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

This past week started with teacher strikes in Oklahoma, where educators descended on the capitol in Oklahoma City to protest low pay and dismal education funding. Dozens of districts in the state were closed through the week. Representatives headed home on Friday before passing a bill that teachers were happy with.

All this week schools across Oklahoma were closed as public school teachers rallied at the state Capitol for better pay and more money for the classroom.

After 10 years of budget cuts and some of the lowest teacher wages in the nation, teachers say they've had enough.

Pay in Oklahoma has been so low, in fact, that districts often suffer from severe teacher shortages — many talented educators have left Oklahoma for better pay elsewhere. Some estimates put the number of teachers who have left near 2,000.

Oklahoma Teachers Continue Strike

Apr 7, 2018

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

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A nine-day occupation of the Howard University administration building came to end on Friday, after students said they reached an agreement with university officials who promised to meet most of their demands.

The announcement was met cheers and celebration, and students are calling the agreement a victory.

"This is a long time coming," HU Resist student organizer Alexis McKenney said at a press conference Friday.

When Jason Fennes applied for a job at Cedar Hill Prep School in New Jersey in 2010, the school district where he had formerly taught did not disclose its knowledge of allegations of past sexual abuse.

School administrators at Montville Township Public Schools made no mention of the four female first-grade students who said he abused them while they were in Fennes' class between 2005 and 2008. Nor did the district disclose his suspension or eventual resignation.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups.

About Peggy Orenstein's TED Talk

Author Peggy Orenstein warns if parents don't educate kids about sex — the media will. She says that leads to risky behavior — and keeps young women from expecting equality in sexual relationships.

About Peggy Orenstein

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups.

About Caroline Paul's TED Talk

Writer and former firefighter Caroline Paul argues that in order to raise confident girls, parents must encourage them to take risks and have the same kinds of adventures boys do.

About Caroline Paul

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups.

About Julie Lythcott-Haims's TED Talk

Former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims says overinvolved parents prevent kids from developing agency. She urges parents to focus on what's more important: unconditional love ... and chores.

About Julie Lythcott-Haims

Copyright 2018 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Coins cutout and posted on bulletin board
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

The state Illinois will finally begin sending local school districts more than $350 million dollars to equalize school funding. The funds, set to go out next week, come as the result of the reform battle waged in the General Assembly over the past several years.

Oklahoma lawmakers made plans to vote Friday on bills that could earmark more money for education. But it's not clear if the measures will satisfy complaints by the state's teachers, which have led to walkouts and widespread protests this week.

Several of Oklahoma's largest school districts plan to remain closed Friday, as they have been all week.

The state Senate says it will vote on a handful of bills tomorrow, Oklahoma Watch reported.

"Does being waitlisted count as half an acceptance??"

"Literally got waitlisted everywhere"

"Being waitlisted from your top choice is the worst feeling"

"What should one do when waitlisted at their top choice school? Asking for a friend."

"All these waitlisted got me feelin like Ladybird."

Student protesters in Washington, D.C., entered their eighth day of occupying Howard University's administration building on Thursday, and while school officials have shown signs of bending to their demands, the students say it is not enough.

Black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 schools across the country. That's according to a new report, out Wednesday, from the non-partisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.

Those disparities were consistent, "regardless of the type of disciplinary action, regardless of the level of school poverty, and regardless of the type of public school attended," says Jacqueline Nowicki, who led the team of researchers at the GAO.

There is a red light flashing in professor Albert Ponce's cubby-sized office. The light comes from an old-fashioned answering machine.

Lately, he doesn't like to listen to the messages by himself. When he presses play, it's obvious why:

"Albert Ponce, you are a piece of s*** f****** gutter slug that needs his neck snapped, OK? Call me if you need me. I'll do it for ya."

"F****** race-baiting f****** piece of trash."

Courtesy of Ann Baltzer

The trend toward school choice has educators across the country looking at Chicago’s Noble Charter Schools — an award-winning network of mostly high schools that specializes in helping inner-city kids achieve the kind of SAT scores that propel them into four-year universities. But despite its prestigious reputation, Noble has a peculiarly high teacher turnover rate.

As college students grapple with the rising costs of classes and books, mortgaging their futures with student loans in exchange for a diploma they're gambling will someday pay off, it turns out many of them are in great financial peril in the present, too.

More than a third of college students don't always have enough to eat and they lack stable housing, according to a survey published Tuesday by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In college, it's hard to learn while you're hungry.

That's a message Temple University higher education policy professor Sara Goldrick-Rab has been getting throughout her career.

She self-identifies as a "scholar activist." She has advocated for free college, and in 2013 she founded the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which aims to turn research about low-income students into policies that improve equitable outcomes in post-secondary education.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students returned to school from spring break this week facing a number of new safety precautions. District officials in Parkland, Fla., say that the school is a prototype for potential countywide security changes, following a shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 people dead.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Teachers are protesting in the state capitols of Oklahoma and Kentucky, as heard here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED TEACHERS: (Singing) We're not going to take it anymore.

"I'm 54 years old and my paycheck is $1,980 [a month]. I can't afford f****** health insurance."

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Latino students make up the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group enrolled in U.S. colleges since 2000. But they face one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports on how one school is trying to change that.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Thousands of public school teachers across Oklahoma will stay out of the classroom – and many will take to the streets — starting today, after they rejected a pay raise they said fails to compensate for some of the lowest educators' salaries in the country.

Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin signed raises of around $6,100 – about 15 to 18 percent per teacher, as well as $33 million for textbooks and $18 million in additional school funding, to be paid for with a tax increase on cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas production.

Oklahoma Teachers To Strike This Week

Apr 1, 2018

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

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

When he graduated from college more than a decade ago, Mario Suarez knew two things for sure: He was going to be a teacher and he was going to transition from female to male.

Right after graduation, he landed a job as a high school algebra teacher in Austin, Texas. "I was already living outside of the professional life as a male," he says. "So the next step, through my therapist, she suggested coming out in the workplace."

There's good news and bad news in the weekly education news roundup, so read on!

Thousands of teachers have government grants converted to loans

The week before winter break, snow is piled up around St. Louis Park High School, a low-slung, rambling brick complex in suburban Minneapolis. And more snow is falling.

This is a big, diverse school with proud roots. Alumni include Joel and Ethan Coen, who shot their semiautobiographical 2009 drama, A Serious Man, in this area, once a Jewish enclave, which today has immigrants from all over the world.

As of Thursday morning, SB 151 was a bill about sewage services.

But by the time both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature had passed it that night, the amendment process had turned the bill about sewage into a 291-page overhaul of public employees' retirement benefits. Now, it rests on Gov. Matt Bevin's desk awaiting his signature — and teachers across the state are livid.

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