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

The U.S. Department of Education has withdrawn a proposal that could have fundamentally changed the flow of federal dollars to schools that serve low-income students.

After Betsy DeVos' Senate confirmation hearing yesterday — all three hours and change — we know a little more about Donald Trump's pick to be the next education secretary.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, DeVos faced questions on a range of issues, from private school vouchers and charter school oversight to guns in schools.

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

For the past 20 years, school funding in Illinois has relied heavily on property taxes, which means schools near prime commercial or residential areas thrive, while others struggle to get by. Since August, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of lawmakers has been meeting regularly to try to come up with a better way to fund public schools.

Last week, after four days of legislative sessions ended, most of the 20 lawmakers appointed to the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission hung around Springfield just for this meeting. It took place in a stuffy teleconference room, and lasted three solid hours, with no breaks.

But even after the meeting adjourned, Senators Karen McConnaughay and Andy Manar lingered, continuing their discussion. She’s a Republican representing several upscale suburbs of Chicago; he’s a Democrat from the tiny town of Bunker Hill. Could this be a sign that on this issue, lawmakers from different worlds are trying to pull together?

The education philosophy of Betsy DeVos boils down to one word: choice. The billionaire has used her money to support the expansion of public charter schools and private school vouchers.

For more than three hours on Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the Education Department handled tough questions on school choice, charters and the future of the nation's schools from the Senate committee that handles education.

In her opening remarks, DeVos made clear she doesn't think traditional public schools are a good fit for every child.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Education Department took the hot seat today for her Senate confirmation hearing. Here is billionaire Betsy DeVos making her case to the Senate Committee on Education.

The number of people 60 and older with student loan debt has quadrupled in the past decade, and older Americans now represent the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. student loan market, according to a new report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As of 2015, more than 2.8 million Americans over 60 had outstanding student loan debt — up from some 700,000 in 2005.

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There hasn't been a more controversial pick for secretary of education, arguably, in recent memory than Donald Trump's choice of Betsy DeVos. The Senate confirmation hearings for the billionaire Republican fundraiser and activist from Michigan start today.

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Sixty-three years after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, many schools across the country either remain segregated or have re-segregated.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that when it comes to school segregation, separate is never truly equal.

This time last year, Stephanie Johnson was miserable.

She was in her third year teaching special education at a junior high school in Lindon, Utah, about 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City.

On the outside it looked like she was doing great. Her classes ran smoothly, students loved her, parents loved her, but like many special education teachers, inside she felt as though she was drowning.

She said she thought about leaving all the time: "I don't know how to describe it, it's just so much work. I just feel like I cannot do it."

Small classes. High standards. More money. These popular remedies for school ills aren't as effective as they're sometimes thought to be. That's the somewhat controversial conclusion of education researcher John Hattie.

Over his career, Hattie has scrutinized more than 1,000 "meta-analyses," looking at all types of interventions to improve learning. The studies he's examined cover a combined 250 million students around the world.

Courtesy of Sen. Karen McConnaughay

On Wednesday, state senators filed a package of bills designed to break the partisan logjam that's led to the state going more than 18 months without a budget. The first of those bills deals with changing the school funding formula, and the commission charged with accomplishing that task appears headed toward a compromise.

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the country was on edge, the economy in free-fall. The federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, was also in need of an update after earning the ire of teachers, parents and politicians alike. In short, there was much to do.

In time, that update would come, but President Obama's education legacy begins, oddly enough, with his plan to bolster the faltering economy.

Race To The Top

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Once again this year, President Obama hailed the nation's high school graduation rate as it reached another record high — a whopping 83 percent.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a dispute that advocates describe as the most important case involving public school special education in three decades.

At issue is whether federal law requires public schools to provide more than the bare minimum in special services for children with disabilities. With millions of children qualifying for these services, the court's ruling could have a profound effect.

On campuses today almost every educational interaction leaves digital traces. Assignments and feedback are given through online portals; debates and discussions happen via learning management systems as well as in classrooms, cafes and dorm rooms.

Those and other digital crumbs give technologists the opportunities to examine the processes, practices and goals of higher education in ways that were largely impossible a decade or so ago.

Courtesy of Illinois General Assembly

Flint, Michigan's discovery of lead-laced drinking water has inspired Illinois lawmakers to look for similar problems here. A measure approved by the General Assembly last night would require schools and child care centers to test for lead in water from drinking fountains and kitchen taps.

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist who is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for secretary of education, has been delayed for almost a week.

DeVos' hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but late on Monday night, the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions announced it had been delayed until Jan. 17, next Tuesday.

He didn't have long. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 after President Obama's long-serving secretary, Arne Duncan, stepped down at the end of 2015. No matter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, King knew that Obama would be out in a year and replaced by a president who, regardless of party, would almost certainly replace him.

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

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Who Are You? NPR Ed Would Love To Know

Jan 7, 2017

Take our latest survey here!

Why? Well, as much as we love data and metrics — the clicks, the likes, the retweets — that all can tell us only so much. There's a lot more behind the numbers. Namely, you!

So we'd love to know more about you: Who are you? What are we doing that's working? What can we do better? How often do you read our stories? Is there a story you think we should know about?

borken piggy bank on classroom desk
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The state’s ongoing budget impasse has hit community colleges particularly hard, with funds to these schools and the students who attend them drastically reduced. The Illinois Community College Board is distributing $3 million in emergency aid, divided among seven campuses.

Office of Sen. David Luechtefeld

A new law designed to relieve the statewide shortage of teachers and substitute teachers was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner today. The legislation was sponsored by State Senator Dave Luechtefeld, a Republican. He taught  history and government at Okawville High School for more than 30 years, so it’s hard to argue with him about what it takes to be an educator. That’s probably why the bill he sponsored passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois legislature.

Michelle Obama used her last official White House speech to deliver a passionate pep talk to the nation's young people, especially immigrants, Muslims and others who might feel slighted by the incoming Trump administration.

"Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don't matter," the first lady said, "or like you don't have a place in our American story, because you do."

colonnade on UIS campus
University of Illinois Springfield

University of Illinois employees will receive a 2 percent raise in March after the school had to put pay increases on hold for the last two years.

Pages