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

Demolition has begun at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 students and six adults last December. Bricks will be pulverized, steel melted down and a new school built at the same location.

Allison Hornak attended Sandy Hook Elementary School as a kid. After college, she returned home to Newtown, Conn., and opened an art gallery that's within walking distance of where the mass killing took place.

Hornak says she has a lot of fond memories of Sandy Hook — like a teacher who let her chew gum in class, and the pathways through the school.

If you're not a big college football fan, you may have missed the story of an unprecedented player revolt.

sps186.org

A search firm hired by district 186 to help in the hunt for a new Springfield public schools superintendent recently shared its findings after turning to parents, teachers, and the community at large for feedback. Board member Scott McFarland joins us to discuss some of the findings, and talk about the profile of qualities being sought after in a superintendent candidate: 

Call it a linguistic identity crisis.

Growing up in Westchester, N.Y., 25-year-old Danielle Alvarez says, she and her two siblings didn't have much need for Spanish. With few other Hispanic families around, she got by with the few phrases she had picked up from her Mexican-born father: good night, put a coat on, be careful.

Data shows only 40% of 3rd grade students in Macon County are reading at grade level.  That same percentage applies to those in 11th grade.  1 of every 4 students also fails to graduate high school.  

The alarming statistics are similar to what many areas are facing.  The Education Coalition of Macon County is an initiative reviewing the problem and tying to find solutions.   That includes taking different approaches to what has become the standard for education.

A group of parents who have students in Springfield public schools took their push for a property tax increase before the District 186 board last night. They’re pursuing the issue - despite the fact the school board vice president recently proposed the idea of a 1% county-wide sales tax increase. Supporters of the property tax idea say it would benefit the general education fund while the sales tax hike, by law, would be used for building needs.

The University of Miami "lacked institutional control" and didn't notice multiple violations by a booster who for years gave cash and gifts to athletes, the NCAA said. But the organization says the school's football team can play in the postseason, stopping short of the harshest punishment available.

Michael Landsberry, the 45-year-old middle school math teacher and Afghan War veteran who was killed Monday trying to talk down a student shooter at a Nevada middle school, is being remembered as a hero.

Witnesses at Sparks Middle School in the city of Sparks, near Reno, described how Landsberry approached the armed 13-year-old boy and tried to get him to surrender a semi-automatic pistol he had used to shoot two fellow students. The boy then turned the weapon on Landsberry, fatally shooting him, before using the pistol to take his own life.

At the 200-year-old U.S. Military Academy at West Point, tradition dictates everything. That includes the habit of having freshmen stand in the yard everyday and call cadets to lunch. It's also tradition that the overwhelming majority of the graduating class will be white and 84 percent male.

Some say those rates are due to natural patterns of matriculation.

"Women will naturally matriculate — or, they have naturally matriculated — into the academy at about the 16 to 17 percent rate," says West Point admissions director Col. Deborah McDonald.

Bradley Univ. To Again Have Mascot

Oct 19, 2013
Bradley University

Bradley University has a new mascot for the first time in more than 20 years.  
The Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/16gYekk) the school said in a news release Friday that it has chosen the gargoyle as its new mascot. The Peoria school will keep the nickname ``Braves.'' School officials have said Bradley stopped using a mascot at some point before 1990 as pressure to drop American Indian mascots increased.  

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Governor Suspends Charter School Group's Funding

Oct 18, 2013

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has again suspended state funding to the United Neighborhood Organization, the state's biggest charter-school operator.  
Quinn spokeswoman Sandra M. Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times the final $15 million of a $98 million state school-construction grant the Illinois Legislature promised UNO in 2009 is being withheld.  
Quinn previously suspended funding for UNO in April, after reports the organization gave $8.5 million of business to companies owned by the brothers of then UNO executive Miquel d'Escoto.  

ISBE Warns Of School Funding Cuts

Oct 18, 2013
flickr/LizMarie_AK

School administrators in Illinois are being warned to prepare for even less state funding for the next fiscal year.  
The Springfield Bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports (http://bit.ly/16g1Hjd ) the Illinois State Board of Education is telling school districts to prepare to receive about 85 percent of the normal general state aid payments.  
This year, the qualifying districts are getting 89 percent of the money.  

District 186 needs to warn superintendent candidates of the highly political atmosphere that’s become business-as-usual for the Springfield school board.

