Education Opinion

A Human Network to Remake Learning in Pittsburgh

By Tom Vander Ark — September 18, 2017 3 min read
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In remarkable and unusual ways, Gregg Behr’s whole adult life prepared him to be at the center of a network remaking learning in Pittsburgh. In this episode of the podcast, he shares more with us about his journey to becoming the Executive Director of the Grable Foundation and providing stewardship for the Pittsburgh Remake Learning Network, a professional network of educators and innovators working together to shape the future of teaching and learning in the Greater Pittsburgh Region.

Podcast Highlights

Volunteering at a homeless shelter while attending Notre Dame connected Gregg with the Jesuit calling to service. He studied law at Duke and became an attorney and served nonprofit and civic organizations. Gregg learned philanthropy from the best, Robert Payton at IUPUI.

Eleven years ago, his training in service, civics and scaled impact brought him back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to lead the Grable Foundation. The landscape was less vibrant than today. Local foundations had stopped funding a dysfunctional urban school district.

Gregg’s listening tour made clear that things were changing. He heard teachers say, “I’m not connecting with kids the way I used to.” What he learned about learning sciences confirmed what he was hearing from teachers--young people are developing an identity and consuming knowledge differently. Gregg came to appreciate the need to be responsive to modern kids. His research lead to a focus on engaging, relevant and equitable learning--in and out of school.

He started with a pancake breakfast, and then another. Soon there was an initiative called Remake Learning. Other foundations joined in, Benedum, MacArthur, Hillman, McCune, and Chevron Foundation.

After a few years as an unstructured initiative, the Sprout Fund, a local community foundation, took over management of the network providing mini-grants and hosting networking activities.

Philanthropies, businesses and governments pledged more than $25 million of investment. More than 250 organizations are involved in Remake Learning including schools, 67 districts universities, libraries, startups, nonprofits, and museums--all focused on engaging, relevant and equitable learning.

Remake Learning is really a network of networks. Working groups focus on STEM, maker, professional learning and policy.

Impact Reported

Last week, a 10 years impact study was released recapping a breadth of activities including:

  • More than 150 transformed classrooms;
  • More than 60 organizations providing innovative professional learning;
  • More than 170 maker spaces developed;
  • Innovation staff added by 34 districts;
  • More than 900 educators from over 100 districts participated in summer innovation intensives; and
  • Out of school learning is up 10 percentage points and more learning is being more widely recognized through badging programs.

Just in the last two years, there were more than 600 events associated with Remake Learning Days with more than 50,000 participants.

Behr notes the progress of the Elizabeth Ford School District in the Monongahela valley and serving a mix of industrial, suburban and rural. They embraced maker learning, partnered with ASU and CMU, and rethought time, space, culture and professional learning. Students are engaged, academic results are up, and dropouts are down.

The Remake Learning Playbook shares lessons learned from the Pittsburgh initiative.

In addition to invigorating Pittsburgh, Gregg’s sector leadership also includes serving on the boards of Grantmakers for Education and GreatNonprofits

For more, see:

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.