Alliance hosts SEL webinar with Christina Pate, PhD

Christina Pate, PhD

Our Future Ready Alliance is planning a second webinar on social and emotional learning (SEL), the latest featuring Christina Pate, PhD, Senior Research Associate at WestEd and Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center to Improve Social & Emotional Learning and School Safety.

Pate, whose expertise spans education, public health, wellness and social services, is expected to share evidence-based ideas for creating safe and supportive environments; fostering self-care and collective care; and promoting stakeholder communication, collaboration and co-design.

The webinar takes place at 1 pm, Wednesday, December 9. Although hosted by the Alliance, the webinar is open to all educators. Registration is available online.

The session with Pate follows an October webinar on social and emotional learning with Eva Allen, EdD., who developed an award-winning theory of “Cultural Care.”  A recording of Allen’s presentation is available online.


Educator in the Workforce offers apprenticeship webinar

Educators often are surprised to learn that building trade apprenticeship programs enable students to earn paychecks while they’re still learning. They’re also always interested to learn what the admission requirements are.

Both were among the key takeaways when our Educator in the Workforce program hosted a webinar with Ironworkers Local 3 Apprentice & Training Center.

Rick Pireaux, the Center’s Assistant Director, said apprentices in his program start at around $20+ an hour, roughly 55% of the journeyman level they’ll reach when they complete the program in four or five years. Additionally, trainees get a full benefit package worth about $32/hour.

“It means we’re paying $53 an hour before we even teach you anything,” Pireaux said.

Like the 17 different apprenticeship training programs available in the region, the Ironworkers’ program requires an entrance exam focused on math and reading comprehension. The programs also require every enrollee to have a driver’s license because on-the-job training can take place at different worksites where contractors have projects.

Mike Huber, an attendee who serves as Transition Coordinator at Elizabeth Forward High School, said learning from EIW sessions with different apprenticeship training centers helped his district tweak its curriculum to give students more familiarity with the kinds of math used in building trades.

“The program is really designed to give educators a better grasp of how the subjects they’re teaching are actually applied in different work settings,” said Consortium Program Director Jenn Sethman, who oversees EIW. “It can help them and their districts better prepare students for employer expectations.”



Consortium earns “Top Rating” from Great Nonprofits

We’re delighted to announce the Consortium’s ranking as one of this year’s “Top-Rated” organizations on the Great Nonprofits website.

Every year, Great Nonprofits, which gathers and disseminates information about 501c-3 organizations nationwide, creates a “Top-Rated” list to highlight organizations that have cleared its threshold for community endorsements. For 2020, about 2,400 of the 1.8 million nonprofits in Great Nonprofits’ database made the cut.

“We truly appreciate the recognition we’ve received from partners who helped us achieve this distinction,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director, Mary Kay Babyak. “We’re gratified by the affirmation it represents for our work, and we look forward to building on our efforts to ensure future readiness among our region’s youth and a stronger workforce for our region’s employers.”



Educator in the Workforce goes virtual, adds PBL option

As part of our Educator in the Workforce (EIW) programming this year, some districts will be incorporating training in Project-Based Learning (PBL). Others are welcome to apply.

In the past, EIW has created on-site immersion experiences with regional employers to help educators learn about careers in different industries and see how the subjects they teach are applied in real-world settings.

Site visits aren’t possible this year because of COVID-19. But employers and educators continue to express strong interest in connecting, so the Consortium is working with our business partners to reinvent these experiences virtually and offer several opportunities to explore in-demand occupations and pathways.

Amid the planning, “Some participants that had EIW grant funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education have sought our help to build in PBL training so that their teachers can take the experience immediately back into the classroom,” said Jackie Foor, the Consortium’s Director of Organizational Advancement. “As part of the PBL training, we’ll try to help jumpstart projects between these educators and our employer partners.”

“By the time they’re finished, the teachers should be equipped with the tools, and possibly even with authentic problems, to begin PBL projects with their students.”

To inquire about EIW or PBL training and fees, contact Jackie Foor.





Future Readiness Lab beginning career exploration activities

Future Readiness Lab participants will begin a series of career explorations in November, attending virtual snack-and-learn sessions that we’ve organized with Covestro on November 11 and ALCOSAN on November 18. Together, the sessions will showcase career opportunities in engineering, manufacturing and environmental sciences.