That’s what the search firm the board hired to help find a new superintendent is telling them, based on feedback the firm gathered from members of the community and staff. 

It opened in the late 19th century as the Bluefield Colored Institute, created to educate the children of black coal miners in segregated West Virginia. Although it still receives the federal funding that comes with its designation as a historically black institution, today Bluefield State College is 90 percent white. The road that separates those realities is as rocky as any story of racial transition in post-World War II America.

We went to the campus of Bluefield State to see what campus life was like at this unusual college.

The black male achievement gap has always been a hot-button topic. But a new film - 13 years in the making - attempts to address that issue by chronicling the experiences of two black boys as they navigate a prestigious private school. Host Michel Martin speaks with filmmakers and parents, Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson, and their son Idris Brewster, about the film American Promise.

For many high school students this year, the already stressful process of applying to college has been made far worse by major technical malfunctions with the Common Application, an online application portal used by hundreds of colleges and universities.

"It's been stressful, to be honest," says Freya James, a senior in Atlanta applying to five schools — all early admissions. The Common App has been a nightmare, the 17-year-old says.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tens of thousands of freshman have just finished their first month in college. They've signed up for classes, met a bunch of other people and, if history is any guide, asked themselves a question: What am I doing here? Everyone else is smarter and better adjusted than I am. And for some, that question totally changes the college experience, may even cause them to drop out, which is why a researcher was determined to intervene. He told his story to NPR's Shankar Vedantam, who's here to tell it to us. Hi, Shankar.

Rapper Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) is the latest in a long list of celebrities lending their star power to the flourishing charter school movement. Alicia Keyes, Denzel Washington, Shakira, Oprah — all support or sponsor charter schools.

A New York school has taken soccer balls, footballs — and maybe even the fun — out of recess. Officials say hard balls are a safety concern, but critics say they're being too cautious. Tell Me More's parenting roundtable weighs in.

Sunny Palo Alto, Calif., is awash in multimillion-dollar homes, luxury Tesla electric cars and other financial fruits from a digital revolution the city helped spark. The Silicon Valley city is home to Stanford University, at least eight billionaires, and one mobile home park.

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of affirmative action again Tuesday, but this time the question is not whether race may be considered as a factor in college admissions. Instead, this case tests whether voters can ban affirmative action programs through a referendum.

Pledge Of Allegiance Past Its Prime?

Oct 11, 2013

Millions of American school children begin the day with the pledge of allegiance. But do they, or their teachers, really understand what it means? Host Michel Martin discusses the issue with journalist Mary Plummer, of KPCC, and Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Millikin University

Millikin University in Decatur has a new president.  
Trustees at the school hired interim president Patrick White to take the post permanently. He began working in the interim position in July.  
The 64-year-old succeeds Rich Dunsworth, who also held the interim job after Harold Jeffcoat retired in January.  
White had worked as president of Wabash College in Indiana and says he's excited to make the Millikin position permanent.  

This week, a federal judge found that historically black colleges in Maryland were harmed when better-funded traditionally white institutions offered up the same degree programs in the state.

Tricia Bishop of The Baltimore Sun summed up the judge's ruling this way:

The NFL adopted a new rule this season that makes it illegal for players to hit with the crown of their helmet. In other words, ramming your head into someone.

  Lanphier High School is in the final year of a three year grant to help students improve. Among the things they've done as part of the program is extending the school day and adding ACT practice exams and tutoring for students. However, board member Judy Johnson made Lanphier faculty bristle when she questioned why math scores dropped, while the scores for white students improved during a recent school board meeting.

An unnamed district 186 employee has admitted to stealing money from the Springfield public school system, according to the interim superintendent Bob Leming. Leming told WUIS a police investigation started last week - and while the Southeast High School employee in question apparently admitted guilt, the investigation is still underway with the Illinois State Police.

Adults in the U.S. fall behind many of their developed-world counterparts in such basic areas as math, reading and problem-solving using technology, according to a newly released report authored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies surveyed 166,000 teens and adults ranging in age from 16 to 65 years old in 24 countries.

On Saturday night I saw Gravity, the new semi-realistic space survival flick. I thought: an astrophysicist's view of this film would certainly be worth a 13.7 post. But I've left that thought behind for an email I had received the day before:

Dear user community colleagues,

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