Western Pennsylvania School Districts Lauded as Models for the Nation

As American school systems work to reinvent themselves for tomorrow, 14 Pittsburgh-area districts are leading the way — and earning national recognition for their service to students.

More than a dozen Pittsburgh-area school districts have been lauded as models of positive change on behalf of the nation’s schools.

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, released its latest list of standout public school districts last month. Selected in partnership with the Successful Practices Network and Battelle for Kids, AASA’s list includes 49 school districts chosen from nearly 14,000 nationwide. Of those, 15 districts are located near Pittsburgh, making Western Pennsylvania home to the largest cluster of innovative school districts in the country.

Launched in the wake of AASA’s landmark report, An American Imperative: A New Vision of Public Schools, the list includes two categories: “Lighthouse” districts and “Demonstration Systems to Watch.” The categories recognize school districts working to realize the vision outlined in AASA’s report: one in which schools are student-centered, equity-focused, and future-driven.

AASA has named 21 “Lighthouse” districts to date. These districts are proving what’s possible in public education and lighting the way for the country at large. Among these 21 districts, five are located in Western Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh-area “Lighthouses” are:

  • Elizabeth Forward School District
  • West Allegheny School District
  • Fox Chapel Area School District
  • Northgate School District
  • Shaler Area School District

AASA has also named 28 “Demonstration Systems to Watch” — districts that are on their way to becoming “Lighthouses” themselves. Nearly a third of those districts are located near Pittsburgh. Western Pennsylvania’s 10 “Demonstration Systems to Watch” are:

  • Allegheny Valley School District
  • Baldwin-Whitehall School District
  • Beaver Area School District
  • Brownsville Area School District
  • California Area School District
  • Chartiers Valley School District
  • Deer Lakes School District
  • Franklin Regional School District
  • River Valley School District
  • South Fayette Township School District

The region’s five “Lighthouse” districts and 9 “Demonstration Systems to Watch” will be celebrated this summer at AASA’s second-annual Learning 2025 National Summit, to be held June 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

The districts are members of the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance, a cohort of 34 school districts working to prepare Pittsburgh-area students for tomorrow. With support from The Grable Foundation, the Alliance provides workshops, expert speakers, networking, and professional development services tailored to each school district’s unique goals.

“The Grable Foundation is proud to support the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance,” said Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation. “These 34 districts are showing the world what school could be. Together, they’re providing a path for every learner to discover their passions, pursue their dreams, and become the best of whoever they are.”

The Alliance’s members also receive access to on-demand coaching, AASA’s annual conferences, and AASA’s national network of forward-thinking school districts.

“AASA is honored to recognize 15 Western Pennsylvania school systems serving as models for the rest of the country,” said Mort Sherman, senior associate executive director for AASA’s Leadership Network. “We are proud to partner with The Grable Foundation in creating the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance, exemplary in its collaboration and in commitment to improving learning for all students.”

The Alliance is the latest in a long list of innovations that have earned Western Pennsylvania national and international recognition for service to students. The region also boasts America’s largest share of the League of Innovative Schools, and in September, Remake Learning—a Pittsburgh-based network of educators lauded by the World Economic Forum and others—was named one of six worldwide winners of the prestigious WISE Awards. Meanwhile, TIME Magazine named Seneca Valley’s Ehrman Crest Elementary/Middle School one of the best inventions of 2022, and the Food Desert Farmstand project at Butler Area’s Broad Street Elementary was spotlighted by People Magazine and Scholastic Kids Press.


This post was edited to correct an error in the number of school districts honored by AASA. The correct number of districts is 14, not 15 as initially reported.