The Lab is a pilot project that the Consortium launched earlier this month in partnership with The Heinz Endowments and eight school districts to prepare a diverse group of students for their post-secondary career choices and paths as well as for community engagement.

In each district, students will work individually and as teams with coaches to support their learning. Their initial work is aimed at answering five questions critical to preparing for the future: Who am I? Who do I want to become? How do I get there? How do I continue to learn? How do I give back to my community?

As this month comes to a close, all of the teams have met with their coaches and begun their journeys. Along the way, they’ll individually be mapping their post-secondary plans while learning, practicing and demonstrating professional skills needed for post-secondary success.



TFIM plans opportunities around career learning requirements

With the pandemic still putting job-shadows, workplace visits and other career learning experiences on hold, our career exploration program, The Future Is Mine (TFIM), is gearing up to help high school students achieve state standards with virtual programming.

“We’re working with employers now to develop these opportunities,” said Program Director Gina Barrett, who oversees TFIM along with Jennifer Sethman. “Our plan is to facilitate virtual, regional career learning and networking opportunities for students and advisors.”

“We successfully piloted some virtual career presentations and other activities in the spring,” added Sethman, also a Consortium Program Director. “We’re hoping that we can build on that experience with programming that helps students gather some of the artifacts and documentation needed to comply with Pennsylvania Future Ready Index requirements.”

COVID-19 has ruled out most, if not all of the in-person experiences students would usually undertake to explore or prepare for careers and that they typically would draw upon to document their learning for the state.

Aside from virtual career learning opportunities, students from nearly 20 high schools participating in TFIM also will be working in teams on the kinds of projects that help them with career exploration and/or preparation. Through many, the students may be able to help peers in their schools with career learning at a time when their usual opportunities are limited as well.

Joining TFIM this year are Canon-McMillan and Montour high schools. Other high schools returning to the program so far for this year are: Belle Vernon Area, Brownsville Area, Chartiers-Houston High School, Clairton, McKeesport Area, Monessen, Mt. Pleasant, Pittsburgh Brashear, Pittsburgh Perry, Ringgold, South Allegheny, Southmoreland High School, Springdale, Steel Valley, Woodland Hills and Yough.





Research emphasizes need for SEL

An October webinar hosted by our Future Ready Alliance underscored the key roles that awareness of personal biases and an understanding of equitable treatment play in social and emotional learning (SEL). (Educators who were unable to attend the webinar can view a recording.)

The presentation, given by Eva Allen, EdD., served as a curtain-raiser on the Alliance’s agenda for 2020-2021, which focuses on SEL and equity. Both have come to the forefront as K-12 schools weather a pandemic that’s created a need for remote learning options and as they and other institutions confront challenges around racial equity.

Speaking broadly, Dr. Allen told webinar attendees that the current emphasis on SEL is more than just a trend.

Eva Allen, EdD.

“The research shows that the focus on social and emotional learning has extreme benefits, not just for adults, but for students and the community,” she said, adding that benefits for students manifest in attendance, engagement and academic performance.

Advocates also are increasingly emphasizing equity as part of SEL, Dr. Allen noted. “Equitable treatment and equity are themes that arise in almost all aspects of social and emotional learning.”

A Learning Environment Specialist with Pittsburgh Public Schools, an SEL researcher and founder of Culturally Connected Education,  Dr. Allen developed an award-winning theory of “Cultural Care” that emphasizes equity.

Gaining “self-awareness,” one of five core competencies for SEL, is dependent on “examining our own prejudices and biases,” she said. “It’s really important that we recognize that we bring these naturally to any space because of our experiences and our knowledge and upbringing.”

“Having an awareness of those is essential in relationship building,” she added.

Similarly, helping students develop “social awareness,” another of the five core SEL competencies, hinges on helping them become active listeners so that they can empathize with the experiences, perspectives, and upbringings of people from diverse backgrounds, as well as systemic barriers others may face.

In addition to highlighting equity as an important element in students’ SEL, Dr. Allen also discussed the difficulties remote learning presents in cultivating SEL and introduced some strategies for student engagement.

In remarks following the presentation, she also said the pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities in education.

Dr. Eva Allen is featured speaker for Future Ready Alliance kickoff

Our Future Ready Alliance kicks off its program year hosting an October 20 webinar on social-emotional learning with Eva J. Allen, EdD.  The webinar begins at 10 a.m. and is open to all educators, irrespective of participation in the Alliance. You can register online.

