Education

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.

Karoly Czifra / flickr

Some of the most notable people in modern history have been diagnosed with the learning difference known as dyslexia.

Inventors, entertainers, authors and politicians have excelled in spite of -- or because of -- the unique way their minds work. But reading, writing, and even speaking can be an ongoing challenge as well, and proper support can help.

Christine Seppi is the chair of the Pittsburgh region of the Pennsylvania Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, and organizer of an upcoming conference on diagnosis and management of learning differences. She also has an adult son with dyslexia.

Judy Baxter / Flickr

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability which makes it hard for those who have it to learn to read and write. According the Pennsylvania branch of the International Dyslexia Association, it’s the most common learning disability.

“15 to 20 percent of the population have some level of dyslexia.” said Pittsburgh region of the Association Chairperson Christine Seppi. “That’s a really huge number. Autism, which gets a lot of press, has one in 50. This is one in five or six.”

Flickr user dcosand

Standardized: Lies, Money & Civil Rights

Dan Hornberger has been a high school English teacher for more than twenty years. During these years, his concerns regarding schools teaching to standardized tests spurred him to action.

The result is a documentary titled Standardized: Lies, Money & Civil Rights which he produced and co-directed.

Mayor Bill Peduto has appointed a 21-member task force which will take a look at public education in Pittsburgh.

The group includes elected officials, education leaders and others.

“We’re bringing together everybody,” said Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty, “unions, foundations, city council people, school board members and probably the coolest thing, three high school students who are going to be full voting members in this task force’s recommendations.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A coalition of parents, civil rights advocates and clergy stood huddled together in the cold outside Pittsburgh King PreK-8 School on the North Side Monday morning to announce their support for the school district’s teacher evaluation system.

One of the biggest challenges for students — besides getting into college — is how to apply for financial aid.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is helping students and parents by offering free FAFSA completion sessions throughout the state.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is used to determine eligibility for need-based financial assistance, including the State Grant, Federal Pell Grant, work-study programs and scholarships.

Thirteen nonprofits in the Pittsburgh region have been awarded a total of $375,000 in grants from the Comcast Foundation to fund after school programs.

“Primarily, these are programs that are designed to have a sustainable impact on the communities,” Comcast spokesman Bob Grove said.

The organization awarded a total of $591,000 to 30 nonprofits in the Keystone Region, which includes parts of Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Gov. Tom Corbett Tuesday announced an additional $10 million in funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.

“Every child in this state should be, ready to learn, ready to grow, ready to succeed, and my budget sets an agenda in that spirit,” Corbett said.

A “C-” typically isn’t a grade you’d run home to put on the fridge, but Pennsylvania is doing just that.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) Thursday released its seventh annual report on teacher effectiveness policies, and Pennsylvania made the jump from a “D+” to a “C-.”

The “State Teacher Policy Yearbook” measures effectiveness in delivering well-prepared teachers; expanding the teacher pool; identifying effective teachers; retaining effective teachers; and dismissing ineffective teachers.

The average grade across all 50 states is a “C-.”

It’s no secret that Pittsburgh’s made a comeback.

What was once one of the most polluted and economically strained cities in the country, now ranks 4th in number of green buildings and 5th in average annual pay compared to the 14 other benchmark regions, according to the analytical organization Pittsburgh Today.

When temperatures dropped below zero in the beginning of January every school district and private school in Allegheny County canceled class. But a few schools made sure their students attended class online.

Seton La-Salle Catholic High School in Mt. Lebanon was among them.

Principal Lauren Martin explained they do anything they can to avoid having to tack on make-up days in June for bad weather earlier in the year because parents have already made summer plans and the kids are unfocused and eager to get out of school.

State House Passes Plan to Redevelop School Funding Formula

Jan 16, 2014

The state House has passed a plan that could bring lawmakers back to using a funding formula when doling out money to school districts across Pennsylvania.

The legislation would create a commission to review education funding and make recommendations for a new formula--something education advocates have urged for years.

Flickr user albertogp123

The stereotypes about adults seeking GED certification can be ugly and simplistic. But the reality is that many lack a high school diploma for reasons largely outside their control: health problems, family issues and immigration status, just to name a few.

