Education

Edward N. Johnson / US Army

Pennsylvania’s senior US Senator says he is ready to give another try at passing a bill that makes access to pre-kindergarten learning nearly universal.  Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) this week once again introduced the Prepare All Kids Act, which is intended to provide one year of voluntary, high quality pre-k to all children.

PhotosNormandie / Flickr

Seventy years ago this month, Pittsburgh native George Pietropola battled frostbite in the Ardennes Forest during World War II. Just after the war ended, then-Staff Sgt. Pietropola was presented with a Bronze Star for his heroism under fire from February 9th to February 24th. 

"It looked more like a slaughter to me. It was terrible. That was one of the worst things I’d ever seen – that ever happened, all the time I was in the war." - George Pietropola

A consortium of student government representatives from nine local colleges and universities will have an audience with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Tuesday evening.

Student leaders from Carlow University, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University, the Community College of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, La Roche College, Point Park University, Robert Morris University, and the University of Pittsburgh comprise the Pittsburgh Student Government Council (PSGC).

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

A task force charged with examining and recommending changes for Pittsburgh Public Schools has released its report after a year of work. It focuses on five areas: public safety, out-of-school-time programming, community schools, school funding and marking the city’s schools.

Pennsylvania’s public schools are seeing declining test scores and increasing achievement gaps, according to a recent report from PennCAN, a statewide education advocacy group. Executive Director Jonathan Cetel said test scores declined for all grades according to state education data. More concerning, he said, is the widening achievement gap.

Dawn Biery

Aileen Owens is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the South Fayette School District. Last year she was the recipient of two national awards for Digital Innovation in Learning.

As part of 90.5 WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative, Ms. Owens joins us to discuss her approach to teaching technology. 

Ms. Owens tells us more about the work she did with teaching technologies for k-12 education:

Clyde Robinson / Flickr

Music can soothe you, make you cry, get you pumped up for a workout, or make you tap your feet. And to Brian O’Roark, professor of economics at Robert Morris University, music is also a great way teach economics.

For his efforts, O’Roark was recently recognized by the Middle Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration, which bestowed upon him an Undergraduate Teaching Innovation Award.

O’Roark says that his interest in using music to teach was inspired, in part, by the 1990s VH1 music video series “Pop-Up Video,” which showed music videos and added jokes and anecdotes about the artist in pop-up text that would flash on the screen.

He realized that this combination of music with storytelling could also be used in teaching.

Pennsylvanians can now check out the broad strokes of their school districts’ finances using a state website.

The Department of Education’s PA School Performance site now displays things like school districts’ general fund balances, tuition rates paid to charter schools, and average teacher salaries.

For as long as property taxes have been used to locally funded schools, there has been a debate over fairness and it might come to head this year in Pennsylvania.

State Senator Matt Smith (D – Allegheny) is hopeful the 2015-16 budget will incorporate a funding formula for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.

He is a member of the Basic Education Funding Commission, which is tasked with crafting the formula.  Created in June, the 15-member commission has about six months to go until it must submit a proposal to the legislature.

OCHS

Pittsburgh has become a hub for technology and computer developments, thanks to institutions including 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.

Cathy Lewis Long Explores the Future of Pittsburgh Education

Dec 10, 2014
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.

A national campaign aimed at increasing access to early childhood learning programs is getting a boost from one of Pittsburgh’s biggest charities.

The Heinz Endowments announced $9 million in funding for Invest in US, a program unveiled by President Obama at Wednesday’s White House Summit on Early Childhood Education. According to the White House website, Invest in US challenges public and private partners, business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials, and individuals to expand high-quality early childhood education.

Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) are making progress in the graduation rate, and the number of students enrolled in AP classes, but that progress is not seen equally throughout the district according to A+ Schools 10th anniversary report on the 2013-14 school year.

The report examines all schools in several categories including: proficiency of teachers, per pupil spending (excluding transportation, principal salary and building costs), if students feel challenged and cared for, suspension rates, PSSA scores, and a breakdown of most scores based on race and income.

Flickr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s City Task Force for Public Education has achieved its primary goal of preventing any school closures for the 2014-15 school year, but City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said there’s still more work for the group to do.

That’s why she is sponsoring legislation to turn the temporary task force into a permanent commission.

A one-year study on community engagement in public education found that empowering parents and the community to be more active in their children’s education could improve outcomes for students.

That's according to a one-year analysis done Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR) on behalf of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments. As a result, Heinz Endowments is supporting a two-year effort to increase community engagement.

