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

  Pittsburgh Public Schools' new pick for superintendent defended his resume to his hometown newspaper on Friday after press suggested he made "misstatements of exaggerations" about his accomplishments leading Palm Beach County schools.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

  Interim Wilkinsburg High School Principal Shawn Johnston’s voice reverberated through the intercom into bare, empty hallways on the second to last day of school. Packing boxes had arrived in the office.

Students weren’t in the building as teachers finished grades and prepared for the school to permanently close following Friday’s 7 p.m. graduation. Their last full day in the school was Wednesday.

"I really hate it, you know, because there are a lot of memories here," said Roxanne Robinson, who graduated in the 1970s.

Erie School District

Dozens of Pennsylvania's most distressed school districts are finding it harder to borrow money in the wake of the state's historically protracted budget impasse.

In December, as lawmakers entered a sixth month without a state budget, S&P Global withdrew its rating of Pennsylvania's "intercept" program, through which the state guarantees loans for school districts that don't have high credit ratings.

Plum Borough School District Superintendent Timothy Glasspool was placed on administrative leave Friday.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, Glasspool was given two days to consider taking paid leave while the school board investigates how he handled reports of inappropriate sexual relationships between teachers and students.

Yoshimitsu Kurooka / flickr

Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign a bill that would establish an education funding formula for the state's public schools.

Pennsylvania is one of just three states without funding formulas. North Carolina and Delaware are the other two, according to the Education Law Center.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Wilkinsburg and Westinghouse sixth, seventh and eighth graders got an early taste of the schools' impending merger at a field day in North Park on Tuesday.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Though more than 60 percent of the students in Pittsburgh Public Schools are people of color, district officials said eighty-five percent of its teachers are white and primarily women.

Carrick High School junior Trevon Stanton said throughout his education, he’s rarely had a teacher who looks like him. That’s why he’s considering becoming a teacher one day.

First off, it starts with me," Stanton said. "If no one’s going to be the change then I will.”

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council members and education activists say it’s time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to prioritize affordable early childhood education in the state’s budget.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Florida educator and former NFL defensive end will likely be the next to helm Pittsburgh Public Schools. Board members unanimously approved the appointment Wednesday.

Anthony Hamlet works with principals and instructional specialists on school improvement in Palm Beach County, Fla., where he currently serves as director of school accountability and transformation. Hamlet was appointed a five year term for July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2021 with a starting salary of $221,000 a year at the board's Special Legislative Meeting.

Scott Barkley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County school officials are considering taking a bold step – ditching textbooks.

Superintendents, curriculum directors and librarians from multiple districts met Thursday to discuss getting using new materials.

They're looking to follow in the steps of other schools around the country using open educational resources –- which are free and non-copyrighted, shared materials.

Remake Learning

Learning doesn’t just have to happen in a classroom.

That’s the message that education groups and members of the Remake Learning Network hope to send by hosting more than 280 events this week. The events will promote innovative educational opportunities for children with hands-on learning such as woodworking, sewing, robotics, 3-D printing and student-led panels.

"Remake Learning" is an expression used to describe the idea that children can learn anytime and anywhere, including at museums and libraries.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Students at Avonworth School District’s Primary Center had a chance every week to gather in an empty classroom to create anything from battery-powered cars to catapults. Then, one day, a few students came to kindergarten teacher Maureen Frew with a teeny request. 

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

 

Pittsburgh Public Schools have extended the district's contracts with its teachers union through June 30, 2017.

The previous contract expired last year on June 30, and the sides have been negotiating ever since.

The contract covers about 3,000 teachers, aides and clerical workers.

The school board and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers announced the tentative deal Monday. Terms weren't immediately disclosed.

The teachers will vote on the deal May 16, and the school board must still schedule a vote.

 

John Altdorfer / Point Park University

Veteran investigative reporter Andrew Conte will lead Point Park University’s new journalism facility, school officials announced Wednesday.

The Center for Media Innovation was built with a $2.5 million grant from the Allegheny Foundation, which was created by late Trib owner Richard Mellon Scaife. Trib Total Media is also a sponsor of the media center.

xMizLitx / Flickr

 

Some scholarship providers in western Pennsylvania say they're having trouble giving away free money.

Officials with the National Scholarship Providers Association tell The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that community foundations that award local scholarships can find it more difficult to give out money than larger, national scholarships.

Victor Bjorkund / Flickr

Pennsylvania school board members came to the Capitol earlier this week, some of them downright weary.

“It’s been a grueling year,” said Nathan Mains, director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. PSBA was in town for its annual legislative lobbying day. Its members wanted to underscore the damage caused by the budget stalemate.

Schools Eye State I.O.U. On Construction Costs

Apr 4, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The state’s budget gridlock is over, but school districts are focusing on another piece of unwelcome news: after years of delayed reimbursements for state-approved construction and building maintenance, they’ll go without any state funding for such projects.

