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 Hosptial
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

Lined up at a row of computers, five Ohio State University students stare intently at their screens amid the clatter of keyboards and mouse clicks. They're keeping in shape — so to speak.

About 1 out of every 10 public school students in the United States right now is learning to speak English. They're called ELLs, for "English Language Learners."

There are nearly 5 million of them, and educating them — in English and all the other subjects and skills they'll need — is one of the biggest challenges in U.S. public education today.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner has made elementary and secondary education a signature issue of his administration, and today, he met with the State Board of Education in an effort to nudge the state’s academic goals higher.

 

The Trump administration is rescinding protections for transgender students in public schools.

The move by the Justice and Education departments reverses guidance the Obama administration publicized in May 2016, which said a federal law known as Title IX protects the right of transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities.

Every day on his way to class, Terrence Johnson walks by a bronze statue and thinks about history. The statue depicts James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African-American to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

"He transcended so much," says Johnson, a junior. "The fact that he had the will to integrate a university like this in Mississippi that has such a rich and chaotic history ... that will always be with me."

Fake news has been, well, in the news a lot lately. But for the world's largest crowdsourced encyclopedia, it's nothing new.

"Wikipedia has been dealing with fake news since it started 16 years ago," notes LiAnna Davis, deputy director of the Wiki Education Foundation.

Transitioning to adulthood isn't new, but there is a more modern way to describe it: adulting.

Get your car's oil changed? That's adulting. Cook dinner instead of order takeout? That's adulting.

And now a new school in Maine, called the Adulting School, is dedicated to teaching skills like these to fledgling adults so they can become successful grown-ups.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

During Betsy DeVos' bitter confirmation hearing last month for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet pointed to Denver as a potential national model of a big city school district that's found an innovative, balanced approach to school choice.

Growing up on Long Island, Zachary Linderer was obsessed with science.

He grew up a Jehovah's Witness, and like many others in the faith, he was homeschooled his whole life. By the time he got to high school, Linderer knew that he wanted to go to college for something in the sciences: physics, oceanography, something in that realm. But he realized at a young age that wasn't going to be a possibility.

There's a bulletin board at the front of the band room at Spring Lake Park High covered in portraits of the composers who wrote this year's music selection.

The bulletin board isn't new — it's there every year. What's new are the faces: Instead of primarily white men, there are faces of women and composers of color.

This is intentional. The band directors at Spring Lake Park, outside of St. Paul, Minn., have pledged to include at least one piece by a female composer and one by a composer of color in each concert, for each of the school's bands.

With Secretary Betsy DeVos rolling up her sleeves at the Education Department and, at one point this week, joining Donald Trump at the White House to talk with educators and parents, Washington, D.C., is making a lot of education news these days.

For those of you struggling to keep up, the NPR Ed Team is trying something new: a weekly recap of the latest national education news.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Saturday afternoon to reflect DeVos' interview with Townhall and the subsequent response by Jefferson Academy in Washington, D.C.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Low-income college students have a glimmer of hope now that Governor Bruce Rauner has included money for Monetary Award Program, or MAP grants, in his budget plan. But students already in school may not enjoy the benefit.

The action in the U.S. school system is overwhelmingly local. But the federal government, and the courts, have an important hand in many issues that touch classrooms — from civil rights to international programs of study. We looked at the records of some of President Trump's key appointees to see how they might affect education in the years to come.

Jeff Sessions, attorney general (confirmed)

Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner prides himself on robust funding for elementary and secondary education, and in yesterday's budget address, he promised a $213 million increase for k-12 schools. But State Sen. Andy Manar says only a fraction of that money will reach Illinois’ poorest school districts.

Before Martin Shkreli's event at Harvard could even get started Wednesday night, it was set briefly on ice. The controversial former pharmaceutical executive had to wait as university police officers evacuated the building where he was speaking, after someone falsely pulled the fire alarm.

Things didn't go much smoother from there.

Illinois Student Assistance Commission

Eric Zarnikow is in charge of Illinois’ program to help low-income students pay college tuition, known as MAP grants. He cheered yesterday when Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed increasing MAP funding by 10 percent, saying it could accommodate 12,000 more students, or increase the size of the grants.

But one thing the proposal does not do is pay for MAP students in school today.

 

5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News

Feb 16, 2017

As the national attention to fake news and the debate over what to do about it continue, one place many are looking for solutions is in the classroom.

There's an experiment underway at a few top universities around the world to make some master's degrees out there more affordable.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, says the class of 2018 can get a master's degree in supply chain management with tens of thousands in savings. The university's normal price runs upwards of $67,000 for the current academic year.

Beyond Sex Ed: How To Talk To Teens About Love

Feb 14, 2017

Love — or infatuation, at least — is part of school, whether we want it to be or not. It's often school that gives us our first crush, our first dance-induced cold sweat, and that first bitter taste of heartbreak.

And so, on this Valentine's Day we ask: Should educators and parents be talking about love more with the teens and pre-teens in their lives? Could they do more to help students navigate some of the more bewildering emotions of adolescence?

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to equalize school funding in Illinois have gotten a lot of publicity lately, since the bipartisan commission he established concluded by issuing a report earlier this month. But another group of lawmakers was simultaneously tackling the same issue. It was lead by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). What conclusion did that group come to?

State Rep. Will Davis filed a school funding reform package last week that promises to makes school funding in Illinois more equitable. How much will it cost? How much will each school district gain or lose? Is Davis even going to call the bill for a committee hearing? All good questions with no firm answers.

Saying it won't risk having to leave any students at the border because of new U.S. policies, a public school district in Windsor, Ontario, has canceled upcoming school trips south of the border. Some trips had been slated for this month; a visit to Washington, D.C., was canceled over safety concerns owing to a protest that's planned around the same time, officials say.

It can be difficult to socialize and make friends for many children with autism. Often that's because reading body language and others' emotions doesn't always come easily.

Many of us seem to learn these social skills naturally, but maybe there's also a way to teach them.

The Psychology Lab at Indiana State University is trying to tap into that idea with improvisational theater.

Yes, improv.

Early one morning, the week before Betsy DeVos' confirmation as education secretary, 23-year-old Allison Kruk was dropping her boyfriend off at the Philadelphia airport when she decided to swing by the office of her U.S. senator and give him a piece of her mind.

Yale University announced Saturday that it will change the name of one of its esteemed residential colleges, Calhoun College, named after ardent supporter of slavery and prominent 19th century alumnus, John C. Calhoun.

The vote by the Ivy League's trustees comes after years of debate and it overturns last April's decision to keep the name. That decision had fueled campus protests from student activists.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

About a third of Tennessee students who graduated from high school in 2015 did so without earning the necessary credits. That revelation came late last month in a report by the state's education department — a report meant to explore why so many Tennessee students are having trouble in college. For the first time, state officials led an audit to see whether graduates were fulfilling the state's graduation requirements. One in three was not.

Tuesday was a busy day for education policy.

Betsy DeVos, you may have heard, was confirmed as secretary of education with an unprecedented tiebreaker vote.

The Wings On The Bus Go ... Wait, What?

Feb 8, 2017

School traffic never bothers Max Schneider.

In the airplane he takes to class every day, his commute is pretty easy.

It's nearly 7:30 a.m. when a small, five-passenger Piper Saratoga plane takes off from the mainland in Port Clinton, Ohio. Pilot Bob Ganley is on his way to pick up students heading to school.

His first stop is Middle Bass Island, about a mile away from the school. Instead of a bus stop, Max's father is dropping him off at the Middle Bass airport to meet the plane.

Pages