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New WESA Series Takes A Closer Look At Where Pittsburgh Kids Go To School

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA

Where a child goes to school shapes their educational experience, and that educational experience in turn shapes their future.

In Pittsburgh, parents have many choices of where to send their kids to school: home schooling, private or parochial schools, charter schools, or Pittsburgh Public magnet schools or neighborhood schools.

About one-third of children attend their neighborhood school; that’s the school a kid is assigned to based on where they live. In order to find out which neighborhood school a child is assigned to, parents have to enter their address into an online form on the district’s website. According to the district, this is the only way for parents to find out which neighborhood school their children are assigned to attend. Until now.

90.5 WESA has created an interactive map showing the feeder patterns for each neighborhood school, from kindergarten through 12th grade. We’ve also included data on performance, demographics and socioeconomic status for each school.

Map created by Zach Goldstein
This map tells a lot of stories. Stories about the choices parents make about where to send their kids to school, and who has the means to make those choices. Stories about desegregation efforts and population loss in Pittsburgh. Stories about discriminatory housing policies, school board politics, and neighborhood cohesion weakened by school closures.

Map created by Zach Goldstein

These stories and more are part of our new eight-part series, "Dividing Lines: The Shape of Education in Pittsburgh," which runs from October 17th to October 26th.

To close the series, we’ll look for solutions to the challenges that come with assigning kids to schools based on where they live, and ask if there is a better way to do it in order to maximize student achievement.


Map created by Zach Goldstein

One year ago, the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Directors contracted with a consulting firm to perform a demographic study of the district, including 10-year enrollment projections for public, charter and private schools. That study is expected to wrap up on Oct. 31, and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet said the data from it could inform a feeder pattern realignment in the near future.

Some notes about the map:

  • We used 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Education to create the map. It may have slight differences from the current PPS school assignments. The district’s online form is still the definitive way to determine which school a particular address is assigned to.
  • Pittsburgh has inconsistency in grades 6-8. Some students attend traditional middle schools that serve 6th through 8th grade students. Other students attend K-8 schools, and still others attend 6-12 schools. For this reason, feeder patterns for a particular grade sometimes appear to overlap. In these instances, students are assigned to stay at their K-8 elementary schools through 8th grade.
  • Capture rate and academic performance data comes from education advocacy group A+ Schools and is for the 2016-17 school year. Demographic, economic and enrollment data comes from the Pittsburgh Public Schools website and is for the 2017-18 school year.
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