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

Rachel Otwell

Ever since the crisis in Flint, Michigan was publicized, concern over the presence of lead in water has reached a fever pitch. Law makers across the country have reacted with legislation addressing the issue in their home states. Illinois is one of them - a new law requires some public schools to test for it.

On the Navajo Nation, kids with the most severe developmental disabilities attend a school called Saint Michael's Association for Special Education.

Dameon David, 8, is waking up from a nap in his classroom. He has come to the school in northeastern Arizona for four years. He has cerebral palsy, seizures and scoliosis. His mom, Felencia Woodie, picks him up from a bed with Superman sheets.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers from both political parties seem to be gathering behind a new school funding plan called the "evidence-based model." Today, Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, announced that he plans to file his own version in the Senate.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now a remembrance of a man who gave more than $100 million over his lifetime to education, a man whose philanthropy started seemingly on a whim.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Carter Staley

With multiple legislative proposals, a task force and a lawsuit all aimed at overhauling the way Illinois funds its schools, it’s hard to predict what might happen. But in this chat that aired on Tuesday, our Capitol Bureau reporter Brian Mackey makes me try.  

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Lawmakers have been trying to change the way Illinois funds schools for years now, with no luck. But a new plan called the Evidence Based Model seems to be gaining momentum. State Rep. Will Davis, a Democrat from Homewood, is sponsoring this legislation. He sat down with our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes just a few days after his bill made it through committee.

DR: And it has passed committee with bipartisan votes. There was only one vote against it. How big of a victory was that?

Rep. Davis: Well, I’d say that’s huge.

Robbinsville High School sits in a small gap in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. Green slopes dotted with cattle hug in around the school before they rise into a thick cover of pine trees.

David Matheson is the principal here. And he's the only high school principal in the state who still performs corporal punishment. At Robbinsville, corporal punishment takes the form of paddling - a few licks on the backside Matheson delivers with a long wooden paddle.

Lawyers for Rolling Stone and Nicole Eramo, a former University of Virginia associate dean, have reached a confidential settlement over a 2014 story in the magazine about an alleged gang rape on campus.

In the defamation case, Eramo alleged the article portrayed her as indifferent to victims of sexual assault.

Tennessee caused a stir earlier this year when it ran an audit of the state's 2015 graduating class. The number crunchers in Nashville reported that nearly a third of students who received a diploma didn't complete the required coursework. One in three.

Naturally, parents and politicians alike were baffled and more than a little bothered.

New York state has passed legislation that would create the largest experiment in the country to offer free tuition at two- and four-year colleges. The Excelsior Scholarship, approved over the weekend as part of the state budget, would cover full-time students in the State University of New York system, which totals 64 campuses and 1.3 million students.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, appeared with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and state education leaders in an event hailing the new program, which would begin this fall and is estimated to cost $163 million per year.

CREDIT SIU.EDU

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees last week pushed off a major financial decision.

How important is it to have a role model?

A new working paper puts some numbers to that question.

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys' probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found.

And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

Copyright 2017 KQED Public Media. To see more, visit KQED Public Media.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In recent years, the fate of Chicago's public schools is increasingly driven by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama administration top adviser and Chicago native. Some community activists and a growing number of black and Latino parents are expressing anxiety and unhappiness over what they see as his disregard for their needs, and the barriers they face due in part to historic institutional discrimination.

For many, alarms went off last week when he announced proposed new high school graduation requirements.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

As we head toward Tax Day, we've got student debt and state education plans on our minds in another edition of the NPR Ed Team's weekly roundup.

President Trump's updated executive order, the one restricting travel from six Muslim-majority countries, is blocked for now.

But administrators at Northeastern University in Boston aren't taking any chances.

"We're in a state of limbo," says Mike Armini, who oversees government relations. "We don't quite know what's going to happen next, so we've advised them to stay here," he says, talking about the 250 Northeastern students from those six countries.

The new animated movie, Boss Baby, was No. 1 at the box office last weekend. But before it was a full-length film, starring the voice of Alec Baldwin, it was a 32-page picture book written by award-winning author and illustrator Marla Frazee.

Frazee is a big name for young readers and their parents — the imagination behind Seven Silly Eaters and All the World. Her illustrations have earned two Caldecott Honors.

NPR Ed spoke with Frazee about the book and the new animated hit it inspired. The story of the Boss Baby is simple, she says:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Art Ryan, superintendent of Cahokia schools, addresses media with other superintendents who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the State Board of Education.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A Chicago law firm representing a group of mostly rural school superintendents sued the state of Illinois today. They're asking Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state board of education to come up with a funding formula that would help schools meet the state's learning standards.

The 17 superintendents say that — between Illinois' notoriously inequitable funding formula and years of reduced state spending — this lawsuit is their last resort.

In Kansas, a student newspaper is being praised for its hard work in reporting that Pittsburg High School's newly hired principal had seemingly overstated her credentials. The principal, Amy Robertson, has now resigned, after the paper found she claimed advanced degrees from Corllins University, an entity whose legitimacy has been questioned.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Hate incidents can happen anywhere: the mall, the church, the office. But, in the wake of the 2016 election, hate's been showing up a lot in school.

Imagine if one notice from the federal government could cause you to question your major life decisions.

More than half a million people may have found themselves in that situation after a new legal filing by the Education Department.

Under a program known as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, some student loan borrowers were supposed to be able to have the balance of their student loans forgiven after ten years of both on-time payments and eligible work in the public sector. Meaning, a qualifying nonprofit, federal, local, state, or tribal government.

Barbara Wheeler headshot
Illinois General Assembly

In a way, it's just one little box on a lengthy college application form. But for many would-be students, that box is more of a stop sign if the instructions say "check here if you have a criminal record." State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, wants to change that. She sat down with our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes to explain why.

A new legal filing by the Education Department last week calls into question the future of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which allowed student loan borrowers to have their loans forgiven after 10 years of work in the public sector.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

On March 24, Manish Khari, an Indian teenager in Greater Noida, a city on the outskirts of India's capital New Delhi, went for a walk and did not come home.

Someone said he had been seen with some Nigerian students who lived a few doors down. An angry crowd barged into their house but could not find the boy. A rumor spread that boy could not be found because the Nigerians were involved in cannibalism.

I deeply sympathize with students looking for internships, especially now that I'm an intern at NPR. Gathering all the materials to apply is usually time-consuming and stressful. Indeed, the folder "Internships Summer 2016" on my laptop contains 23 different cover letters and 23 versions of my resume.

Recent college graduates who borrow are leaving school with an average of $34,000 in student loans. That's up from $20,000 just 10 years ago, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Last week, when Southern Illinois University revealed that its main campus in Carbondale needs to borrow money from its Edwardsville location, the news seemed shocking. Who knew SIU was in such dire straits? It wasn’t the kind of news any school would want to broadcast.

As President Trump moves to fulfill his campaign promise to deport millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally, they'll most likely include Mexicans whose children were born in the U.S.. Over half a million of these kids are already in Mexico.

Researchers call them "los invisibles", the invisible ones, because they often end up in an educational limbo of sorts. Most don't read or write in Spanish, so they're held back. Many get discouraged and stop going to school. In some cases schools even refuse to enroll them.

Pages