam Jahanian, will take over as the school’s interim president next month.

The university’s board of trustees appointed Jahanian Wednesday. He’ll take over July 1.

Jahanian will follow Subra Suresh, who announced nearly two weeks ago that he will step down after a record-short tenure.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The tension between charter school advocates and those who support traditional schools often comes down to money. Charters are public and funded by tax dollars, but many argue the schools siphon scarce resources.

Last year, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called for an overhaul of the state’s charter school law.

“I am not saying we have the worst charter schools in the United States, " he said. "I am saying we have the worst charter school law in the United States." 

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Every day at Urban Academy Charter School in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood begins with students, teachers, support staff and administrators gathered in the cafeteria.

Mornings start with brief presentations on black history, followed by song: “I Believe I Can Fly,” the black national anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and once in a while, a little Bruno Mars.

Barney Moss / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s children are faring a bit better than their counterparts nationally in education, according to a new report form the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2017 Kids Count Data Book ranks the commonwealth 18th in the U.S. for overall child well-being.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Fourth grade students at Propel Hazelwood gathered in a circle around another student summarizing a class text. As she spoke, each student gave her a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Just a few months after Pennsylvania approved its charter school law, a trailblazing Pittsburgh Public educator stood in front of the school board on a November night in 1997.

Helen Faison urged board members to approve the charter for the Urban Academy, a school that would operate independently from the district. It would remain public with open enrollment and the public school district would pay for students to attend it.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

A telecom technician by trade, Schuylkill County homeowner Ron Boltz is not your typical suit-and-tie Harrisburg lobbyist.

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Clarion University's president says she's stepping down at the end of the next academic year.

Karen Whitney has been president of the state-owned school for eight years. The school about 70 miles northeast of Pittsburgh has about 5,200 students.

The school is one of several in the 14-school State System of Higher Education that's struggling with declining enrollment. Clarion's enrollment has dropped 29 percent since 2010.

Whitney is the longest-tenured president in the state system.

The resignation announced Monday is effective June 30, 2018.

Carnegie Mellon University

After four years at the helm of Carnegie Mellon University, president Subra Suresh will step down at the end of the month.

The former National Science Foundation director announced his resignation Thursday in an open letter to the campus community.

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