Dr. Allen’s award-winning research on “cultural care” provides a social-emotional approach for establishing and building relationships, enhancing cultural competence and compassion, and developing an awareness of the barriers to equity in education.

This webinar will give an overview of social-emotional learning as well as strategies teacher can use self-care during a turbulent time in education.



Consortium and Heinz Endowments launching Future Readiness Lab

As Senior Program Director for Education at The Heinz Endowments, Stan Thompson, EdD, sees grant applications peppered with the words “college and career ready.”

“Here’s the problem,” he said in a video overview, “Not nearly all students ever experience the promise of this phrase.”

To find ways so that more students do, the Consortium is honored to pilot the Future Readiness Lab in partnership with The Endowments and eight Allegheny County school districts. The Lab, for which Thompson also serves as Executive Director, is a pilot project designed to prepare students both for their post-secondary career choices and paths, as well as for community engagement. To do so, it will support them in a deep exploration of five questions.

  • Who am I?
  • Who do I want to become?
  • How do I get there?
  • How do I continue to learn?
  • How do I give back to my community?

“Students who think deeply about these questions and find the answers within, instead of responding to external influences, are more likely to take ownership of their educations,” said Consortium Program Director Christy Kuehn, PhD. “They’re also better positioned to find fulfillment and success in their post-secondary paths and take on leadership roles in their communities.”

Announced last February, the Lab had originally been planned as a summer preparatory opportunity at the Energy Innovation Center. Because of uncertainties associated with COVID-19, however, startup has been delayed until the beginning of October and the Lab has been redesigned for a virtual curriculum.

The pilot will bring together a small, diverse group of high school juniors from eight districts. Throughout the fall, they’ll be working individually and as teams within each school. Lab Coaches, who will support teams in each school, convened last week for their first virtual planning session.

Participating in the Lab’s first cohort are Pittsburgh Brashear, Carlynton, Clairton City, Deer Lakes, Hampton, Montour, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills high schools.

Among other things, students participating in the Lab will be able to answer the five guiding questions, create actionable post-secondary plans, produce a professional portfolio, and learn how to cultivate a diverse professional network. They also will participate in a variety of virtual activities designed for interacting with professionals and exploring careers.

By spring, the students will take on team projects aimed at solving a problem in their communities, while building the soft skills that employers seek and that are critical to success.

Follow the Consortium’s website and social media for updates on this exciting project!

Consortium to provide PBL training as partner in Remake Tomorrow

As one of 17 grantees partnering with The Grable Foundation on a $1.4 million initiative aimed at learning innovation, the Consortium for Public Education will launch a training program to support early-career teachers in using Project-Based Learning (PBL).

“Our goal as part of this initiative, and with our overall program, is to catalyze a PBL culture in our region that will emphasize a growth mindset and life-long learning among educators,” said Sarah Brooks, one of three Consortium Program Directors who design and teach our PBL training sessions.

Working in collaboration with Intermediate Unit I, the Consortium will implement the training region-wide.

“We’re very proud to partner with the Consortium in this critical area,” said Don Martin, Ed.D., Executive Director of Intermediate Unit 1, one of the state’s 29 regional district support organizations. “We know from empirical data that exposing students and educators to PBL changes the culture and climate of learning.”

PBL isn’t emphasized in education degree programs, if it is included at all. But it’s seen as critical to training a new generation of teachers because it can help students better grasp the relevance of regular classroom lessons and engage them more deeply in learning. PBL also can provide students with better preparation for the workplace because the soft skills it cultivates often are as important to employers as academic and technical strengths.

“PBL propels instruction to be more student-centered, elevating each learner’s unique strengths, perspectives, and experiences,” said Aaron Altemus, another of the three Consortium Program Directors who collaborate on our PBL training.

“By honoring every student’s experience and bringing in students as co-learners with the educator, PBL also implicitly creates an inclusive environment in the classroom,” added Christy Kuehn, PhD, the third of our instructors.

The Consortium has become known for a unique approach to PBL and has done trainings both for educators in Pennsylvania and out-of-state.  Among other reasons, its program incorporates design-thinking and encourages practitioners to build their practice, using the central elements of PBL individually as engagement tools during regular classroom lessons and in various combinations for projects as they move toward full-scale PBL assignments.