Life of Learning

90.5 WESA's Life of Learning series focuses on learning and education activities, opportunities and challenges in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

This multi-year commitment to providing learning-focused news coverage in southwestern Pennsylvania is made possible by a generous grant from the Grable Foundation.

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School Funding
8:03 am
Thu January 16, 2014

State House Passes Plan to Redevelop School Funding Formula

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.

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GED
7:03 am
Wed December 18, 2013

New GED Exam Puts Students and Educators to the Test

Pennsylvania and other states are implementing universal high-school graduation requirements under the Common Core standards. As a result, the GED test is being updated as of Jan. 1. But for students who have already begun the battery of tests but have not yet passed all five sections, that's created a difficult situation.
Credit 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.

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Learning
3:30 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Pittsburgh: A Hive of Learning Innovation

The Pittsburgh region will continue as a “Hive Network.”

The MacArthur Foundation, which selected Pittsburgh in February as just the third “hive” in the nation, following New York and Chicago, has re-authorized and funded the project for another two years.

The goal of the Hive Network is to expand learning for young people beyond schools to museums, libraries, afterschool programs and community centers. Participating organizations offer programs to engage youth in learning based on their interests.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:22 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

The Challenges Of Suburban Homelessness and Education

Homeless student Kevin Lee, Penn Hills graduate and winner of a national scholarship
Michael Lynch 90.5 WESA


Guests include: Elizabeth Kneebone, Fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty, Chuck Keenan, administrator in Allegheny County's Bureau of Homeless Services, Kyoko Henson, a home and school visitor for the Penn Hills School District, Joe Lagana, founder and CEO of the Homeless Children's Education Fund, and homeless student Kevin Lee, winner of a national scholarship, with his mother Tamara Williams

There are nearly 20,000 homeless school age children in Pennsylvania and that’s a small portion of the 1.2 million across the country.

Local and national experts gathered in Pittsburgh on Friday for the fourth annual Homeless Education Network Summit to discuss an issue of rising concern: suburban poverty, homelessness and the challenge of education.

Since 2000, the number of poor people living in the suburbs grew by 64 percent. And today, about 16.4 million poor people are living in suburbs, compared to 13.4 million in the cities.

Allegheny County is no different.

In the Pittsburgh region alone, the suburban poverty rate increased 15.7 percent between 2000 and 2011; while the city saw a 6.3 percent increase.

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Eduation and Technology
4:09 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Tech Conference Aims to Improve Traditional Education, But Connectivity Still an Issue

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.

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School Discipline
4:21 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Study: Minority Students More Likely to be Suspended, Expelled

Minority and special-needs students are more likely to be disciplined by being suspended or expelled from schools. That’s according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania: Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools.

The study’s author, ACLU’s Harold Jordan, aggregated data from the commonwealth’s 500 public school districts on out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and removal by police.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:24 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Looking at the Achievement Gap, Students Still Left Behind

Dr. Pedro Noguera
Credit 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.

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Achievement Gap, Graduation Rate
9:27 am
Wed November 13, 2013

In Shrinking the Achievement Gap, Maryland District Might Provide a Model

As Pittsburgh-area schools looks for ways to shrink the achievement gap, educators might look to a school district in Maryland.
Credit Flickr user Claire Cook44

According to the Nation’s Report Card released last week by the Department of Education, the achievement gap narrowed slightly in Pennsylvania over the last two years.

As Pittsburgh-area schools consider ways to shrink the gap further, they might look to Montgomery County, Maryland.

That Washington, D.C.-area school district has dramatically reduced the gap while posting the highest graduation rate for black males in the nation.

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STEM Education
12:31 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Fred Rogers Co. Receives $3 Million Math Grant

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood for The Fred Rogers Co. after landing a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The three-year grant is part of the NSF’s Advancing Informal Learning program and is the foundation’s first preschool mathematics investment in the Pittsburgh region.

About $1.2 million will go toward the development of a new cartoon, “Peg + Cat.” The Fred Rogers Co. is the executive producer of the program, which follows a girl and her cat as they use mathematics to solve everyday problems.

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Achievement Gap
5:04 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

PA Students Show Slight Progress in New Report Card

More of Pennsylvania’s fourth and eighth graders are proficient in math and reading than the national average, but the achievement gap between white and minority students in the commonwealth is only shrinking slightly.

"I'm glad to see achievement in Pennsylvania is generally higher than the national average, but it's not where we want it to be and we're still concerned about the racial achievement gaps not closing," said Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools in Pittsburgh.

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Achievement Gap
3:37 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Parents, Teachers, Administrators Address Achievement Gap in Pittsburgh

Audience member asks question of the panel at the community forum on the achievement gap
Tammy Terwelp 90.5 WESA

“Where’s the moral outrage over the lack of equity in education,” asked Duquesne University Dean of Education Olga Welch who attended a recent community forum on the achievement gap held by 90.5 WESA.

