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

Memorial Stadium
Asolsma1988/wikimedia commons

University of Illinois media professor Jay Rosenstein has been a longtime critic of the amount of money spent on athletics on the Urbana campus.

Now he’s published a series of articles that show that millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on U of I athletics each year, despite longtime claims to the contrary.

After Yarly Raygoza attended a drug prevention program at the Boys & Girls Club in Westminster, Calif., last year, she used what she learned to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.

The 14-year-old took the class again this year but worries that counseling her friends will become more difficult.

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch midshot
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

With teachers devoting much of their time to preparing students for standardized tests, penmanship has disappeared from the curriculum in many schools. A new state law approved yesterday will bring it back, to ensure elementary students get instruction in cursive writing — sometime between 2nd and 5th grade.

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) filed the measure the same day lawmakers approved his resolution on zombie apocalypse preparedness.

Imagine a college course that requires students to give up computer and cell-phone technology for a month — and, in fact, to cease speaking entirely for that period.

Then imagine that the class is super-popular, with students clamoring to get in.

It's 5:30 a.m. and dark in the fifth-floor hotel room, just a few minutes' drive from the Orlando airport. There are still 20 minutes before the entire family needs to be downstairs to enjoy the free breakfast in the hotel lobby, then they'll be driving the 15 minutes north to school — first period starts at the "very early" time of 7:20.

This has been the daily routine for nearly two months since Yerianne Roldán, 17, and her sister Darianne, 16, arrived in Orlando from western Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

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State Rep. Will Guzzardi midshot
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Let's say you've got a student loan and you get laid off your job. Your loan servicer suggests something called "forebearance" — the chance to delay payments for a year or two. Sounds tempting, but it ends up costing you more money.

That's one of the many tricky facts loan servicers will have to disclose in Illinois, where lawmakers yesterday approved stringent regulations on student loan service companies.

The Air Force Academy says a cadet whose dorm room was marked by a racist slur this fall is also the person responsible for writing the message. The incident had prompted the academy's leader to deliver an impassioned speech about inclusion and tolerance.

Jessica Handy works as a lobbyist for an education advocacy organization called Stand for Children. I’ve aired interviews with her in the past because she’s got a knack for explaining complex numbers. So to her, the most critical part of this story is the numbers. Specifically, some very long odds.

Texas A&M University's football fans have a shot at staying just across the street from the school's stadium — but they'll need to plunk down $100,000 for the honor, provided they win a lottery this week. Another perk: The money is tax deductible, as a gift to the school.

The Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center isn't fully built yet. But for months now, the school has been calling for supporters to pay from $5,000 to $10,000 in deposits, to get a chance at a 10-year option to reserve one of the hotel's 250 rooms and suites.

"A busybody." That's how Raven Judd describes her 10-month-old daughter Bailey.

"She loves tummy time. She likes to roll over. She'd dive if you let her," says the 27-year-old mother from Washington, D.C.

There is one thing, though, that will get her baby girl to stop what she's doing: when her mother reads her favorite book, the aptly named My Busy Book.

Hello! We're back this week with a roundup that focuses on the goings-on at 400 Maryland Ave. SW — that's the federal Department of Education, in case you didn't know.

DeVos comments on LGBT student protections in new profile

The University of Notre Dame will no longer provide birth control coverage to students and employees, taking advantage of the Trump administration's decision to weaken the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate.

As Indiana Public Media notes, the Catholic university previously "made the coverage available through a third-party service separate from the rest of its health insurance and attempted to sue for the right to not offer the coverage at all."

Dropping The F-Bomb In Class? Teachers Weigh In

Nov 3, 2017

Warning: This post contains language that some may find offensive.

So we asked, and you answered: Is it ever OK for students to curse in the classroom?

The question comes out of our "Raising Kings" series, where a radical new approach in a Washington, D.C., high school has led educators to move beyond suspending students for disruptive behavior, to talking with those kids to learn where the behavior comes from.

