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

The school funding debate continues to revolve around the issue of Chicago Public Schools.
Wikipedia Commons

Earlier this week, a group of Illinois Republicans announced a series of compromise measures they said could lead to a state budget. It includes a revised school funding plan, sponsored by State Senator Jason Barickman, of Bloomington.

Barickman calls his latest plan quote a huge step forward.

At Yale University's commencement ceremony last month, hundreds of graduating students and their supporters staged a labor protest. The dispute pits graduate student teachers who voted to form a union in February against a Yale administration that refuses to bargain and disputes the election's validity.

Growing up, Kelly Jenkins spent his spare time playing sports. He was an all-star player on the baseball team at his school in the mountains of east Tennessee. And sometimes, he wore lipstick to practice.

As he grew up, Jenkins felt like he wanted to become a teacher.

"Everybody told me it was a horrible idea," Jenkins remembers. "They said, 'Nobody will ever hire you as a transgender woman.' "

Waylon Faulkner, a 12-year-old from Jersey City, N.J., is headed off to a sleepaway camp in upstate New York this summer.

By 2025, two million jobs will be unfilled because U.S. companies won’t be able to find the skilled labor they need. Many of these jobs provide a middle-class salary — some pay six figures annually — and don’t require a four-year-degree.

Neuroscience isn't on many elementary school lesson plans. But this spring, a second grade class at Fairmont Neighborhood School in the South Bronx is plunging in.

Sarah Wechsler, an instructional coach with wide eyes and a marathoner's energy, asks the students to think about the development and progress that they've made already in their lives.

The opportunity to go to college for free is more available than ever before. States and cities, in the last year especially, have funded programs for students to go to two-year, and in some cases, four-year, schools.

Tennessee has taken the idea one step further. Community college is already free for graduating high school students. Now Tennessee is first state in the country to offer community college — free of charge — to almost any adult.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hello, and welcome to another excitement-filled edition of our weekly news roundup!

Questions about federal law and discrimination for DeVos

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, and Democrats pounded her with questions about civil rights protections, particularly for LGBTQ students and those with disabilities. After facing similar questions in a House subcommittee appearance last month, DeVos this time took a new tack, repeating the same answer at least 14 times:

The fate of school funding reform in Illinois hinges on downstate sentiment about Chicago Public Schools, and legislators' grasp of a complex, new formula. The governor has already pledged to veto the legislation. And now, the battle has State Sen. Andy Manar accusing Education Secretary Beth Purvis of lying.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made it clear, appearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, that she sees no connection between school funding and school performance. As evidence, she criticized the Obama Administration's $7 billion grant program to improve struggling schools, an effort that yielded no significant impacts in test scores or graduation rates.

According to the latest Pew Research data, college graduation rates are up for Americans in nearly every racial and ethnic group.

Last year, former President Barack Obama spoke about how crucial this is for the U.S. economy.

Kankakee Community College

The ongoing budget impasse has been particularly difficult for Illinois' institutions of higher education, which have received a mere fraction of their usual state funds. Community colleges depend on the state to supply 30 percent of their overall budget, but that formula has evaporated over the past two years.

 

John Avendano is the president of Kankakee Community College, but he's also president of the Presidents Council — the group made up of all Illinois community college presidents. He spoke with our Education Desk reporter about the special challenges these schools face.

In the West African country of Burkina Faso, nearly 50 percent of children do not attend school. The reported cost of getting them there would be close to $182 million, and yet the small, francophone country received only $17 million in education aid in 2012.

This comes from a new policy paper released this week by UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report, which found that the countries most in need of education funds aren't getting them.

Over and over again, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos deflected a barrage of pointed questions with one answer:

"Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law."

Stanford physics and education professor Carl Wieman won a Nobel Prize for his innovative, break-through work in quantum mechanics. Wieman has since levered the prestige and power of that prize to call attention to the need to transform undergraduate teaching, especially science education.

This week saw a remarkable collision of free speech, toxic Internet culture and more, unfolding at one of the world's most prestigious universities.

At least 10 admitted Harvard students in the Class of 2021 had their admissions offers rescinded after a group exchange of racist and sexually offensive Facebook messages, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported this week.

Southeast Alaska is known as the Panhandle:

It's a long, narrow strip of mainland coastline, plus 1,000 islands and the braided waterways that surround them.

In most places, there are no roads connecting the communities there, so Alaskans depend heavily on ferries: the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Will Illinois lawmakers actually pass a new school funding plan? We hear from three longtime education advocates (the nice word for lobbyists) who have been influencing reps and senators for years.

 

State Rep. Bob Pritchard, a Hinckley Republican, says he has been a member of at least nine caucuses.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois lawmakers last week approved a sweeping overhaul of the way the state funds public schools. Mainly Democrats supported the plan, but the top Republican co-sponsor chose not to vote at all.

mac.edu

For eight weeks this summer, MacMurray College President Mark Tierno will be living in an RV, crisscrossing the United States, “rallying the alumni army,” as he says. 

When I was about 5 years old, my father passed away and life took a dramatic turn. My uncles from my father's side took all his properties, per the custom in my village in Ghana, so each of my father's seven wives had to find ways to provide and take care of their children. My mother struggled to get enough food — mainly beans and vegetables — to make even one daily meal for myself and my six siblings. She would make our food as spicy as possible so that we would have to drink a lot and fill our stomachs with water.

Welcome to another edition of NPR Ed's Weekly Roundup!

Warren announces 'DeVos Watch'

Missy Hart grew up in Redwood City, Calif. — in gangs, on the street, in the foster care system and in institutions.

"Where I'm from," the 26-year-old says, "you're constantly in alert mode, like fight or flight."

But at age 13, when she was incarcerated in juvenile hall for using marijuana, she found herself closing her eyes and letting her guard down in a room full of rival gang members.

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After three consecutive ties, the National Spelling Bee was determined to have a solo winner, so it added a new tiebreaker procedure for Thursday night's finals in Oxon Hill, Md.

They nearly needed it, as finalists Ananya Vinay and Rohan Rajeev burned through round after round of words.

But Rohan tripped on the word "marram" (the Norse-derived word for a type of grass found on beaches), and Ananya was able to capitalize, correctly spelling "marocain" (a heavy crepe fabric, its name derived from the French word for Moroccan) to win.

Spencer Campbell spends much of his days walking the halls of Elk Ridge Middle School, checking breezeways for kids playing hooky, redirecting foot traffic between classes and checking on substitute teachers.

Campbell is one of two assistant principals at Elk Ridge, a school just south of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's his first year in the role and he looks the part. He's in his late 30s, sharply dressed, walks briskly and carries a walkie-talkie on his belt.

Spelling Finals Promise To Bee Exciting

Jun 1, 2017

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Got a question for you, Rachel.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK.

INSKEEP: How do you spell tapas?

MARTIN: Tapas, like small plates of overpriced food?

INSKEEP: Tapas, yes, exactly.

MARTIN: T-A-P-A-S.

INSKEEP: That's exactly right.

Angel Vazquez is 9 years old, has hearing loss in both ears, has trouble speaking and struggles to concentrate in class. He's a year behind in school, just learned how to read and is still learning English. For nearly two years, his mom, Angeles Garcia, tried to get him evaluated for special education at his elementary school in Houston.

Garcia sent the school three letters, pleading for an assessment. She even included medical documents describing some of his disabilities, but she says the school ignored her.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The controversial Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" dramatizes a teen's suicide.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

KATHERINE LANGFORD: (As Hannah Baker) Hey, it's Hannah. Hannah Baker.

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