About $306 million in construction reimbursements was nixed when Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a budget-related piece of legislation known as the fiscal code last week.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

In a preliminary impromptu speaking round of the World Individual Debating & Public Speaking Championship in Fox Chapel Thursday, seven students from around the world were given just two minutes to prepare a short speech on a random topic – anything from the word “needles” to the phrase “evil is whatever distracts the mind.”

"We should all take risks and not hold ourselves back, even if it's to do with needles," said Micaella Rogers of South Africa, pacing and gesturing with her hands often as she spoke in front of a classroom full of judges and competitors.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of teachers, parents and alumni attended a Penn Hills School District board meeting Tuesday night, to protest a decision to furlough more than 40 teachers.

The district will also cut more than 20 elective courses including arts, law and math courses. 

The school board voted 7-2 in favor of the plan. The changes go into effect at the end of this school year.

Superintendent Nancy Hines said the district has been fighting for its life and faces a possible state takeover. Last year, Penn Hills had to borrow $20 million and anticipates a deficit this year.

IUP.edu

 

Indiana University of Pennsylvania plans to implement per-credit tuition for full-time, in-state students, rather than the flat annual rate of $7,060.

IUP announced the change in January 2015 but didn't implement it last fall.

The school, one of 14-state-owned universities that are part of the State System of Higher Education, said Monday it will implement the new tuition scheme this fall.

Mark Goebel / Flickr

A Hershey boarding school for low-income students is calling for greater transparency and dialog from public and private schools on how much they spend on student health.

The new position paper from the Milton Hershey School recommends greater collaboration between schools and health institutions like hospitals and nonprofits, as well as more research on the special physical and mental health needs of children living in poverty.

Courtesy of George Junior Republic

A Mercer County school for delinquent youths will cut costs this summer by eliminating its 40-year-old equestrian program to add other activities.

The equestrian program at George Junior Republic School in Grove City consists of 16 horses and a staff with an operating cost of more than $250,000 annually. 

“A delinquent youth spends an average of nine months at the school,” said the school’s CEO, Rick Losasso. “When you think about the actual utilization and the costs associated to it, that goes into our decision-making process.”

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Updated 4:35 p.m. March 14, 2016.

Robert Morris, 15, glanced across the street and back down.

“I think everybody’s just a little tense right now,” the Propel Braddock Hills High School freshman said. 

Morris heard the gun shots before 11 p.m. Wednesday while watching television with his dad. He rolled off the couch into a ball, "to make myself as small as possible," he said.

Describing the scene, Morris looked again across the street where police say six people died from gunshot wounds sustained in an ambush-style attack.

Google Maps

As environmental news has garnered more attention in recent years, Point Park University will now have the opportunity to obtain environmental journalism degrees. 

The new degree, available to undergraduate and graduate students, will be offered in the fall of 2016.

Students will be able to focus on print or broadcast and will pair journalism classes with classes in environmental sciences, like ecology and biology, according to School of Communications Chair Thom Baggerman.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About 160 area students toured the U.S. Department of Energy's Technology Laboratory Wednesday as part of President Obama's Brother's Keeper initiative to address opportunity gaps in science, technology, engineering and math fields. 

Students were encouraged to pursue those fields with hands-on activities, such as experimenting with liquid nitrogen and testing acid voltage of fruits and vegetables. Researchers also talked to students about the lab's work in energy and environmental research and development with the focus of providing clean energy. 

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

  Last May, Governor Tom Wolf held a news conference in front of the Camp Hill state prison in Cumberland County.

He was joined by Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and a handful of district attorneys, all pushing for a $120 million funding increase — not for prisons — but for preschool.

“These are the first steps to what I have as a four-year goal to fully fund early childhood education,” Wolf said.

Brett Levin / Flickr

  School superintendents holding out hope for an end to the state budget impasse may have to accept closing their doors, state Budget Secretary Randy Albright said Friday.

Albright's forbidding instructions outline nearly a dozen steps for school districts managing their own demise.

"We don’t expect anything until maybe later in the month of March or early in the month of April," he said. "We don’t know when that will occur. It’s something that we continue to simply monitor."

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

In Pennsylvania, fourth graders from middle and upper class families are more than twice as likely as their peers from low income families to score advanced or proficient on standardized reading tests, mirroring the nationwide trend. 

Over the last 40 years, family income has overtaken race as the best predictor of student achievement. Among Pittsburgh Public Schools, the general trend holds true. Schools serving more low-income students have lower test scores. But in part two of our three-part Life of Learning series, we report on one public school that has found a strategy for improving student achievement across the board.

Sunnyside Elementary School special education teacher Jennifer Barger said she never realized how powerful data could be, until her students started tracking their own.

The good news: over the last 40 years, the achievement gap between black and white students has narrowed substantially.

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