Al Bowman midshot in tree-lined area
Illinois State University

Al Bowman, a former president of Illinois State University, has been tapped to lead the Illinois Board of Higher Education. His appointment comes as higher education institutions have seen their budgets slashed and enrollment decline, so it’s hard to know whether to congratulate him.

“You know, I’ve been getting that from people,” Bowman laughs.

He is going into his new job eyes wide open. Illinois ranked number two in the nation for net loss of college students.

This story contains language that some readers may find offensive.

"I can't teach the book right now," says Shaka Greene, algebra teacher at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. "Because my students are still learning to add 49 plus 17."

So begins Part 3 — the conclusion of our podcast series: Raising Kings: A Year of Love and Struggle at Ron Brown College Prep.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against three Dartmouth College professors have resulted in a multi-agency criminal investigation, says New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.

All of the professors — Todd Heatherton, Bill Kelley and Paul Whalen — work in Dartmouth's psychological and brain sciences department. They've been put on paid leave and their access to campus is restricted, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Want to know how your kid's school is performing compared to others? The Illinois State Board of Education today released graduation rates, test scores, and other metrics through its online school report cards. Results show that standardized test scores, graduation rates and participation in advanced placement courses are all inching upwards.

Which of these statements seems more trustworthy to you?

1) Americans are drowning in a tsunami of ignorance! There is a conspiracy at the highest levels to replace all knowledge with propaganda and disinformation.

2) A recent Stanford University report found that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers didn't understand that the phrase "sponsored content" meant "advertising."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Earlier this month, the toy-giant Mattel announced it had pulled the plug on plans to sell an interactive gadget for children.

The device, called Aristotle, looked similar to a baby monitor with a camera. Critics called it creepy.

Powered by artificial intelligence, Aristotle could get to know your child — at least that was how the device was being pitched.

Is The F-Word Ever OK In The Classroom?

Oct 29, 2017

Warning: This post contains language that some may find offensive.

The scene: A teacher training at a new high school in Washington, D.C. The topic on the table? Students and the language they use:

"So this should be a place that I should be able to come and express my thoughts. I may be having a bad day. I may come in, and I'll be like, 'f***'."

That's Shatane Porter, a counselor at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. And yes, he is talking about the F-word. And whether it's OK for students to say it. In class. In front of their teacher.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


In the nonfiction book and movie "Hidden Figures," three African-American women mathematicians defy the odds by going to work for NASA in the early '60s.


Learning How Bullying Happens In Order To Prevent It

Oct 27, 2017

One in four students report being bullied, but not all say they are bullied the same way. And some students are more likely to experience bullying than others.

That's what one new survey found after posing questions to more than 180,000 students across 412 schools between 2012 and 2017. The data, collected by the nonprofit organization Youth Truth Student Survey, looked at fifth- through 12th-graders in 37 states.

Is The NCAA Equipped To Handle Scandals?

Oct 26, 2017

With guest host John Donvan.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is responsible for governing hundreds of thousands of students who compete in college-level sports.

But lately, the NCAA has come under fire for its handling of a massive bribery scandal that’s prompted a federal investigation into college basketball.

Google Maps

Derek Hutchins is the superintendent of Crab Orchard Schools. It's a district of only 530 students, east of the town of Marion, in southern Illinois.  So he was surprised last week when his tech support guy showed up in his office with big news.

As Europe was being torn apart in the early 17th century by conflicts between Catholics and Protestants — that would lead to the devastating Thirty Years War in 1618 — the German astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote:

"When the storm rages and the shipwreck of the state threatens, we can do nothing more worthy than to sink the anchor of our peaceful studies into the ground of eternity."

Two years ago this month, President Barack Obama had a clear message for teachers and parents who were concerned about all the standardized tests that students were taking: He was on their side.

In a video statement, he gave parents this pop quiz:

If our kids had more free time at school, what would you want them to do with it?

This past spring, a history teacher in North Carolina was giving a lesson about Christopher Columbus. He covered how Columbus and his men enslaved and otherwise mistreated the native people of the island of Hispaniola.

One white student piped up: "Well, that's what needed to happen. They were just dumb people anyways like they are today. That was the purpose, that's why we need a wall."