Education

We cover how our residents are growing and learning, starting from pre-K, through higher education, and beyond, into adulthood. 

Coverage of education in western Pennsylvania on 90.5 WESA is supported by a generous grant from
The Grable Foundation.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A statewide audit has found a number of school districts across Pennsylvania have employed bus drivers that should be banned from the job—and still more have drivers that aren’t properly cleared.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the problem may be a communication breakdown between school districts and the bus companies they contract with.

His office’s report found 10 bus drivers whose criminal convictions should have barred them from their jobs. One had a felony assault charge.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers sent ballots to its 3,000 members Monday asking teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical workers for authorization to call a strike.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has changed his mind regarding a high-profile school funding lawsuit.

More than three years after a coalition of districts and advocates first sued the state, Wolf now says the courts should determine whether the commonwealth’s education funding system violates the state constitution.

And he thinks that decision should come sooner rather than later.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Quaker Valley School police officer Aaron Vanatta walks through the hallways of the middle school in Sewickley pointing out measures he has taken to secure the building.

A group of officers from around the country trail behind him. He's sharing anecdotes that demonstrate what he’s learned, such as the importance of the cork boards above the tiled walls cluttered with posters of the school motto and student artwork. 

“So you’ll see in the whole school, they let the kids put stuff up, so they’ve taken ownership in the building and they aren’t going to damage it,” he said.

Gretchen Ertl / AP

The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania's 14-university state higher education system says it's approved six new degree programs to address workforce needs.

The State System of Higher Education said Thursday the new degree programs target fields where there currently aren't enough qualified employees to fill job openings.

The three new bachelor's degrees and three new master's degrees will begin in the fall.

Phalinn Ooi / Flickr

Suburban Pittsburgh high school students will not be getting extra sleep, for now.

The North Allegheny School Board on Wednesday tabled a proposal on whether to change the start of the high school from 7:25 a.m. to 8 a.m. The board says it needs to study the costs associated with bus routes that would be affected by the change.

Keith Srakocic / AP

The University of Pittsburgh has suspended a fraternity and temporarily barred all Greek life organizations from hosting events with alcohol after a student was hospitalized in an "alcohol-related incident."

University officials have not released specifics about what led to the student's hospitalization on Thursday. They declined Tuesday to comment on the student's condition.

The school did not identify the fraternity involved, but Sigma Chi's national office says the Pitt chapter has been suspended for apparently violating alcohol and drug policies.

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A policy proposal from the left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center aims to cover tuition and fees for eligible recent high school graduates who attend community college or a state university.

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Since September, seven boys attending Woodland Hills School District schools have been shot; five of those students died. Earlier this month, the junior-senior high school was on lockdown after a teenager was shot in East Pittsburgh.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Now that US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved Pennsylvania’s 13-year education-improvement plan, state officials are working on rolling out some changes.

The updated plan is designed to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act. It’s the commonwealth’s first comprehensive update since 2002.

One key change? Broadening how school success is measured.

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.”

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.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Once a month, kids pull up chairs in front of a wall full of cats in kennels who are waiting to be adopted. The children introduce themselves, and they begin to read.

They read stories about zoo animals and tales of heroes on long journeys in far off places. Some older kids catch the cats up on novels they’ve been reading before they launch into the book.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Beginning in the 2018 school year, students below the third grade in Pittsburgh Public Schools will not be suspended for nonviolent offenses.

Board members and advocacy groups have pushed for the policy change for several months. According to the local advocacy group, the Education Rights Network, students below third grade missed nearly 800 days of school last year due to suspensions. A disproportionate number of those students were black. The group received that information from a Right To Know request.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

With the help of a grant from Google, Obama Academy in East Liberty opened a maker space for students Thursday. It’s an amenity more commonly found in schools in wealthier districts.

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.

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!"

Beth Shaaban / provided

University of Pittsburgh organizer Beth Shaaban said unionizing graduate students is more important now than ever in light of the proposed tax bill in Congress.  

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

In a pilot program launching next spring, Uber is offering 100 Pittsburgh-area drivers a $500 incentive to go toward classes, fees and textbooks for the Community College of Allegheny County.

The initiative will take place in next year's spring and summer semesters.

In a press release, CCAC said the greatest barrier for many potential students is the price of textbooks and required fees, and the new program would address those needs.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Community College of Allegheny County is one local organization that plans to apply for a new state grant to fund apprenticeship programs.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

In the 1970s, Pennsylvania had 300,000 volunteer firefighters, according to the State Fire Commissioner. That number has dropped to about 50,000, leaving some volunteer stations stretched thin and communities underserved.

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. 

Courtesy of UPMC

Ann Kozak, 15, peered at a three-dimensional printed model of the female reproductive system. Learning about career options in women's health was a great experience, she said.

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.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A dozen captivated kids surrounded Akasha Lestat Van-Cartier, whose blue ball gown sparkled as she read: “I am thankful for my hair, because it makes me unique. I am thankful for my ears, because they let me hear words like, ‘I love you.’”

This is the fourth month Van-Cartier has spent time at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s North Side branch reading kids books about respect, self-confidence and being the person you want to be.

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.

Cheyney University / Facebook

The nation's oldest historically black college will remain accredited after a state commission decided to work with the school, citing "significant progress" after a two-year probationary period.

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