Life of Learning

Essential Pittsburgh
3:37 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

An Hour of Coding Makes A Difference For Female High School Students

Students at Oakland Catholic High School learning to code.
Credit OCHS

Pittsburgh has become a hub for technology and computer developments, thanks to institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and Google.

Local students who wish to one day join this field must learn at a young age the language of computers- coding.  

Last week students around the world took part in the second annual Hour of Code event in which they spent an hour learning computer code. The program was created by Hadi Partovi at Code.org to introduce individuals, not just students, to the coding process.

Oakland Catholic High School was one of the schools that participated in the event, and school president Mary Claire Kasunic stopped by Essential Pittsburgh to explain the significance of the program.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:21 pm
Wed December 10, 2014

Cathy Lewis Long Explores the Future of Pittsburgh Education

The Sprout Fund's Cathy Lewis Long in Studio A with our own Paul Guggenheimer.
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Last week educational visionaries from the area who are rethinking education gathered for their annual summit. As part of the WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative we’ll explore what’s on the educational horizon with Cathy Lewis Long, Executive Director & President for The Sprout Fund.

Essential Pittsburgh
5:26 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Building Neighborhood Bridges to Innovation

Credit Peter Radunzel / Flickr

Pittsburgh native, entrepreneur and Urban Innovation 21 CEO William Generett is an advocate looking to connect the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods to the tech sector. 

He joins us in Studio A for a conversation on how he plans to accomplish this goal.

Connected learning
3:22 pm
Fri November 21, 2014

Pittsburgh Teachers, Museums, Libraries Connect In-School and Out-of-School Learning

More than 400 teachers, administrators, librarians, artists, out-of-school educators, mentors, parents and students crowded a ballroom at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center Friday to discuss how to create a more integrated learning environment in Pittsburgh.

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Life of Learning
3:30 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Panel: Progressive Discipline Key to Ending School-to-Prison Pipeline

Students, educators, community members and activists recently participated in a 90.5 WESA community forum on the "school-to-prison pipeline."
Chris Squier 90.5 WESA

The adoption of zero tolerance policies in schools has risen sharply since the 1999 Columbine shootings.  But are those policies making schools safer? Many education stakeholders in Pittsburgh say the widespread use of zero tolerance policies has increased the likelihood of students entering the criminal justice system based on school incidents. 

“If we can move from a zero tolerance policy, which excludes children who are having trouble, to progressive discipline, which includes those with a rehabilitative effort to get them back on their feet and back into school, we can do a better job with community safety,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton, said at WESA’s community forum entitled "Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline" on Monday.  

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:22 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Pittsburgh Promise Annual Report Shows Successes and Places for Improvement

Credit John Walker / Flickr

In 2008 the Pittsburgh Promise began offering scholarships to area high school students. Since then 1,084 scholarship recipients have graduated from college.

While the program is having its successes, it isn’t without critics who say it hasn’t resulted in any meaningful improvement in academic achievement.

Joining us for a conversation about the organization, which recently delivered its annual report is Pittsburgh Promise executive director Saleem Ghubril.

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Achievement Gap
1:41 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Agencies Receive Early Education Grants For Work On Reducing Achievement Gap

The state has given early education grants to four southwestern Pennsylvania agencies. The grants are for $75,000 a year for three years.

The organizations received the money to continue work they’ve already started in reducing the student achievement gap for children in at-risk communities.

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Life of Learning
2:32 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

More Allegheny County Kids In After-School Programs, But Service Gaps Still Exist

Students at the after-school program at Assemble in Garfield learn how to build video game controllers.
Credit Courtesy of Assemble

There’s good news and there’s bad news when it comes to after-school programs in Allegheny County.

The good news is that more children than ever are participating in after-school and out-of-school-time programs: 10.2 million nationwide and 52,646 in Allegheny County, according to a new report from the Afterschool Alliance. That puts the national participation rate at 18 percent, while Allegheny County’s participation rate is much higher at 28 percent.

