Education

Welcome to our sand box.

For months now, the NPR Ed Team has been playing with what we like to call "long listen" ideas — worthy stories that we can't tell in three or four minutes.

Toddlers make their fair share of noise. But they also have a lot of noise to contend with — a television blaring, siblings squabbling, a car radio blasting, grownups talking.

Amid all that clatter, toddlers must somehow piece together the meanings of individual words and start to form their own words and sentences.

Take a look this summer inside some of America's garages, museums and libraries and you'll see that the "maker movement" is thriving.

This hands-on, DIY culture of inventors, tinkerers and hackers is inspiring adults and children alike to design and build everything from sailboats and apps to solar cars.

And this fall, more of these chaotic workspaces, stocked with glue guns, drills and hammers, will be popping up in schools, too.

But the maker movement faces some big hurdles as it pushes into classrooms.

Here's the first big one:

Tonight is the night Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will take the stage in Cleveland at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He is now, officially, the vice-presidential running mate of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But before that happens, we want to take a dive into Pence's education policies in the nearly four years he's been the governor of Indiana.

Just how much does he have in common with Donald Trump when it comes to schools and education? Definitely not nothing. Let's take a look.

Lawsuit Brewing Over Refugee Education In Lancaster

Jul 19, 2016
Alex Brandon / AP

 

About 17,000 school-aged refugees move to the U.S. in an average year, an estimate that's a few years old and likely growing along with overall resettlement activity.

But no one is tracking how young refugees fare in school here.

Georgetown University released a study earlier this year looking at education access by students with limited English proficiency.

It focused on undocumented immigrants.

"Why are traffic lights red, yellow and green?"

When a child asks you a question like this, you have a few options. You can shut her down with a "Just because." You can explain: "Red is for stop and green is for go." Or, you can turn the question back to her and help her figure out the answer with plenty of encouragement.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Eight former police officers will be patrolling school hallways instead of streets this fall.

By a 7-2 vote Tuesday, the Gateway School District Board of Education approved the placement of at least one armed officer in each of the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.

Board president Chad Stubenbort said the district will hire retired officers to work part-time as part of its $300,000 security budget. Recent school attacks, especially the 2014 mass stabbing in nearby Franklin Regional High School, proved violence can happen anywhere, he said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

It’s a standardized testing day at Miller African-Centered Academy in the Hill District. But before one class of third graders starts the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, Kathy Flynn-Somerville turns off the lights and has them just listen. She teaches them calmness strategies like being quiet, present and taking deep breaths.

But students aren’t the only ones employing these mindfulness strategies in the classroom. 

We had kids later in life, knowing little about children and with no parents to guide us. I depended upon Sofiya, our stern Russian day care provider, for child-rearing advice. She reminded me of my Lithuanian grandmother who took care of me as a child.

When the children caught colds, my husband took their temperature and carefully measured out a draught of flavored Tylenol. Then the children would demand Sofiya's special treatment — Vicks VapoRub on the soles of their feet.

Having Other Teachers' Eyes Means Also Having Their Ideas

Jun 18, 2016

A lot of what's going on today in Marna Wolak's fifth-grade math class is pretty familiar. She's got her students gathered on the rug for a number talk, something she does often, trying to get them thinking about fractions.

But a lot of it is unfamiliar, too. The topic is new — dividing whole numbers by fractions. Also, today there are five more adults in the room, including two other teachers from Sanchez Elementary School here in San Francisco.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

State education officials wired Wilkinsburg School District $3 million in emergency funding last week to aid in middle and high school students transitioning to Pittsburgh Public Schools this fall.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

A survey of Pennsylvania superintendents and school business officials offers a bleak portrait of the state of education in the commonwealth.

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.

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.

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.

Jessica Kourkounis

 

The advocacy group Public Interest Law Center says the commonwealth's own data point to the need for at least $3.2 billion in added state funding.

When the state's bipartisan basic education funding commission published its report last year, it came up with a new formula for distributing new state education dollars. The formula acknowledges that districts face added burdens, for instance, when educating students in poverty, or those still learning English.

What Your Kids Are Learning About Climate Change

May 18, 2016
NL Monteiro / Flickr

So how—and what—are kids learning about climate change? Well, a survey published in the journal Science earlier this year revealed that students might not be taking home all that much from school. In fact, most science teachers spend just an hour or two on the subject every year.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

Saint Bartholomew School student Daryl Jean, of Penn Hills said she can’t understand why more girls don’t get excited about science and technology.

“I feel like girls, they can like science and stuff, but they don’t understand it, and some boys can be intimidating,” she said. “But I think you should try your best, because there’s a lot of inspiration out there.”

The American Association of University Women tried to kick start some of that inspiration in young Pittsburghers last weekend with its “Tech Savvy” computer coding workshop at La Roche College.

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.

We Want To Hear About Your Favorite Teacher

May 2, 2016
Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr

Who was the best teacher you ever had? And what made him or her so great?

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.

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.

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.

Phil Whitehouse / Flickr

The state is trying to get the word out about a bullying prevention hotline that’s been up and running since before the beginning of the school year.

The 24-7 service takes messages from people concerned about bullying in Pennsylvania schools. Social worker Karla Joyce-Good handles responses as part of her job at a non-profit partnering with the state. She said there’s good reason to care about bullying.

Life Of Learning Special Focusing On Urban Teaching

Feb 29, 2016
Al Kruse / flickr

Teaching is both challenging and rewarding. Whether you teach in an urban or suburban setting each has its unique challenges. As part of WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative today’s Essential Pittsburgh focuses on teachers in urban school districts.

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