Education Desk

Credit Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

See the latest reports from NPR Illinois Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes. 

The NPR Illinois Education Desk is a community funded initiative to report on stories that impact you.  Stories on the state of education from K-12 to higher education written by Illinois and national journalists.

Funders include:

  • Anonymous Individual Donors
  • Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln
  • Hope Institute for Children and Families
  • Horace Mann Company
  • HSHS St. John's Hospital
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

What Your State Is Doing To Beef Up Civics Education

12 hours ago

Fake news. Record-low voting turnout. Frequent and false claims from elected officials. Vitriol in many corners of political debate.

These are symptoms we hear of all the time that our democracy is not so healthy.

And those factors might be why many states are turning to the traditional — and obvious — place where people learn how government is supposed to work: schools. More than half of the states in their last legislative sessions — 27 to be exact — have considered bills or other proposals to expand the teaching of civics.

Trump administration lawyers are defending their new rules on how campuses should handle cases of sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued the new guidance last fall after scrapping Obama-era rules that she said were forcing schools to violate the due process rights of the accused. Survivors' advocates filed a federal lawsuit shortly after, arguing DeVos' replacement guidelines discriminate against accusers and discourage them from reporting assaults.

April Alonso / The Chicago Reporter

This is one of those good news/bad news stories. A series of state laws meant to reduce the number of kids getting kicked out of school appears to have worked. That’s the good news. But the bad news is: Those same laws also seem to have magnified racial disparities in school discipline.

Smartphones and tablets have quickly become a permanent part of students' daily lives. Kids up to 8 years old spent almost an hour a day on mobile devices, Common Sense Media reported last year.

Rachael McRae, a fifth-grade teacher in central Illinois, was sitting on the couch the other day with her 4-month-old when she saw the email.

"He was having a fussy day," she says, "so I was bouncing him in one arm, and started going through my emails on my phone, just to feel like I was getting something done." In her spam folder, she found an email from an organization called My Pay, My Say, urging her to drop her union membership.

Rates of anxiety and depression among teens in the U.S. have been rising for years. According to one study, nearly one in three adolescents (ages 13-18) now meets the criteria for an anxiety disorder, and in the latest results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 32 percent of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

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U.S. Secret Service

  

Last week, the U.S. Secret Service released a guide for preventing school violence. Issued in response to recent massacres in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, it’s subtitled “An Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence.”

But closer to home, a group from the Illinois Terrorism Task Force had already presented a very similar set of recommendations back in April.

Do you remember the day you decided you were no good at math?

Or maybe you had the less common, opposite experience: a moment of math excitement that hooked you for good?

Thousands of studies have been published that touch on the topic of "math anxiety." Overwhelming fear of math, regardless of one's actual aptitude, affects students of all ages, from kindergarten to grad school.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Secret Service releases guide to prevent school shootings

Build a team of people to monitor the school and its students. Define unacceptable and concerning behaviors. Have a hub where people can report suspicious activity. Determine when the police should be involved.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Illinois has traditionally used a competitive grant process to parcel out money for preschools. In the past, that competition was limited to programs that had a history of getting state funds. But this year, after the legislature appropriated an extra $50 million for preschools, the Illinois State Board of Education threw the competition open to all programs.

Once applications were reviewed and ranked, preschools around the state were shocked to learn they wouldn’t be getting the state funding they expected. Some weren’t funded because their grant applications scored below ISBE’s threshold; others weren’t funded simply because the appropriated amount couldn’t cover the demand.

As a parent, did you ever push your child in ways you now regret – or not push enough? Or when you were a child, did you ever feel pushed too hard or not enough?

A version of this piece ran in February 2018.

Parents today struggle to set screen time guidelines.

One big reason is a lack of role models. Grandma doesn't have any tried-and-true sayings about iPad time. This stuff is just too new.

An earlier version of this piece ran in June 2017.

It's summer vacation season again and many families will be lucky enough to be heading off for at least a few days. At least half of parents say quality time together is the most important reason to take a family vacation, according to a national survey by the rental car company Alamo.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Forty-five million Americans are burdened by student loans. A new quiz show lets a handful of them use what they learned in school to pay off their debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PAID OFF")

Huang Yimeng was disoriented when she learned that her U.S. visa was denied last November. It meant the recent University of Virginia graduate wouldn't be returning to the U.S. to start the job she was offered at McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm.

She was in Shanghai when she got the news, having bought a return ticket and leaving most of her belongings in her apartment in the U.S.

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Ten days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees who choose not to join unions no longer have to pay reduced fees to cover collective bargaining. And already, a crusade to persuade teachers to drop union membership has hit Illinois.

This piece combines and updates two posts from spring 2018.

During the summer, it's safe to assume children are using technology more than usual.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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School may be out, but there has been no lack of news this summer on race and admissions: an announcement from Jeff Sessions, a Harvard lawsuit, changes in the Supreme Court and proposals for selective high schools in New York City. Here's a rundown of the facts in place, and the latest developments.

Who is in school?

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This piece originally ran in 2017.

The plots of dystopian novels can be amazing. A group of teens in Holland, Mich., tells me about some of their favorites:

In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Love is considered a disease. Characters get a vaccine for it. In Marissa Meyer's Renegades, the collapse of society has left only a small group of humans with extraordinary abilities. They work to establish justice and peace in their new world.

In the U.S., more than 4 out of 10 undergraduate college students are above the age of 25. When people talk about these adult students, you usually hear words like "job skills" and "quickest path to a degree."

But for more than four decades, a special program in Washington state has sought to offer much more than that.

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Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

The White House is withdrawing Obama-era guidance documents that encouraged schools and colleges to promote diversity through their admissions process.

The departments of Justice and Education announced on Tuesday that they have retracted several letters and memos that advised schools on how they could legally consider race in admissions and other decisions.

Trump Rescinds College Guidelines On Race

Jul 3, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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This piece originally ran in March 2018.

Our series Take A Number is exploring problems around the world — and the people who are trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

The solution first: 15. More precisely, 15 books.

That's Alvin Irby's answer to a problem he knows all too well as a former kindergarten teacher: How to get children of color excited about reading if they don't have much experience with books or reading outside of school, and the books they see inside of school don't speak to them.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

When school districts outside of Chicago negotiate contracts, they do so with the assurance that the state will pick up the tab on pensions. To control growing pension costs, lawmakers capped salary bumps at 6 percent in 2005. This year, the cap tightened to 3 percent.

Illinois' teachers unions have collected more than 15,000 signatures on petitions urging state lawmakers to reverse that measure.  

The U.S. Department of Education is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review of a troubled federal grant program for public school teachers. The effort follows reporting by NPR that found many teachers had their grants unfairly converted to loans, leaving some with more than $20,000 in debt. In recent weeks, 19 U.S.

This piece combines two interviews from 2015 and 2016.

You sneak them into backpacks and let them commingle with the video games (hoping some of the latter's appeal will rub off). You lay them around the kids' beds like stepping stones through the Slough of Despond and, for good measure, Vitamix them to an imperceptible pulp for the occasional smoothie.

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