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.

Life of Learning: American Education and the Arts

Sep 11, 2014
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. 

National, state and local education leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh to explore how to better integrate the arts into education. The Arts Education Partnership National Forum’s theme this year is preparing students for the next American in and through the Arts. Many conversations about education in recent years have centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), but many are trying to add arts – STEAM.

When it comes to public education funding in Pennsylvania, one size does not fit all, especially when it’s $5.5 billion this fiscal year being divided among 500 school districts.

That’s according to state Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester), who is part of a 15-member commission that was created in June with the goal of finding a formula for distributing state funding to schools in a fair and efficient manner.

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

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The he said, she said debate over state education funding and the controversy surrounding former Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis made its way to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning.

Former gubernatorial hopeful Katie McGinty spoke in the Allegheny County Courthouse gallery, criticizing Gov. Tom Corbett and stumping for Democratic nominee Tom Wolf.

McGinty is chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a new organization working in tandem with Wolf’s campaign for governor and the campaigns of Democratic legislative nominees statewide.

Life Of Learning: Discussing Pre-K Education

Aug 15, 2014
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.”

LeVar Burton: Opening Books and Opening Minds

Aug 6, 2014
Courtesy readingrainbow.com

LeVar Burton is known as an actor for the numerous roles that he has taken on over the years: as Kunta Kinte in “Roots,” as Detroit Tiger Ron LeFlore in “One In A Million: The Ron LeFlore Story,” and as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

But to millions of young adults, he was known as the affable host on the PBS show “Reading Rainbow” from 1983 to 2006. Burton will be in Pittsburgh for Steel City Con this week due to his fame on “Star Trek,” but Burton appeared on Essential Pittsburgh to discuss the revival of “Reading Rainbow.”

In 2011, Burton and his business partner, producer Mark Wolfe, acquired the “Reading Rainbow” license, promising to bring to the next generations of kids the finest reading and enrichment experiences found anywhere.

“Reading Rainbow” is now a fully re-imagined app bringing the beloved brand to children of the digital age and one of the most popular and highest rated children’s products in the market.

Meeting the Higher-Education Needs of the Global Middle Class

Aug 4, 2014

The economies of the developing world are in the midst of a major economic transformation. In 2010 the Brookings Institution estimated that the 1.8 billion people in the global middle class will grow to 3.2 billion by the end of the decade. This includes developing nations such as Rwanda, which is experiencing unprecedented middle class growth.

Increased prosperity means young people are clamoring for a college education. But what if traditional college lecture halls, labs and campuses are not economically feasible right now?

College Students Still Struggling with Math and Writing

Jul 28, 2014
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.

Workers with an Associate’s degree or less make up more than half of the total healthcare workforce in the U.S., according to a report released today by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and those numbers are expected to climb.

Jonathan Auxier’s Summer Reading Picks for the Kids

Jul 21, 2014
Jonathon Auxier / Twitter

According to the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning loss amounts to two month’s worth of reading for lower income students. Jonathan Auxier’s lifelong love of children’s books has turned into a career as an author, writing for readers ages 8-14. He’s recommended some books young readers will enjoy spending time with this summer.

Auxier, who has children himself, knows the most important aspect of children’s books.

“Most of the things that I’m telling my two year old right now, who’s acting out a lot, I’m basically constantly informing her about what it means to be good, and what it means to be bad. I think kids are really sensitive to that profound moral question about what goodness and badness truly is, and children’s books, unlike adult books, which I think can be a little coy about those.”

Flickr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s City Task Force on Public Education is set to hold their first meeting Tuesday evening, a little more than three months before they are expected to present their recommendations to Mayor Bill Peduto.

A relatively small spending bill came before City Council Wednesday, but instead of focusing solely on the measure at hand, the legislators used the opportunity to bend the Peduto administration’s ear on the state of public education in Pittsburgh.

The bill would authorize the city to spend $20,000 to hire Preston C. Green as a mediator for the Mayor’s Public Schools Task Force. The legislation creating the body, which was passed in October and amended in April, requires a “trained mediator who shall serve as an ex officio member.”

The use of technology in classrooms is not new, but evolving hardware and broadband accessibility are changing how educators think about those tools in their classrooms.

At a forum on using technology in early childhood education, hosted Tuesday by the Rand Corporation, the message was clear: Researchers should continue to explore the use of technology in early childhood education, but the focus should be on how to best use it, not whether to use it.

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