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 San Francisco, companies will pay six-figure salaries to entry-level tech workers from all over the world. So this might come as a surprise: A public university there is laying off some of its own IT staff and sending their jobs to a contractor with headquarters in India.

Until recently, Hank Nguyen's daughter wanted to follow in his footsteps and work in tech. Last spring, she was accepted into the University of California system.

"She was inclined to take computer science and engineering," Nguyen says.

One of the most controversial questions in education has been whether preschool — and specifically Head Start — helps kids succeed as they move through elementary school.

'Tis the day after Christmas and all through the house many kids aren't stirring... They're joyfully lost in their new smartphones, tablets or smart TVs.

And it's likely mom and dad are a little digitally distracted too.

In many households, screens are omnipresent. That reality has some big implications for children. Researchers, for example, have found language delays in those who watch more television.

High up in the mountains of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Delphine Gatewood teaches special education at the Crystal Boarding School. She's dreading this winter, like she dreads every winter, because temperatures can slip into the negative digits which the school building just can't handle.

"You have a boiler system that regulates heat at one certain temperature so you can't turn it down," she says. "It gets so hot in the classroom and you have to open the windows in the dead of winter."

Subscription box services generally are booming. For a fee, these companies will send you a monthly, curated selection of maker games, dog treats, craft supplies — you name it. And one of the strongest categories in this growing market is book boxes.

If you're into mystery novels, there's a box for you. Fantasy? Romance? YA? You're in luck. There are also boxes aimed at specific age groups — for teens, middle schoolers and toddlers. And it's not just books. The boxes often come filled with character merchandise, notebooks, bookmarks and other book-inspired gear.

Ken Yeh thought his school was buying software to keep kids off of certain websites.

What he didn't know was that it could help identify a student who might be considering suicide.

Yeh is the technology director at a private K-12 school near Los Angeles. Three years ago, the school began buying Chromebook laptops for students to use in class and at home. That, Yeh says, raised concerns from parents about what they'd be used for, especially outside of school.

From Cambridge and Oxford to Lancashire and Surrey, the fees at all English universities are capped — and a new rate hike, from £9,000 to £9,250 (roughly $11,070 to $11,378) is angering critics, particularly those who say the increase didn't undergo legislative review.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

In the ongoing budget grudge match between Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratically-controlled legislature, one bright spot is that public schools have been spared. Rauner, in fact, has boasted that under his administration, general state aid for schools has been fully funded for the first time in years. But there’s a caveat to that claim.

By now, you've probably heard about one very real consequence of fake news — the infamous "pizzagate" conspiracy theory that ended with Edgar Welch, 28, firing a real gun inside a real Washington, D.C., pizzeria filled with real people.

At NPR Ed, we talk a lot about how learning happens because we know that's what makes school school.

Inside of those schools, though, adults sometimes have to ask themselves a tough question: "How should we prepare for a dangerous intruder?"

And the answer to that question seems to be changing.

This story was reported by Latino USA in collaboration with All Tech Considered. The audio version of this story aired earlier on Latino USA; it is embedded below.

Micaela Honorato is looking from the sidelines as boys from her after-school program take turns racing their hand-made hovercraft on a dirt field in a city park.

Companies use lots and lots of data, including your daily Web surfing, to help them sell you stuff. They follow you across the Internet with annoying ads, and the data they collect is now essential for their business.

So why aren't the best minds in higher education doing more to tap all that information to improve teaching and learning?

Now, some of them are. Schools such as Valencia College in Orlando, Fla., are wading into the data streams of what's being called "predictive and learning analytics."

A lesson in leadership illustrated by images of men only. A fill-in-the-blanks test whose "correct" answer is a stereotype: "I am a Filipino. I am a domestic helper in Hong Kong." A discussion of global warming that highlights potential "positive effects" of climate change, such as "Places that are too cold for farming today could become farmland."

These are some examples from textbooks around the world included in a newly released study about the role of textbooks by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report.

