Pitt Creates New Urban Education Certificate

By Alexa Bakalarski / News Editor

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On Wednesday, Pitt’s School of Education announced a new graduate program certificate that specifically addresses cultural divides between teachers and students in urban schools.

The Graduate School of Education Post-Baccalaureate Certificate of Advanced Study in Teaching with an Area of Concentration in Urban Education will begin classes this summer. The program, according to a University release, aims to strengthen student-teacher relations across demographics. The 15 credit program will be in Pitt’s department of instruction and learning with support from Pitt’s Center for Urban Education.

A 2015 report on urban schools from the Center for Reinventing Public Education found that students of color and low-income students  — compared to white or more affluent students — were less likely to enroll in elementary and middle schools that score high on tests. It also found that an achievement gap of about 14 percent existed between students eligible for reduced-price and free meals and students who were not eligible.

According to the release, the disparity applies particularly to Pittsburgh, as almost 85 percent of Pittsburgh’s public school teachers are white while more than 60 percent of Pittsburgh public school students are people of color.

Students will complete the certificate program in three semesters, according to Erika Gold Kestenberg, the program’s organizer.

One of the program’s courses, “Introduction to Urban Education,” will address issues related to public education policy and systematic racism, illustrating how they directly and indirectly influence students’ experiences in education.

Other courses in the program include “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy” and “Relationship Building with Students, Families and Communities.” Both courses will teach students how to cultivate better relationships with their future students and how to become sensitive teachers.

The program will also provide students with real-world experience in local Pittsburgh public schools. Kestenberg said the specific schools will vary based on the student’s area of interest.

Students who have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and meet minimal requirements for admission to Pitt’s graduate programs can apply for the course with letters of recommendation and a 3.0 GPA.

H. Richard Milner, the director of the Center for Urban Education, said the new certificate program will increase job satisfaction and students’ potential to stand out against other job applicants.

“The more knowledge and skills our graduates have about developing innovative, relevant and responsive practices to identify and build on the many assets of students in urban environments,” Milner said in the release, “the better our chances that every child receives the kind of education he or she deserves.”

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