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Science and Technology
7:30 am
Fri October 10, 2014

Following An Online Dust-Up, Science Center And Others See A Conversation Starter

This April 8, 2014 photo shows the Carnegie Science Center at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers in downtown Pittsburgh.
Credit AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A recent story about the disparity in Boy and Girl Scouts course offerings at the Carnegie Science Center caught fire online. The outrage was made all the more contentious because the seemingly single course offered for Girl Scouts centered on creating beauty products.

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STEM Education
4:01 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Study: Parents' Understanding Of STEM Education Low Throughout Pittsburgh Region

When surveying a room of teachers, parents, and students about the significance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, and the results can vary with a mixture of answers filled with uncertainty often dominating the conversation.

The Carnegie Science Center is trying to emphasize the impact of STEM learning through the results of a survey, “Work To Do: The Role of STEM Education in Improving the Tri-State Region’s Workforce.” 

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:31 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Life of Learning: American Education and the Arts

Credit Josh Staiger / Flickr

Local and national arts education leaders gathered in Pittsburgh this week for a two-day Arts Education National Forum. There, teachers and advocates discussed how to prepare students for a new America through the arts.

As part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative, Essential Pittsburgh explored the state of arts centered learning programs in area schools, community involvement and the future of arts education.

While the discussion of access to arts education has often meant a lack of resources, Sandra Ruppert, director of the Arts Education Partnership said the problem often is money and a lack of faith in arts.

“In some places around the country I believe the arts are not being taken seriously. The arts are sometimes considered more of an enrichment than a core academic subject and a necessity. Sometimes the arts are viewed for kids that are at risk or for the gifted and talented and not for every child,” she said. 

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School Attendance
10:35 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

McKeesport Community Encourages Good Attendance

Often discussing a student’s attendance is a negative conversation or one that leads to disciplinary action.

But early Wednesday morning, teachers and community members rallied around McKeesport Area School District students as they were dropped off at the front door. As school bus engines rumbled, volunteers holding welcome signs cheered, pinned stickers on students and handed them school supplies.

“I’m glad you’re here today,” and “It’s important to come to school,” the volunteers repeated to the students.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:37 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Westminster College Launches STEM Program for High-Needs Schools

There are 2.4 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs available for every unemployed person in Pennsylvania with STEM skills, according to the national science education advocacy group Change the Equation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education reported that in 2013, low-income students in Pennsylvania scored about 9 percent lower on standardized math tests, and 20 percent lower on standardized science tests.

Westminster College in Lawrence County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, has just announced a new program that aims to address both of these issues.

IQ STEM includes an undergraduate scholarship component and a professional development component, both of which focus on four high needs school districts in the region surrounding Westminster: Sharon City School District and Farrell Area School District in Mercer County, and Union Area School District and New Castle Area School District in Lawrence County.

High needs schools are defined by the Higher Education Act of 1965 and by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as schools with high teacher turnover rates, a high percentage of out-of-field or uncertified teachers, a high number of unfilled teaching positions and/or a large percentage of students whose families fall below the poverty line.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:52 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

'Ready Freddy' Brings Kindness to Kindergarten

The University of Pittsburgh-developed Ready Freddy campaign has already seen some success, with initial partner schools seeing a rise in first day attendance from 25% to as many as 100%.
Credit University of Pittsburgh

Today is the first day of kindergarten for many Pittsburgh area students. They will be welcomed this year by the “Ready Freddy” green frog mascot as part of the program developed by the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development to make the first day easier for the little ones.

Ken Smythe-Leistico is the assistant director of Pitt’s Office of Child Development. He says that many children have anxieties about transitioning into kindergarten.

“You leave that past life as you know it and all those comforts that you had...and you’re navigating all these elements at five years old,” he says.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:36 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

The Summer Before College Can Make or Break Students' Chances of Enrolling

Litchfield Towers are the main residence halls for University of Pittsburgh Freshmen
Credit Brian Donovan / Flickr

As the Pittsburgh region experiences its yearly rush of returning college students, a number of high school graduates who initially registered will not be moving into the freshmen dorms. 

