Education

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.

Heatray / Bigstock

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

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

Best Robotics

The national robotics education nonprofit Best Robotics is moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh.

Thousands of students participate in Best Robotics competitions annually, spending six weeks building robots with real world potential.

“Every year there's an industry theme for the competition,” said executive director Rosemary Mendel. “Last year, it was agriculture; this year, it's fire and rescue.”

The idea is to train the future tech workforce and get more kids excited about pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

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.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

The journey for refugees from their home countries to Pittsburgh often takes years and includes lots of stops along the way. As part of WESA’s five-part series sharing the stories of young refugees, native Iraqi Maryam Nader, 15, talks about her desire to continue her travels and experience other cultures.

Nader is from Iraq, but she’s Kurdish, not Arabic.

“I don’t think anybody knows what are Kurdish,” said Nader. “They just assume they’re the same thing as Turkish, but they’re not. Kurdish have a different language and kind of a different culture.”

Learning About Pollution Can Be Fun ... When You Get To Pick A Giant Nose

Aug 10, 2017
Rachel Filippini

Our region’s dirty air is a big problem. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with it, right?

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.

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.

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.

If you've ever driven south into Kansas on Interstate 35, past rolling prairies and wheat fields, eventually you'll run into the town of Emporia, population 25,000 and home to the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

I took that drive recently, curious about what I would find but also wondering, why Emporia?

"Why not Emporia?" asks Jennifer Baldwin, the administrative assistant of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

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.

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.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

On a breezy Wednesday morning, a tour group of gardeners and members of Pittsburgh's nonprofit community visited all the green spaces the neighborhood of Homewood had to offer. They saw the personal gardens of resident Amir Rashad, walked through shared plots and the garden manned by Operation Better Block.

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.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

 

Last year, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School started noticing some negative race-based comments being made among students. Studies show safe environments are essential for learning, and being victim to identity-based harassment can be especially detrimental in school.

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

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.

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.

Dake Kang / AP

City leaders say they want to streamline tax abatement programs for developers willing to take risks in historically underserved neighborhoods.

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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.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania law mandates school districts submit preliminary budgets by the last day of May, and several Superintendents across the state used Wednesday’s milestone to call for more financial support from the state.

“Without increased state funding we will, at some point, loose the ability to provide the same level of education that we have,” Gary Peiffer, Carlynton School District Superintendent, said.

Bob Casey Says Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Special Education

May 20, 2017
Ben Allen / WITF

The Republican-backed health care bill that passed the U.S. House would cut $880 billion from the Medicaid program over the next decade.

Pennsylvania's senior U.S. Senator says that move will not only rob people of heath care, but hurt the commonwealth's schools.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey says most people don't realize Medicaid funds help provide special education services, health screenings, and early intervention pre-k programs that benefit children with disabilities.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Sala Udin, Veronica Edwards and Terry Kennedy won seats on the Pittsburgh Public Schools boards Tuesday night, in the only contested board races.

Kennedy, the incumbent District 5 representative, garnered nearly twice as many votes as opponent Ghadah Makoshi.

In District 3, former city councilman Udin beat out opponent James Myers, a Schenley High School grad and outreach coordinator for the Pittsburgh Green Innovators.

And Edwards narrowly defeated incumbent Carolyn Klug for the District 9 seat.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Mayor Bill Peduto acknowledged there may be some merit to Democratic challenger Rev. John C. Welch's plan to limit lead in Pittsburgh's drinking water at a mayoral forum hosted by 90.5 WESA and The Incline on Tuesday.

Margaret Sun / 90.5 WESA

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week, reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

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