As School Ends, Pittsburgh Celebrates National and Global Education Awards

Photo above courtesy of Remake Learning.

Students, teachers and parents: you have succeeded. We have reached the end of another school year, and during these last days of classes and exams, there is much to celebrate. Especially bright news at the start of the summer: educators and schools in our region have received national and international recognition for their hard work and innovation.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s going on:

Remake Learning was named an award finalist by WISE: Redo learning, our regional network of educators and community organizations supporting children’s growth and learning, fostering collaboration and sparking engaging, relevant and equitable learning practices for 15 years. Along the way, the learning ecosystem in our region has grown remarkably, and this ecosystem has caught the attention of the folks at WISE.

WISE is a global organization focused on new approaches to education. Through a biennial summit event and numerous ongoing programs, WISE promotes innovation and helps build the future of education through collaboration. Each year, the WISE Awards honor six innovative projects that address global educational challenges. The short list for this award — 12 impressive projects that are WISE Awards finalists – have been announced, and Remake Learning is on that list.

The six winners will be announced in September 2022 and will receive $20,000 for their work.

Projects nominated for this award were evaluated on their innovation, scalability, sustainability, and impact on individuals, communities, and societies in their own communities or around the world. To be considered, projects also had to be financially stable, have a clear development plan and be replicable elsewhere. This all describes Remake Learning.

“Over the past 15 years, Remake Learning has built a network of people, projects and organizations committed to collaboratively rethinking when, where and how young people learn in the Pittsburgh area,” said Tyler Samstag, director of RemakeLearning. “Our work has transcended individual efforts, and our selection as a WISE Award finalist validates the vision, commitment and daring of many in our community. We are honored and grateful for this distinction.

AASA named Elizabeth Forward and West Allegheny “flagship neighborhoods”

Last summer the Western Pennsylvania Learning Alliance 2025 was formed to help school districts in our region innovate. It was built on a framework created by AASA’s National Learning 2025 Commission on Student-Centered and Equity-Oriented Education.

Less than a year later, AASA, the association of school principals and the Network of Successful Practices recognized 13 U.S. school districts as “flagship” systems that serve as models of positive change in public education. Two of them — West Allegheny and Elizabeth Forward — are in our area.

Beacon Neighborhoods are described as “exemplary education systems” that “serve as beacons in key areas of the holistic redesign of American education.

West AlleghenyThe innovative work of emphasizes future-oriented learners, including a “middle and high school academy” that puts high school students on the path to earning their college degrees. “We offer 23 early college programs in our high school with four different partners: CCAC RMU, Pittsburgh Technical College, and now CCBC,” says Superintendent Jerri Lynn Lippert.

The results are remarkable: this week, 26 students will graduate from West Allegheny after earning college certificates and even associate’s degrees in high school. Lippert is proud of the program, she says, and happy to participate in the Learning 2025 Alliance.

“We find that collaborating with other AASA districts, both regionally and nationally, generally helps us be a better district for our students,” she says.

To Elizabeth Forward, some of the most powerful innovations have focused on personalized learning. The district began embracing digital learning and true personalization a decade ago, and that commitment to using digital devices and learning management systems effectively paid off when the pandemic hit.

“When COVID arrived, school districts across the country were trying to buy technology and provide professional development for teachers” in order to reach students, says Superintendent Todd Keruskin. Because Elizabeth Forward had fully embraced effective digital learning and had been successful at it for several years, “we only missed one day of school.”

Keruskin District is “super proud of our teachers, administrators, students and community for having this vision 10 years ago on how to personalize learning,” he says. And like Lippert, he is very happy to collaborate and share ideas with other superintendents in our area.

This collaboration has been invaluable to the 30 districts participating in Learning 20-25, according to Dr. Bart Rocco and Dr. Bille Rondinelli, fellows from the Grable Foundation of Pittsburgh, which supports the initiative.

“The amazing feature of Alliance 2025 is that all of these districts share best practices and collaborate to improve student learning in our region,” says Rocco.

Rondinelli agrees, “In collaboration with AASA, Remake Learning and many others, the Learning 2025 initiative provides opportunities for districts to focus on areas that will drive real transformational change. We are issuing a “call to action” to redesign education systems and personalize learning to better prepare children for their future and careers. It’s a continuous learning journey for all districts involved,” she says. “Districts such as Elizabeth Forward and West Allegheny, nationally recognized as AASA Flagship Districts, are doing an amazing job of redesigning their systems and providing options for student agencies.”