According to University of Pittsburgh Education Professor Lindsay Page, 10 to 20 percent of the high school graduates who register for college in the spring fail to show up for enrollment in the fall. This is due in large part to unforeseen financial constraints, lack of resources and lack of guidance.

In researching this growing problem, Page looked at enrollment data, and she interviewed career counselors, advisors and students for her forthcoming book Summer Melt: Supporting Low-income Students through the Transition to College

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Life of Learning
3:41 am
Tue August 19, 2014

City of Learning: Recognizing Teens for the Learning They Do Outside of School

Artist and teacher James Gyre teaches kids geometry and design concepts during TechShop's Drum Makers workshop.
Credit Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Educators are increasingly concerned about kids losing knowledge during the summer. As part of our Life of Learning Initiative, we look at a program that not only helps middle and high schoolers learn during the summer, but also allows them to show off their new skills to colleges and future employers.

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Universal Pre-K
5:55 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Life Of Learning: Discussing Pre-K Education

Credit Kirsten Jennings / Flickr

From the time they are born to when they first attend school children can learn a lot. The skills of reading, writing and basic math are attained by some children who attend preschool.  This can provide preschoolers with a significant head start over children with no pre-kindergarten education.

Studies have shown the gap between the two groups  grows as their schooling progresses. The benefits of preschool are especially important for children deemed “at risk.”

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Life of Learning
3:30 am
Tue August 5, 2014

CMU, Google Team Up To Improve Online Education

Carnegie Mellon University and Google are teaming up to make Massive Open Online Courses more engaging.
Credit Mathieu Plourde / Flickr

There are more than 7 million students around the world enrolled in some 12,000 Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, with topics ranging from oil and acrylic painting techniques to developmental artificial intelligence.

But, MOOCs aren’t your typical online classes. They’re free; they don’t go towards earning a degree; and, rarely are there assignments, but therein lies the problem.

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Life of Learning
3:05 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

State Approves Pittsburgh Teacher Evaluation System to the Surprise of Teachers Union

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has approved the Pittsburgh Public Schools use of its rigorous and controversial teacher evaluation system for the next three years.

Superintendent Linda Lane said it’s time to stop focusing on teacher evaluations and start focusing on teaching practice.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:13 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

College Students Still Struggling with Math and Writing

Studies show freshmen are still struggling with math and writing skills upon entering college.
Credit Scott Akerman / Flickr

A great deal of concern is given to young children being ready to learn once they begin attending elementary school. But what happens when those children grow up and are ready to attend college?

A study by the U.S. Department of Education finds one in four college freshmen lack reading and math skills for entry level-college work. This results in students needing to take at least one noncredit remedial class.

California University of Pennsylvania is working to reduce the amount of remedial help needed by students. Daniel Engstrom, associate provost in the Office of Academic Success at California University of Pennsylvania explains why more and more students are coming into college unprepared.

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STEAM Innovation
3:30 am
Fri July 25, 2014

From Building Solar-Powered Mini-Cars to Creating Apps in the Classroom

Teachers at the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at South Fayette School District work with littleBits to bring engineering into their K-4 classrooms
Credit Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Summer camp — it’s not just for kids anymore. 

Teachers from around the Pittsburgh area and from as far away as Alabama this week attended the STEAM Innovation Summer Institute at South Fayette Intermediate School to learn how to embed robotics, computational thinking and game design into their curricula.  

Amidst lights flashing  and lots of beeps, elementary school teachers are playing with, or rather experimenting with, littleBits — tiny circuit boards engineered to snap together with magnets.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

What Changing Views of Zero Tolerance Mean for Pittsburgh Public Schools

Pittsburgh Public Schools is looking at amending the Code of Student Conduct to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline.
Credit Gates Foundation / Flickr

Pittsburgh Public Schools might be modifying its Code of Student Conduct to reflect changing attitudes on zero tolerance. With input from parents, educators and students, the Board of Education will vote Wednesday on whether or not to decrease the use of exclusionary discipline, such as expulsion and suspension, among other changes.

Cheryl Kleiman, a staff attorney with the Education Law Center, was one of the collaborators in the new proposal.

