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

"Today I'm 50 years old and when I heard your story on the radio I did the unexpected, I cried."

That's Scott Walker of Portland, Ore., writing to us about our series last week on dyslexia. "I know that must sound ridiculous but, after 50 years of fighting my fight there was someone else that really understood."

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Students struggling to learn English have traditionally been regarded as a bit of a challenge in your standard public school. But in Urbana, these kids are valued for their ability to help their English-speaking peers learn a second language.

It’s done using mixed classrooms where the teachers speak only Spanish for as much as 90 percent of the day. That percentage ramps down as the kids get older. In the earliest grades, the English-speaking students may not even realize that they’re soaking up a new language.

President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that school choice is "the new civil rights issue of our time." But to many Americans, talk of school choice isn't liberating; it's just plain confusing.

Exhibit A: Vouchers.

Politicians love to use this buzzword in perpetual second reference, assuming vouchers are like Superman: Everyone knows where they came from and what they can do. They're wrong. And, as Trump has tapped an outspoken champion of vouchers, Betsy DeVos, to be his next education secretary, it's time for a quick origin story.

The unofficial motto of a public charter school co-founded by Betsy DeVos — President-elect Trump's choice to lead the Department of Education — could be "No Pilot Left Behind."

Nearby a small maintenance hangar that's part of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, one of the school's two Cessna 172 airplanes chugs down the tarmac of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school is based on the airport's grounds, just outside Grand Rapids.

When he first moved to Miami, Waltter Teruel says, working as a recruiter for ITT Technical Institute was a welcome change from his life in New York where he had been selling antiques and life insurance.

As a recruiter, Teruel says, ITT Tech took care of the pitch to potential students for you. Recruiters used scripts set out in detailed PowerPoint presentations and got long lists of prospective students to call. But soon the welcome change faded. "Most of these students, they were looking for a job," not more school, says Teruel.

No Sanctuary Status For U of I

Dec 7, 2016
UIS

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen says the school’s three campuses can not serve as a sanctuary for undocumented students, citing the need to uphold state and federal laws.

Every December, Miami's annual Art Basel fair draws artists, dealers and buyers from around the world. This year, dozens of artists could be found not in galleries or at cocktail parties, but painting at an elementary school.

Spanish painter Marina Capdevila was one of more than 30 artists working at Eneida Hartner Elementary School in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

Dave Heninzel

Patrick Dolan played a major role in shaping the relationship between public school teachers unions and administrators in school districts across the nation, and especially in Illinois. But if you’ve never heard of Patrick Dolan, don’t feel bad. Dolan did his work mainly behind the scenes, in meetings with teachers unions and school administrators. What made him remarkable was that he created peace between these often adversarial parties.

Parents and grandparents who want to lock in tuition rates for their offspring can enroll in College Illinois! The punctuation is part of the registered trademark.

 

But despite the clever branding, excitement about the plan seems to be waning, thanks to the ongoing state budget impasse.

We live in a world of screens. And in this digital age — with so many devices and distraction — it's one of the things parents worry about most: How much time should their kids spend staring at their phones and computers? What's the right balance between privacy and self-discovery?

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Student parent.

Ever heard that term? It's used for a student who is also a parent, and there are nearly 5 million of them in colleges around the country. That's over a quarter of the undergraduate population, and that number has gone up by around a million since 2011.

It can be really, really expensive to be a student parent, especially if you need to pay for child care while you're in class.

Part 4 of our series, "Unlocking Dyslexia."

Megan Lordos, a middle school teacher, says she was not allowed to use the word "dyslexia."

She's not alone. Parents and teachers across the country have raised concerns about some schools hesitating, or completely refusing, to say the word.

As the most common learning disability in the U.S., dyslexia affects somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population. That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it.

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We're reporting this week on the most common reading disability. Ask just about anyone what dyslexia is, you'll almost certainly hear something like this.

So you're trying to find some information about the schools in your community. Did students perform well on tests? How many students in a school are from low-income families? What's the demographic breakdown? Most folks would start to look for this by searching the web. But, depending on the state you live in, finding that information can be a real challenge.

This week in race: Sports (dog) whistles, protection for Dreamers, a special book—and some hunky calendar men. Really.

Now that the turkey endorphins have worn off, the leftovers are a distant memory, and the Obamas prepare for their last Christmas in the White House, we thought we'd put some of the things that happened over the holiday weekend (and this week) on a platter and offer them to you. No thank you notes required.

Race and Immigration:

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Twenty-two states still allow corporal punishment in school: 15 expressly permit it while another seven do not prohibit it. That's according to a recent letter written by U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. to the nation's governors and state school chiefs.

Not sure what, exactly, corporal punishment is? Here's a quick primer.

It often involves a paddle. Always, pain. That's the point.

When young adults set out to pick a college back in 2010 and 2011, they were making a decision of a lifetime amid big financial obstacles: soaring tuition and the great recession.

And as they progressed through their college careers, a debate over the value of college grew louder.

A long held mantra – that the best investment is a good education – is increasingly being called into question. Some politicians, high-profile entrepreneurs and even educators, have become publicly skeptical of the worth of a degree that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain.

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Part 3 of our series "Unlocking Dyslexia."

A mother who spent years coaching and encouraging her dyslexic son recalls his childhood with one pervasive feeling: "It was really scary."

One father told me his home life was ruined. Trying to do homework with his struggling daughter, he says, felt like "a nightmare every night." Optimism and determination would inevitably descend into tears and anxiety. The culprit: dyslexia.

Autumn trees on the University of Maine campus
Courtesy of the University of Maine

Illinois has long been number two in the nation for a rather dubious distinction -- the net out-migration of college students. Now there’s a new program targeting Illinois high school students who want to attend a state flagship university, even if it’s not in Illinois. The catch? You’re going to need to love flannel shirts, lobster, and maybe not come home for Thanksgiving.

At an off-campus coffee shop Monday, Ohio State University senior Mohamed Farah catches up on his homework.

"I didn't get a lot of work done today just because there's a lot going on," he says. "I tried to stay away from the news, but I kept going back to it."

Farah first learned of an attack on campus when security sent a text to the entire university: "Active shooter on campus: Run Hide Fight."

Part of our ongoing series exploring how the U.S. can educate the nearly 5 million students who are learning English.

Brains, brains, brains. One thing we've learned at NPR Ed is that people are fascinated by brain research. And yet it can be hard to point to places where our education system is really making use of the latest neuroscience findings.

Part 2 of our series "Unlocking Dyslexia."

Our ancient ancestors were able to speak long before they were able to read or write. That history is etched in our brains.

The human brain naturally picks up spoken language. Not so for reading.

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Part 1 of our series "Unlocking Dyslexia."

"It's frustrating that you can't read the simplest word in the world."

Thomas Lester grabs a book and opens to a random page. He points to a word: galloping.

"Goll—. G—. Gaa—. Gaa—. G—. " He keeps trying. It is as if the rest ­­of the word is in him somewhere, but he can't sound it out.

"I don't ... I quit." He tosses the book and it skids along the table.

Voters in California officially ended the era of English-only instruction in public schools and lifted restrictions on bilingual education that had been in place for 18 years. Proposition 58 passed by a 73-27 percent margin. What happens next though, could get complicated.

Classrooms won't change this school year because the measure doesn't kick in until July 2017. Until then, state and school district officials need to figure out three big things:

1. How many schools will actually begin to offer bilingual or dual language instruction?

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