Some, like Rebekah Petrakovits, were home-schooled without proper oversight from school officials who were supposed to monitor their progress.

It’s no question that technology has changed the world over the last few decades, from how we shop to how we share our lives. In the U.S., many public school districts are in the process of making major changes thanks to technology. Leaders in education and technology are hoping schools get it right because a lot is at stake.

In the not-so-distant past it was pretty commonplace to be taught solely out of a text book and worksheets in the classroom – maybe you’d get a video on a sub day. Today, there are many more options thanks to computers, tablets and other smart devices.

When a teacher is convicted of a crime the legal costs can reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in many cases the school district is stuck with that bill.

“School districts can no longer afford to spend money on unnecessary expenditures, and this is certainly one of those,” said Pennsylvania State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D-Philadelphia).

University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education

When the No Child Left Behind program was implemented in 2002, it had an overall goal of closing the achievement gap between disadvantaged student groups and well-off students and making schools and teachers accountable for the performance of their students on new math and reading standardized tests.

More than a decade later, the program has not had the desired results, says Pedro Noguera, the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Students and schools in lower income areas continue to not do as well on standardized tests as students in more affluent areas.

Study Shows Education Grows Economies

Aug 26, 2013

Not only is state investment in education beneficial to students, but also it can help regions grow their economies, according to a new study by the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN), a coalition of national and state think tanks.

The study followed state wage increases and productivity growth from 1979 to 2012. It found that high-wage states have a more educated workforce, and states can build those workforces through expanded access to low-cost two- and four-year colleges.

The waiver Pennsylvania received from the federal No Child Left Behind education law paves the way for a state-designed set of criteria for judging schools.

The federal mandate that all students must be able to read and do math at their grade level by this year won't apply. Corbett administration officials say it would have been too high a hurdle for many school districts.

Phase 4 Learning Center

Phase 4 Learning Centers are often referred to as last chance high schools by many, but to Phase 4’s founder, Terrie Suica Reed, it’s also their best chance for many troubled students to find success in their high school careers.

Though many students who come into her program come from broken homes or are even homeless, Reed stands firm in her belief that “with the right support, the right network, they can do anything they want to do.”

Corbett administration officials are waging a clean-up campaign to try to dispel some of what they call false claims about new Common Core educational measures the state plans to implement this fall.
   
Carolyn Dumaresq, with the state Department of Education, said the new measures will bring no mandated curricula or reading lists, and no nationally dictated tests.

She spoke to state lawmakers in an attempt to explain the new standards, which she says received the most intense public feedback on the standards in the past few months.

Some heroes can fly and some heroes have superhuman strength, but thousands of children in Pennsylvania need a hero with the power to give them the supplies they need to learn.

The Education Partnership’s Homeroom Heroes program is working to provide students with simple supplies like pencils, paper and glue.

“Our focus here is to get school supplies into the hands of kids that need them, and we serve Allegheny and the five surrounding counties,” program spokeswoman Katherine Harrell said.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems hosted a program Wednesday called “A Call to Conscience:  Effective Policies and Practices in Educating African American Males.”

The keynote speaker was John Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education in Cambridge, Mass., who said research is clear that races are 99.6 percent the same genetically, so differences in educational performance must be caused by social policies and practices.

An education funding advocacy group says it has polling data that shows Pennsylvanians place public education high on their priority list and would not mind paying higher income or sales taxes to better support school.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center commissioned the Lake Researcher Partners poll.

The poll found that 56 percent of all respondents have a favorable opinion of public schools, and 48 percent said they were very concerned about funding for the schools.

In case you had doubts that buildings full of borrow-able books and artwork are a good thing, the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences and The Campaign for Grade-Level Reporting has released a report that says they are. 

Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners was released on Thursday and discusses ways libraries and museums are supporting children.

Study author Mimi Howard said the goal of this paper was to focus on the development of early literacy skills by using these public resources.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Discrimination, school funding and teen pregnancy grabbed the attention of high school students from around the world who gathered for a World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh-sponsored video conference Wednesday.

Josh Raulerson / 90.5 WESA

If you consume any amount of media at all, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the idea that kids tend to lose ground academically during the summer months.

But what is the so-called “summer brain drain?” Is it real, or a media invention? And just how concerned should you be?

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