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

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Students at the University of Alabama and community leaders are reacting to allegations that white sororities denied access to black women because of their race.

The student newspaper in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson White, ran a story that quotes sorority members who say they wanted to recruit at least two black candidates but the students' names were removed before members could vote on them.

For the past few weeks, the culinary arts students at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., have been working with some less-than-seasoned sous chefs.

One of them, Clinton Piper, may look like a pro in his chef's whites, but he's struggling to work a whisk through some batter. "I know nothing about baking," he says.

A few years ago, Brown University commissioned a study of its own historical connection to the Atlantic slave trade. The report found that the Brown family — the wealthy Rhode Island merchants for whom the university was named — were "not major slave traders, but they were not strangers to the business either."

A school district in Southern California has hired a private firm to comb through the cyber lives of its 14,000 middle- and high-school students, looking for signs of trouble.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Glendale Unified School District is spending $40,000 to have the firm monitor social media use among the district's students. School officials want to know if the kids are posting suicidal thoughts, obscenities or comments intended to bully fellow students.

Illinois Times

It costs more to go to college these days.  And the way many afford it is to take out loans.  Paying that money back can be more difficult that most realize. The average college student leaves school with more than $26,000 of debt and a growing number are defaulting on their loans. 

Zach Baliva wrote the cover story on the topic in the current edition of the Illinois Times.  He is also hoping to make a documentary film about student debt.

SIU To Begin Search For New President

Sep 13, 2013
siualumni.org

The Southern Illinois University system's governing board has signed off on forming an advisory committee to help search for a replacement for the university's retirement-bound president.  
The SIU board of trustees also voted Thursday to authorize its executive committee to hire an outside search firm in the quest to find a successor to Glenn Poshard.  
Poshard announced in July that he plans to retire June 30 of next year, even though his contract expires in 2015.  

UIS And Other Schools See Larger Freshman Classes

Sep 12, 2013
uis.edu

Many of Illinois' public universities are welcoming larger freshmen classes to their campuses this fall.  
Experts warn not to read too much into the increases. But many of the schools say higher numbers could mean that everything from the University of Illinois' strong science and math programs to efforts working to draw more students to smaller schools such as Eastern Illinois University.  
Blair Lord is provost at EIU. The Charleston school's freshman enrollment went up for the first time in four years to 1,254.  

U Of I President Gets Pay Raise

Sep 12, 2013
University of Illinois

The University of Illinois is giving President Bob Easter a $90,000 bonus and a pay raise.  
University trustees approved the bonus and raise for Easter at their regular board meeting Thursday in Urbana.  
The bonus is part of a new incentive-based compensation plan for Easter. The bonus was based on the three-campus university system reaching set goals for cost reduction, enrollment and other factors under Easter.  
Easter's base pay will increase 2.75 percent to $462,375. Most university employees are getting 2.75 percent raises.  

Residents of Springfield can provide input online as District 186 continues a search for its next leader.

School Exec Connect, the firm hired to help with the superintendent search,  has set up a web-based survey which asks about leadership qualities and goals that are a priority for the community.

School board member Scott McFarland says the survey is an opportunity to get feedback from those who weren't able to attend community meetings this summer. 

Peter Gray/WUIS

The Lincoln Land Community College Foundation has launched a $2.5 million fundraising campaign following an increase of requests from students needing support for costs associated with college.

Any interest the endowment fund generates will go toward scholarships for students and other campus priorities.

LLCC Foundation Director Karen Sanders says she wants the campaign to reach its goal by the 50 year anniversary of the college, May 2017.

(CLICK HERE to learn more about the campaign)

UIS

Fall 2013 enrollment at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois is up by nearly 100 students compared to the previous fall semester. According to the official fall census, the total number of students enrolled at UIS after the first 10 days of classes is 5,137. This marks the fourth year enrollment has topped 5,000 students. Last fall’s enrollment was 5,048.

Overall, the number of freshmen students attending UIS jumped by 20% this semester. That makes it the largest freshman class in UIS history.

uis.edu

President Obama has plans for higher education in the U-S.  His ideas are a mix of old and new, aimed at keeping college affordable for students but also trying to raise the bar on quality of instruction.
In Illinois,  some of what the President wants is already part of the landscape.  For example, Illinois has moved toward tying a small portion of state funding to graduation rates and other metrics.  
The Illinois Board of Higher Education's Executive Director says some of the other changes the President is pushing won't be so easy.  

childcarecenter.us

Illinois is considering rules to limit what kids at day care centers can eat, how much TV they can watch and how much exercise they must receive.  It's part of an efforts to curb obesity in young children. 
Estimates show 1 in 5 children under the age of five are considered obese.  With so many kids in day care, experts say it's a good place to start developing healthy habits. 

The plan would get rid of high fat and sugary snacks, limit access to juice and ban chocolate milk.  

