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

In his speech last night, President Trump asked Congress to pass a broad school choice initiative.

"I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. ...

"These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them."

We're all familiar with the term "hidden in plain sight." Well, there may be no better way to describe the nation's 6,900 charter schools.

These publicly-funded, privately-run schools have been around since the first one opened in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states, so you'd think Americans should know quite a bit about them by now. But you'd be wrong.

At a congressional luncheon in their honor Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told leaders from historically black colleges and universities that the Department of Education "will continue working closely with you to help identify evolving needs, increase capacity, and attract research dollars. We will also work closely with you to launch new initiatives that meet the needs of today's students."

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This afternoon, President Trump signed a number of executive orders including one recognizing the importance of historically black colleges and universities. He called those schools a grand and enduring symbol of America at its best.

Tressie McMillan Cottom studies for-profit colleges as a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has analyzed large data sets, scrutinized financial filings, interviewed students and staff. But she has also helped enroll students at two different for-profits herself.

They're not named, but known only as "Beauty College" and "Technical College" in her new book, Lower Ed.

NPR Ed has covered both the rise, and some of the travails, of this form of education. We called up Cottom to hear her thoughts. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

We've written a lot about the link between college and the workforce — and the kinds of skills graduates will need in the 21st century to succeed. One of the skills you need is knowing how to present yourself. To put your best foot forward in the workplace, and in life.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The cost of college is high and rising, while a bachelor's degree is practically required to get ahead.

It's hard enough for a family with means to get a student through school these days, let alone a low-income family.

So, are the immediate costs of college, and the loans that can follow, worth it?

Tales of talented black students on majority-white campuses running through a racial gauntlet that has them questioning their brilliance, abilities and place are familiar to parents like me who have a college-bound child at home.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Welcome to our second weekly roundup of notable national education news! (Missed us last week? Find it here.)

The biggest ed headline of the week, of course, had to do with:

Transgender students and Title IX

A.D. Carson in studio
Ken Scar / Clemson University

A.D. Carson grew up in Decatur, graduated from Millikin University, and earned a master's degree here at the University of Illinois Springfield. He’s now a Ph.D candidate at Clemson University, where today he’s defending his dissertation -- a hip-hop project that’s gone viral.

One word of warning: The music in this story contains a racial term some listeners might find offensive, but it’s part of Carson’s scholarly work.

From humble origins as the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, raised in the Bronx in the depths of the Great Depression, Mildred Dresselhaus scaled to great heights in the scientific community and attained the status of royalty — even if only in nickname.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Spirit Of Inquiry.

About Liz Coleman's TED Talk

Former Bennington College President Liz Coleman believes higher education is overly-specialized & complacent. She says we need to encourage students to ask bigger questions & take more risks.

About Liz Coleman

The debate over transgender restrooms is nothing new in Gloucester County, Va. The largely rural county in the eastern part of the state is the home of Gavin Grimm, whose transgender-rights case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration made big news regarding the rights of transgender students. But what exactly changed?

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)

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