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

Cellphones in the classroom were once considered little more than a distraction for students, but the devices have now become integrated into lessons. They can be great for research, calculations and social interaction with classmates.

Brian Butcher, a history teacher at Ballou High School, sat in the bleachers of the school's brand-new football field last June watching 164 seniors receive diplomas. It was a clear, warm night and he was surrounded by screaming family and friends snapping photos and cheering.

This week, two different people showed up for the same job as the acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Mick Mulvaney is President Trump's pick and also his current budget director. Outgoing director Richard Cordray, an Obama appointee, named his deputy Leandra English for the role.

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Erin Roth faced a tough choice in 2015. She needed to select a school for her daughter. And in Washington, D.C., where she lives, she faced a dizzying array of traditional and charter schools from which to choose.

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This is the first story in an NPR series, "Take a Number," that will explore problems around the world and the people who are trying to solve them.

Elisheva Adler was 20 years old, sitting in pajamas in her childhood bedroom in Long Island, the first time she saved someone's life via text message.

The Department of Justice has opened a probe into the role of race in Harvard University's admissions policies and is threatening to sue unless Harvard turns over documents by a Dec. 1 deadline, according to correspondence obtained by NPR.

It's the time of year when kids are thinking about their holiday wish lists. So what's a parent to do when a child, possibly a very young child, asks for a smartphone?

We hear that smartphones can be addictive, that screen time can hurt learning, but can't these minicomputers also teach kids about responsibility and put educational apps at their tiny fingertips?

Yerianne Roldán wants to be a graphic designer, or maybe a writer, or maybe both. Her good friend and classmate, Zuleyka Avila, has already made up her mind. She's going to be a pediatrician.

Those plans hit a bump in the road this fall, though, when Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, where both girls lived with their families. Forced to leave the island — much of which is still without power — they've both relocated to Orlando. / Flickr-Creative Commons

A recent report shows Illinois is facing a teacher shortage. But changes to teachers’ pensions — including cutbacks on the state’s share of contributions — spells uncertainty for anyone going into the profession.

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To Tax Or Not To Tax University Endowments

Nov 19, 2017

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Two dozen third-graders wiggle in their seats. Their attention is on their teacher — up front. He has a question for them: How many know about condoms? About half of the students raise their hands. They are fixed on his talk — a lesson on sexual education and gender equality.

Everyone inside the classroom in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city, is captivated with this lesson. It's the people farther away — across the island — who are not happy about it.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Simple Solutions

About Sam Kass's TED Talk

16 million children face hunger in the U.S., which can prevent them from performing well in school. Chef Sam Kass describes a simple solution with a potentially huge impact: free breakfast.

About Sam Kass

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Simple Solutions

About Wendy Troxel's TED Talk

Sleep expert Wendy Troxel says teens are sleep-deprived because of early school start times that cater to adults. She says high schools should start classes at least an hour later.

About Wendy Troxel

After gunman Kevin Janson Neal killed his wife and then two neighbors Tuesday morning he headed for Rancho Tehama Elementary School, weapons in hand.

It was just before 8 a.m. when teachers heard the crackle of gunfire in the small, rural town of Rancho Tehama, in Northern California. The elementary school — with about 100 students and 9 staff — immediately went on lockdown.

Ask students in the Mohawk Club at Massena Central High School whether they've been on the receiving end of negative stereotypes, and the answer is quick and sharp.

"We see that we're always the troublemakers or that we're bad kids," says Amanda Rourke, the club's president.

Member Mallory Sunday adds, "It's funny because they don't understand who we are as a people."

They and other club members live on the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation next to Massena, N.Y., on the U.S.-Canada border. One-tenth of the student body at their high school is Native American.

Tucked into a small side street in the Changping District just north of Beijing, a school stands out in bright, childlike colors — orange and green. Cheerful music plays between classes as students stream into the courtyard to play.

Marquan Ellis was evicted from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada when he was 18.

His mother battled with a drug and gambling addiction while he stayed at his godmother's house. But he couldn't stay there forever.

He found his way to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth where he enrolled in the independent living program.

How To Stop Hazing

Nov 15, 2017

Once again, Greek life at American colleges is under scrutiny – this time after the death of a 20-year-old fraternity pledge at Florida State University. FSU has suspended Greek activities.

In Pennsylvania, Penn State students are being charged in the death of a pledge.

The new tax plan introduced by House Republicans could have negative implications for universities, graduate students and those with student loans.

Updated at 12:01 ET Nov. 16

There are a lot of anxious graduate students at universities around the country right now.

That's because to help pay for more than $1 trillion in tax cuts for U.S. corporations, the House Republican tax plan would raise taxes on grad students in a very big way. These students make very little money to begin with. And many would have to pay about half of their modest student stipends in taxes.

The Church of England is advising teachers to allow and encourage children to explore their gender identity.

In guidance issued Sunday the Church's education office told its almost 5,000 schools to allow students "to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity."

"Every one of us is loved unconditionally by God. We must avoid at all costs, diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or a problem," said Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a forward to the guidance.

Slide outside classroom window
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Just when you thought the state’s controversial battle over school funding was over, it turns out there’s a few technicalities that need to be addressed.

In August, a doctor in Spain posted x-ray and microscopic pictures from a man's thigh on Twitter, asking for help.

The physician was concerned that he had cancer.

Princeton's Involvement With Slavery

Nov 12, 2017

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Hello and welcome to another edition of our weekly education roundup. This one is tax-bill-centric.

The Republican tax bill now under consideration in the House may go through many revisions — there are significant differences with the Senate's proposal. And it may or may not become law. Still, here's what the education world is watching.

Private colleges bristle at GOP tax bill

As politicians in Washington try and figure out what to do with the DACA program — Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals — across the country, DACA recipients are working on their own plans ... trying to stay in the country if Congress doesn't act in time.