Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera chats Friday with Michael Penn, left, and Nykier Rule, both seventh-graders at Pittsburgh King K-8 on the North Side. Mr. Rivera visited the school as part of his Accountability and Achievement Tour. At right is Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Linda Lane.
Pedro Rivera chats with Regina Holley, President of Pittsburgh Public Schools at the Pittsburgh King K-8 on Friday.
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Greater access to early childhood education, more prestige assigned to career and technical education, and a better alignment of academic rigor between high school and post-secondary education were among the recommendations local educators made Friday to state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.
As part of his Accountability and Achievement Tour, Mr. Rivera visited Pittsburgh King K-8 on the North Side, where he participated in a round-table discussion with educators from Pittsburgh and suburban Allegheny County schools.
It was the eighth stop on the tour, which started Jan. 21 and has included visits to schools in Johnstown, Philadelphia and York.
Mr. Rivera noted that Gov. Tom Wolf is asking for historic increases to public education funding in both the current year and the 2016-17 proposed budget. But, the secretary said, increased accountability must come with that increased funding.
During the discussion at King, Community College of Allegheny County president Quintin Bullock pointed out that a large percentage of students who attend his college take remedial courses in either math or English. “That’s a semester longer for students to complete their college degree,” Mr. Bullock said.
He suggested coordinating “expected outcomes” between secondary education and colleges and trade schools to reduce or eliminate the need for remediation.
Mr. Bullock referred to dual enrollment — a program through which students can take college-level courses while still in high school — as a possible vehicle of that coordination. But state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, who attended the forum, noted that the state no longer funds dual enrollment.
Regina Holley, Pittsburgh Public Schools board president, spoke of the need for community schools. A community school is one that partners with community organizations and resources to focus not just on academics but on students’ health and need for social services.
She said the district is trying to implement such a model at Pittsburgh Westinghouse Academy 6-12 and at Pittsburgh Milliones University Prep. “We are trying to put our arms around every single child to give them the supports they need,” Ms. Holley said.
Woodland Hills superintendent Alan Johnson suggested sending a different message to students about career and technical education. “We need to find other ways to define success. College may not be what be what’s right for everyone,” Mr. Johnson said.
Carol Barone-Martin, executive director of the Pittsburgh schools’ early-childhood program, said analysis has shown that low-income students from the program enter school just as prepared as students from affluent neighborhoods. But income guidelines exclude a number of children from the program.
Mr. Rivera said that even with the $60 million increase that the governor has proposed in early childhood education for this year and next, 60 percent of eligible children in the state won’t be served because there is not enough money to fund all of the programs that are needed.
Parent Dwayne Barber said schools that are successful need to share their successes with schools that are struggling. “We are not taking what’s working and trying to implement it in schools where things are not working,” Mr. Barber said. “Schools need to start doing more collaboration.”
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