 UPDATE: (8:15 a.m. Wednesday, August 28)

Interim Superintendent, Robert A. Leming announces that all schools will dismiss an hour early Thursday, August 29 and Friday, August 30, 2013 of this week as a protective measure for students (with the exception of Ball Charter School). The continued cause for concern is the risk of heat related illnesses.

U of I President Wants Annual Raises For Employees

Aug 23, 2013

The president of the University of Illinois says he hopes faculty and staff members will be able to get a raise next year.  
Bob Easter made his comments Thursday ahead of the start of the school year, which kicks off Monday.  
The Champaign News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/152WQuj ) Easter spoke during a meeting with faculty from the school's three campuses. He says it's his ``goal to have a salary program next year.''  
Many U of I employees got a 2.75 percent merit-based raise this year.  

flickr

Students in Illinois public schools that teach sex education will now be taught about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases _ not just abstinence.  
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday that requires schools to provide the information. It takes effect Jan. 1.  
Sen. Heather Steans sponsored the bill. The Chicago Democrat says it's intended to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.  

U of I Outlines Master Plan

Aug 15, 2013

Administrators at the University of Illinois hope to hire 500 new faculty members in the next five to seven years, while spending $70 million to renovate classrooms.  
That's according to the school's three-year master plan that was released Wednesday.  
 The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/13nitLI ) the plan was created following nearly two years of planning.  
The school also wants to increase scholarships and revise general education requirements to encourage students to take more classes in different academic departments.  

Despite health initiatives and efforts to get kids fit and active, the percentage of obese and overweight students in Springfield's district 186 may surprise you. Locally, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is studying those rates in certain classrooms, and helping implement a national program meant to curb the trend. We recently spoke with Dr. David Steward about it, he is the associate dean for community health and service at SIU School of Medicine:  

uis.edu

University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch sat down for a conversation with WUIS on the show Illinois Edition.  Topics include efforts to attract international students, a major building project, possible expansion in Peoria and getting more UIS students living in downtown Springfield. 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

WUIS caught up with Robert Leming on a variety of issues, including how high speed rail could affect schools in the district, his vision for changes with elementary schools, a residency requirement for school administrators, and more: 

The search continues for a new superintendent for district 186. So far eight people have applied for the position to head Springfield public schools. The district is currently planning a two day summit later in the month consisting of meetings among the search firm leading the effort, teachers, parents, and other community members. Board member Scott McFarland is helping plan the meetings. He says the search firm hopes to garner more applicants and then narrow down the options based on feedback from the board and the community:

Called "Sharefest" - this weekend over one-thousand volunteers will gather to tear up carpet, paint walls, and generally improve the appearance of Jane Addams and McClernand elementary schools. McClernand is in the Enos park neighborhood, Jane Addams is on Springfield's north-west side.

Both were chosen to make-over based on the income level of students' families. Last year nearly 90% of students at McClernand came from low-income homes. 67% of students at Jane Addams came from low-income families. 

As Chicago Schools Stumble, A Look At Shifting Pension Costs To Downstate Districts

Jul 25, 2013
Rahm Emanuel
cityofchicago.org

Chicago Public Schools continue to face severe budget problems.

The district is laying off staff and cutting programs.

Those reductions are due in part to its pension obligations.

Tony Arnold reports on how Chicago Public Schools’ struggling pension system could actually be used as a model for every other school in Illinois.

In this year alone - Chicago Public Schools says it’s a billion dollars in debt.

Molly Beck, Education Reporter for the State Journal Register, has been covering the search for a new superintendent for Springfield public schools. Her recent article outlined the costs associated with that search. Beck joined us to talk about that article and her findings: 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students might be on break, but many are still showing up at schools. Six different schools offer free meals to students during the summer months. In this story we take you to Butler Elementary, where lunch is being served:

Outside of the elementary school, right off of MacArthur Boulevard, kids are swinging, climbing equipment, and bouncing balls — but this isn't recess. They are waiting to be fed.

A new Illinois law requires schools hold drills on what to do in the case of shooting.  More security measures could be on the way. 
The new law comes after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary last year put renewed focus on school security.  Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken says it will continue to be an issue and more legislation is expected:

flickr/borman18

The results of a national survey show most people have a long way to go when it comes to making sound financial decisions.  The FINRA Investor Education Foundation conducted the survey and broke down results state by state.  President Gerri Walsh says people are struggling to make ends meet and to plan ahead.

Take the survey yourself and see other data.

District 186 has chosen a search firm to find the next permanent superintendent. Walter Milton left earlier this year and Robert Leming has temporarily taken his place. The search firm School Exec Connect plans to accept applications until October, provided an ideal candidate is not found before then, says Springfield public school board president Chuck Flamini. He says the next step the search firm plans is organizing focus groups that will meet publicly:

  Paper notebooks are still a requirement in schools. But devices like iPads are becoming increasingly more popular in classrooms. In the second half of the WUIS series on technology and teaching, this story takes us to elementary schools in Springfield’s District 186 to see how the electronic tablets are becoming a common part of the school day:

REAVY: “OK, so go ahead and open up your email to ‘Snakes Quiz’…”

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