“Where is it,” replied forum panel member Jeremy Resnick, a founder of Propel Charter Schools, “it’s missing.”

Dozens of parents, teachers and administrators crowded the Community Broadcast Center recently for a public forum as part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative.

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Students travel
3:30 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Pittsburgh Students Travel the World, Share Experiences with Family and Classmates

Katelyn Ripple is a senior at Sewickley Academy who studied biodiversity, ecology and sustainability in Costa Rica.
Courtesty photo

You’ll pardon Jordan Tyler, Chelsea Geruschadt, Raina Bradley and Katelyn Ripple if their thoughts occasionally drift from social studies, algebra 2 and physics back to what they absorbed this summer in Italy, Argentina, Spain and Costa Rica respectively.

Jordan: "My experience could be described as amazing, fun, life-changing, unforgettable."

Chelsea: "My experience was once in a lifetime."

Raina: "My trip to Spain was extremely memorable."

Katelyn: "I experienced more in a month than I thought I would experience in a lifetime."

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Social justice
10:15 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Community Leaders Seek Social Justice in Public Education

“If the people of Pittsburgh loved their children as much as they love the Steelers, the schools would be in great shape,”  said Professor Pedro Noguera from NYU’s School of Culture, Education and Human Development

He as a keynote speaker at Duquesne University Wednesday at a forum on  social justice in public education for poor minority students. 65 educational, community leaders, parents and students gathered  to determine how to seek fairness and equality in public education for children and youth in under-represented populations.

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Learning and Play
7:50 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Connecting the Dots Between Play and Learning in the Classroom

At the Children’s School, Carnegie Mellon University student Jean Kwon observes a group of children playing with blocks as part of a child development course.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

It's a typical day at the Children’s School at Carnegie Mellon University, and as director Sharon Carver walks from room to room, children ages 3 to 5 are bursting with activity.

In one space a little boy digs in a sandbox, in another corner children try to match recycling materials to the correct bins, and at another table children are navigating the serious task of sharing and shaping Play-Doh.

After taking stock of the activities Carver asks a reporter, “Which things were play and which things are not play?”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:41 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

A Community Forum on the Education Achievement Gap

On October 29 as part of our Life of Learning Initiative, 90.5 WESA will host a community forum featuring a panel of experts to address the problem of Pittsburgh’s educational achievement gap.

Kevin Gavin is the Executive Producer for Special News Projects and says much of the forum will be devoted to exploring contributing factors to the gap.

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Learning and Play
7:50 am
Tue October 22, 2013

Can Board Games Give Your Child a Developmental Boost?

Robyn Barber and her 7-year-old son Zachary like to play Parcheesi at their Observatory Hill home.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Ken and Deb Zuroski, along with their three kids, Tristan, 18, Haley, 15, and Ian, 7, aren’t a very serious bunch overall. On a recent afternoon, there was a lot of good-natured teasing going on around the dining room table of their Squirrel Hill home.

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Learning and Play
3:30 am
Mon October 21, 2013

How Tablets, Smart Phones Have Changed the Learning Landscape for Young Children

Theo, 2, gets a turn on the iPad while his 4-year-old brother Max watches.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Cosby once said “the essence of childhood, of course, is play.”

But play for children today is sometimes very different than it was even five or 10 years ago, as the prevalence of smart phones and tablets is changing the way children play and learn.

Take 4-year-old Max. He’s in preschool and is learning to read and spell, sometimes with the help of apps on his mom and dad’s iPhone or iPad.

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The Sequester & You
3:30 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Schools Begin Feeling the Pinch of Sequestration

The calls didn’t come on the first or second days of school. Or even the third. But they came soon thereafter and each day more of them are coming in.

"What parents are finding is that the manpower that there to support their kids one on one isn't there," said Cindy Duch, director of parent advising at the Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership Center, or PEAL, an advocacy group that helps out parents of children with disabilities.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:09 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Intergenerational Tutoring: The Benefits of Learning From Seniors

Oasis Tutor Coordinator John Spehar and Tutor Charlene Briggs
Credit Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

With emphasis on maintaining positive intergenerational relationships and boosting the self-esteem of struggling students, the OASIS Tutoring Program recruits and trains older adults to tutor kids in the Pittsburgh Public and Woodland Hills school districts.

Tutor Coordinator John Spehar and tutor Charlene Briggs say the program is beneficial for students’ academic and emotional health.

“If their self-esteem is higher, they’re more interested to learn and work on activities,” says Spehar.

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Education Innovation
3:30 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Elizabeth Forward Accepted into League of Innovative Schools

Elizabeth Forward may be located in a suburban and rural area, but it might hold the future of teaching and learning through technology.

The school district is the first in Pennsylvania accepted as a member of the League of Innovative Schools.

