Education

Historic Blacksmith Shop In Johnstown To Reopen As School

Jan 13, 2018
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

From the 1860s until the 1990s, the powerful, industrial sound of metal striking metal - minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade - sounded throughout the blacksmith shop by the Conemaugh River in Johnstown.

Tiffini Simoneaux / City of Pittsburgh

More than a fifth of Pittsburgh’s three- and four-year-olds are not in high quality preschool programs.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

This year, Avonworth High School students arrived at their first period, for the most part, after sunrise.

The district recently shifted its first period start time from 7:15 to 8 a.m., and Superintendent Thomas Ralston said his students now pass what he calls "the eye test."

“You can see that kids are coming to school, and they’re awake. They’re coming in when it’s light outside,” he said. “Our faculty have reported that kids are more attentive in class … and faculty feel more prepared.”

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

On the last Friday in 2017, about two dozen young children are gathered at the Hatch Art Studio in Point Breeze. School is out for the holidays and 7-year old Rachel Collura is spending the day here at a day camp.

Most Big Public Colleges Don't Track Suicides

Jan 2, 2018
Beth J. Harpaz / AP

Most of the largest U.S. public universities do not track suicides among their students, despite making investments in prevention at a time of surging demand for mental health services.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But without that data, prevention advocates say, schools have no way to measure their success and can overlook trends that could offer insight to help them save lives.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

It’s been a eventful news year in the Steel City, from hospital booms to repeated flush and boil orders to President Trump's impact on Pennsylvania.

Emma Lee / WHYY

After abandoning plans to end the tax deduction for student loans, Republicans in the U.S. House are moving forward with a highly partisan proposal that would revamp the federal government’s student loan programs.

Dubbed the PROSPER Act, it’s intended to simplify the student loan process by consolidating some confusing government loan programs while also removing some regulations. The bill also calls for doing away with the decade-old Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that wipes out college debt for public servants after they put in 10 years on the job.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Jayda Rogers is a three-sport athlete who earns As and Bs in her classes at Shroder High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. The senior wants to go to college to study public affairs and eventually start her own nonprofit organization.

90.5 WESA

The state Senate Education Committee is making a mid-session personnel change—switching out one Republican senator for another.

Erie County Republican Senator Dan Laughlin is officially moving from the Education Committee to the Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee.

His replacement has been announced as Rich Alloway, a fellow Republican from Franklin County.

Jim Mone / AP

A contentious proposal to let students use state money to pay for private school is getting another chance to make it onto the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 2 would create education savings accounts—a similar concept to private school vouchers—that would let students in the lowest-performing public schools use the money the state would have spent on their education for alternative school options, as well as related expenses like textbooks.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

When Dave Breingan walks into the gym at Arsenal Middle School during an after school program, about a dozen kids immediately run up to him and say, "hi!"

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

About two dozen graduate students chanted "kill the bill" outside the Cathedral of Learning on Wednesday. Many teach undergraduate classes or assist with research in exchange for waived tuition or a stipend. 

Pennsylvania Ranks Third-Highest In Public University Tuition

Nov 27, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pennsylvania has some of the most expensive public universities in the country, and an annual report from the College Board showing the cost of higher education is rising.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Teachers in Pennsylvania's capital city are asking for support after a series of violent altercations with students has led to multiple resignations.

The Harrisburg Education Association says at least 45 teachers have resigned since July and October. Association President Jody Barksdale says more have resigned since then.

Speaking at a school board meeting Monday evening, first-grade teacher Amanda Sheaffer says she has been hit and kicked by her students.

Keith Srakocic / AP


Allegheny County has adopted a new comprehensive policy regarding the treatment of pregnant inmates—a result of a suit filed against the county alleging cruel and unusual punishment of five women who were placed in solitary confinement for minor infractions.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When the steel mills closed, Mary Kay Babyak, the executive director of an education nonprofit, said she thinks parents didn’t see a future for the their children in blue-collar trade jobs.

“A number of these folks have a history of seeing their parents, their grandparents, their siblings losing positions and opportunities and great jobs,” she said. “So the idea was college will guarantee success. Which it doesn’t.”

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A sweeping school code bill will become a state law without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature. 

In addition to providing funding for public schools, the GOP-penned legislation suspends the traditional seniority rules that dictate furloughing teachers, opting instead to eliminate teachers based on who scores the worst on the state's teacher effectiveness rating.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill to become law that weakens teacher seniority protections and gives school districts more flexibility in their rationale for making layoffs.

School districts now will be able to cite “economic reasons” as a rationale for furloughing teachers.

Previously, districts could only slash staff by closing schools, cutting whole academic programs, or pointing to enrollment declines.

State Rep. Steven Bloom, R- Cumberland, said that’s bad public policy.

Keith Srakocic / AP

As Pittsburgh continues trying to grow its tech sector, including a bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Mayor Bill Peduto said he's conscious about ensuring that rising tide lifts all boats.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State funding for Penn State, Pitt and three other Pennsylvania universities is on its way after being held up for months by the Legislature's dispute over fully funding the state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would alter a wide range of state policies related to public education — including the weakening of seniority protections for teachers.

The chamber agreed to the omnibus school code bill, as passed last week by the House of Representatives, by a vote of 35 to 15.  Now it will go before Gov. Tom Wolf, who says he has “serious concerns” about some of its provisions.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

More than 200 teachers and staff at a Washington County school district plan to go on strike Wednesday saying proposed salary changes are unreasonable.

Ringgold School District, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, serves about 3,000 students from Monongahela and six other Mon Valley towns.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Students with developmental disabilities are learning job skills at a new Homestead café that opened Monday.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Days after negotiations to balance Pennsylvania’s late budget collapsed completely, lawmakers, the governor, and their staffers are still trading barbs over social media—and in more formal ways, too.

Nearly 80 House Republicans have signed a petition demanding Wolf issue approval letters to businesses for tax credits that go toward scholarships. The money is past-due under state law.

Both the Republicans and Democratic Wolf administration blame the problem on budget discord.

Those Challenging Fairness Of PA School Funding Will Have Day In Court

Oct 2, 2017
Brad Larrison for NewsWorks, file

In a decision that could eventually shake Pennsylvania's educational landscape, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a lawsuit challenging the commonwealth's public school funding system can move forward.

The court did not compel the state Legislature to redistribute money — not yet. It simply said the judiciary can consider whether legislators have satisfied clauses in the state Constitution that require Pennsylvania to provide equal protection under the law and a "thorough and efficient system of public education."

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Nineteen Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities are partnering with the Pittsburgh Promise to offer students who receive the scholarship an additional $2,000 a year for room and board costs.

Commuter colleges that don’t provide housing and have signed the agreement will offer funding for books rather than housing.

In exchange, the Pittsburgh Promise has agreed to promote these schools to students who receive the scholarship. Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril said the funding is another attempt to remove barriers that prevent students from completing a degree.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

In any contentious debate, getting two sides to agree to the same set of facts can be an elusive, frustrating endeavor.

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.

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