“The Education Law Center has been looking at school discipline and zero tolerance policies in Pittsburgh, around the state and nationally for years...zero tolerance policy is a policy that assigns predetermined punishment to a specific violation of school rules regardless of the situation or the context."

Kleiman says while they've become the norm nationally, zero tolerance rules have come under scrutiny because they are viewed as too rigid.

"The changes that are being voted on tomorrow night reflect a lot of stakeholder input," said Kleiman. "Parents, students, educators, teachers, as well as recent federal guidance on this issue. And reiterates the concerns for zero tolerance policies and instead provides more support and resources for school districts to minimize exclusionary discipline while keeping the schools safe."

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Life of Learning
3:33 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

At Summer Seminar, Students Learn to Think Critically About Global Issues

For a small group of local teenagers, part of their summer has been spent learning to think critically about global issues. For the past two weeks the students have been learning Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, hearing speakers who work in the international community and learning from one another in the 2014 Summer Seminar of Global Issues.

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Summer Slide
4:23 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Parents Say Reading Not a Summer Priority for Children

Only 17 percent of parents believe reading is a top summer priority for their children.

That’s according to Reading is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s, which released a survey regarding parents’ attitude’s towards reading Wednesday.

The survey also showed that children spend almost three times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading during the summer.

Kathryn Heffernan, Pittsburgh’s RIF assistant director of communications and development, said accessibility to books is one of the issues.

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Education Innovation
7:58 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Going Beyond the Girls' School: Ellis Innovation Institute to Pilot, Research, Share Best Practices

The Ellis School has launched the new Learning Innovation Institute to pilot, create and share innovative practices with the ultimate goal of improving learning outcomes for students and teaching outcomes for instructors.

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Summer Learning Loss
6:00 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Schools and Libraries Confront Summer Learning Loss

As the school year ends, summer learning loss, or "summer slide," might begin.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, the loss amounts to about two months in math for all students and two months in reading for low-income students, while unequal access to summer learning opportunities might  account for half the achievement gap between low- and high-income students.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:14 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Is Teacher Absenteeism An Issue For Pittsburgh Public Schools?

Last week the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a roadmap to enhance teacher effectiveness in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Credit Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

 

Last week, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a roadmap to enhance teacher effectiveness in Pittsburgh Public Schools. The report was commissioned by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and A+ Schools. Kate Walsh, CEO of the National Council on Teacher Quality explains some of the good that has come along with the roadmap and Pennsylvania’s teachers.

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education and environment
12:48 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Students Learn from Trout in the Classroom, And Outdoors

8th graders scooped the Brook trout they raised from eggs into plastic cups to release them into a local stream.
Credit Kara Holsopple / The Allegheny Front

A 55-gallon fish tank sits to the side of Frank Todd’s 8th grade classroom at Moon Area Middle School, west of Pittsburgh. The water inside is so cold you can’t even see into the tank because of the water collecting on the outside.

Todd’s using the condensation to teach about how gases and liquids behave.  It’s 52 degrees in the tank because that’s the temperature needed to sustain Brook trout. The tank is home to about 100 brook trout fingerlings—juvenile fish about the length of a finger.

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Life of Learning
1:04 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

High Schoolers Build Drones To Detect Gas Leaks, Measure Air Quality

For the last two months, more than 20 students at Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside have been building drones.

Part of a cross-curricular project led by science department chair Graig Marx and computer science department chair David Nassar, students were divided into seven teams and tasked with building a “quadcopter” with the ability to measure, report and analyze natural gas levels.

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Cultural Exchange
9:29 am
Thu May 8, 2014

For Pittsburgh and Ecuadorian Students, Food Serves as a Cultural Bridge

Ecuadorian students and adults lounge outside of Phipps Conservatory
Credit 90.5 WESA's Michael Lynch

When Erick Rivas arrived in Pittsburgh last week, he had one thing on his mind: “la comida.”

“I really enjoyed trying different types of food,” he said through a translator. “Being friends with the teens here was a great experience.”

The 15-year-old is one of six students visiting the U.S. from Quito, Ecuador as part of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s Scaling the Walls/Escalanda Paredas cultural exchange program.

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