The district is one of eight new members of the league, which is a coalition of education agencies with the goal of enhancing teaching and learning.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:30 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

WordPlay: Informal Learning on the Go

Children engaging with the WordPlay activities posted on city bus shelters.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Preschoolers in the city of Pittsburgh can forget the mundane and seemingly endless minutes of staring down the street for a bus.

A new program called WordPlay, by the Fred Rogers Company is meant to spark conversation between parents and children at bus stops. It’s also sparked a conversation about literacy and education.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:48 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

The Problem of Chronic Absenteeism

Ken Smythe-Leistico, assistant director at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Linda Lane, superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools and Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Credit Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Chronic absenteeism is a key driver of the nation's achievement, high school graduation and college attainment gaps. The pattern for kids missing school begins as early as kindergarten.

Linda Lane, Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent, Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Ken Smythe-Leistico, assistant director at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development address the various reasons for chronic absenteeism.

Essential Pittsburgh
5:46 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

The Impact of Absenteeism

Ken Smythe-Lestico, assistant director, University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, Maria Searcy, Pittsburgh Obama school volunteer and tutor, Katie Carroll, Kindergarten teacher at Pittsburgh Faison School
Credit Haldan Kirsch / 90.5 WESA

Chronic absence takes a toll on students and the rest community from an early age. Katie Carroll is a Kindergarten teacher at Pittsburgh Faison School and thinks future learning patterns are developed as early as the first year.

"I try to establish relationships with parents so that the kids are really excited about coming to school."

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:18 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Approaching Solutions for Chronic Absence

Credit Gates Foundation / Flickr

In order for a student to be considered “chronically absent” they have to have missed 10 to 19 days of classes throughout the school year. In many cases, people are tempted to play the blame game and think teachers and administrators are not holding up their end of the bargain when it comes to keeping kids in school.

Dr. Linda Lane, superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, feels that “both the communities, the families and schools need to find common ground.” That common ground, she says is that everyone wants the kids to do well.

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Learning and Play
7:36 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Turning the Waiting Game into an Educational Game at Pittsburgh Bus Shelters

Teacher Miguel Sague plays Word Play with a group of preschoolers on the South Side.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s a reality for many parents and caregivers in Pittsburgh — you’re stuck waiting for a bus in the city and your kid starts getting bored and antsy.

A new effort is hoping to turn these times into teachable moments.

Instead of advertisements for law firms or universities, 23 bus shelters around Pittsburgh now have a poster adorned with colorful pictures of things such as ice cream, picnics and kiddie pools. The “Word Play” posters are part of an effort from the Fred Rogers Company to get adults talking to and interacting with kids.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:33 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Phase 4 Learning Centers Serve As Last Chance High Schools

Phase 4 Learning Centers have helped troubled students get a chance to excel in a different environment.
Credit 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.”

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Alternative Education
3:50 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Alternative School Offers Deeper Connection with Teachers and Mentors for At-Risk Kids

Phase 4 Learning has been referred to by some of its students as the "last chance high school,” but the head of the 6-12 school prefers to think of it as a “best chance school” for success of their students.

Terri Suica Reed created the school to help reach students who may be having trouble in traditional schools.

“The formula is pretty simple, but yet it’s complex as well," Reed said. "It’s all about relationships. Everything about life is about relationships. You build relationships with people and we do that with our students.”

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absenteeism
9:49 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Local Education Leaders Take on Attendance With 'Be There' Campaign

Ninety percent of success in school is showing up — that’s what the United Way and its partners believe.

The United Way launched its “Be There” campaign Monday aimed at making attendance a priority at schools across Allegheny County.

“The concept is very simple, it’s how do you get the people outside of the schools, the community agencies, the faith-based organizations, the youth workers who have a great relationship with young people, to encourage 100 percent attendance,” said Bob Nelkin, United Way of Allegheny County President.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:08 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Cool Kids: Rockin' Out With Your Child Can Be More Beneficial Than You Think

WYEP Morning Mix co-host, Joey Spehar on stage at the 3 Rivers Arts Festival with his daughter.
Credit Joey Spehar / Facebook

As a father, WYEP Morning Mix co-host Joey Spehar has a unique outlook on modern music. This led him to develop Cool Kids, a daily segment where listeners submit, “kid approved” songs and share stories about listening to quality music with their child.

“I’m a dad, my daughter’s almost two years old, and I found that she really enjoys music,” says Spehar. “I’m sure there are countless people out there who have had similar experiences.”

Dr. Rachel Whitcomb, assistant professor of music education at Duquesne University, says Spehar’s program touches on some important ideas in early childhood development.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:01 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

Computational Linguistics: Code Cracking in Our Every Day Lives

We use computational linguistics in devices like iphones and ipads. To machines, language is just a sequence of codes.
Credit Mateus / Flickr

For 18 year old Presidential Scholar Richard “Tom” McCoy, becoming immersed in computational linguistics began at an early age. Beginning with code cracking and summer camps about cryptology, McCoy developed a fascination with the way that foreign language “is kind of like a code or cypher,” he says.

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