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

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Courtesy of Julie Posth

The ongoing budget impasse means that state funding for colleges and universities will run out Dec. 31. While some schools are fronting the money for students who get state assistance, a recent survey found that others are scooping up students' federal financial aid to fill in the gap. It's a little bit like opening your child's birthday card from grandma, and pocketing the cash.

"This is not one of those situations where it's just smoke. There is in fact fire," said Alabama's new state superintendent of education, Michael Sentance.

The fire: Sentance revealed earlier this month that high schools there have "misstated student records ... resulting in diplomas that were not honestly earned." At a recent meeting of the state school board, he also admitted that Alabama's education department had not provided enough oversight.

DeVonte Kirkland is in his second to last year of school at Center Point High in Jefferson County, just outside of Birmingham, Ala. When he graduates next year he wants to head to Alabama State University.

DeVonte also wants a car, so he's taking some serious time to learn how to work on them. Every day, he rides a school bus 25 minutes, each direction, for an auto tech class at Gardendale High, another school on the south side of the district.

Colin Ozeki, 17, doesn't like to sugarcoat how autism spectrum disorder has affected his interactions with others, his emotions and his own self-confidence. He sees it as an issue to confront, something about himself to work on and improve in order to fully participate in life around him.

He appreciates the adage, "It's a difference, not a disability." But he disagrees with it when it comes to himself.

Ending a boycott that was sparked by the suspension of 10 players over an alleged sexual assault, the University of Minnesota's football team says they'll play in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl. The team relented after meeting with school administrators Friday.

In addition to promising to play in the game in San Diego later this month, the team sought to clarify its position.

Part of our series, 5 Million Voices.

I grew up speaking Spanish, and I didn't start learning English until I was in preschool. When it came to books, I struggled — like many ELL students — to connect with characters that didn't look like me or speak my language.

To this day I have yet to pick up a copy of Anne of Green Gables.

The first year of teaching is a little bit like jumping into the ocean. You can practice in a swimming pool and pretend you’re in the ocean. You can sit on a boat and watch other people dive in. But until you do it yourself, there’s no way to know how the waves are going to feel or how you’ll fend off the jellyfish and sharks. Jeniece Baines is one of those brand new teachers.

She teaches reading and writing to 7th graders at Franklin Middle School in Champaign.

Of all of the departments universities cultivate, career services could be the most important.

Could vaccinating cattle get more girls into high school?

That's the intriguing prospect suggested by a new study of Kenyan cattle herding families in the journal Science Advances. But even more significant than the actual results of the study is the fact the researchers would even think to investigate whether there's a link between cattle vaccination rates and girls' high school attendance.

For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families. But new national research, out Wednesday, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it examined Head Start programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Hindus and Muslims who have migrated to the United States in recent years are especially well-educated, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. On average, Hindus in the U.S. have nearly 16 years of schooling, significantly more than Jews, the next most highly-educated U.S. religious group. Muslim Americans have nearly 14 years of schooling, which is well above the U.S. average.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

For college students, December means cramming for final exams. Some schools try to help students keep studying by serving midnight breakfast in the dining halls. But at the University of Illinois, one student group puts their own twist on that tradition.

Universities Differ On "Sanctuary Campus" Issue

Dec 12, 2016
Vince Smith/Flickr

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen recently declined to make any of the university’s three campuses so-called “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented students, citing the need to uphold state and federal laws. 

If you got 13 percent back on your investments every year, you'd be pretty happy, right? Remember, the S&P 500, historically, has averaged about 7 percent when adjusted for inflation.

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

On a typical weekday evening, 14-year-old Clara Jené spreads out her homework across the dining table in her family's apartment in a leafy northern suburb of Madrid. She gets about three hours of homework a night — and more than twice that on weekends.

"Often we're sitting down to dinner, and I have to tell her to put away the books," says Clara's father, Camilo Jené, a 51-year-old architect. "It's cutting into our family time."

Keep in mind that Spaniards sit down to dinner around 10 p.m. Clara often resumes her homework after that, staying up as late as 1 a.m.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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