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

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SHANKAR VEDANTAM, HOST:

This HIDDEN BRAIN. I'm Shankar Vedantam. For many years, tech companies have been really good at innovation and making money. What they've been less good at is in hiring and keeping a diverse workforce.

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entrance to school
Mattoon Community School District 2

Mattoon police say Wednesday’s shooting at Mattoon High School was carried out by one student, who is in custody.

When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown's class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma.

By Wednesday, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced.

The letters "CFPB" may not be much more than alphabet soup to your average student loan borrower. They stand for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a new-ish federal agency — created in 2011 — with a unique mission and a big effect on student lenders and for-profit colleges accused of defrauding or otherwise mistreating Americans.

Every U.S. president since Jimmy Carter has pledged commitment to historically black colleges, or HBCUs.

And just about every year, HBCU leaders gather in Washington D.C., to lobby Congress and the White House. This year President Trump was not there to greet them, which was just as well because the meeting took place amid simmering frustration with the Trump administration.

Much of that frustration is due to what HBCUs consider little or no support from the administration, and what they call a lack of understanding of the financial straits some schools are facing.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos insisted about 10 times during her recent policy address that there's a "better way" for colleges handle campus sexual assault. Now, as officials begin work to find it, they may well be taking a cue a few groups that DeVos says has already "made progress on these difficult issues." Here's a look at the recommendation of those groups.

There are more nonwhite teachers than there used to be. But the nation's teaching force still doesn't look like America. One former education school dean is out to change that.

New research shows that the number of K-12 teachers who belong to minority groups has doubled since the 1980s, growing at a faster rate than the profession as a whole. But big gaps persist, with around 80 percent of teachers identifying as white.

Mélisande Short-Colomb knew her family had been enslaved. But until recently, she didn't know that they were enslaved, and later sold, by Georgetown University.

She found out about that part of her history when she got a message from a genealogist for the Georgetown Memory Project, which is dedicated to finding the descendents of the 272 people sold by the university in 1838.

When Mitch Resnick was growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, he and his little brother were always making up new games. For example, he says, "In the basement, throw a tennis ball so it goes between the pipes in the ceiling for two points, and bounces off the pipe for one point."

His parents were tolerant of their making noise and rearranging the furniture. One summer he even dug up the backyard for a minigolf course. The design process was a matter of trial and error: Could he use soda cans to make the holes? What path would the ball take as it hit various obstacles?

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We asked, and you answered.

In a recent series we explored a different way of giving aid to people in poor countries. Instead of handing out seeds or a cow or job training, what if you just gave people cash and let them decide how to use it?

Then we put the call out to you, our audience: Was there ever a time when you got a little cash with no strings attached and it made a huge difference? Or when you wished for a tiny windfall to tackle a problem?

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Buckle up! We'll be visiting many U.S. states and territories in our weekly education news roundup.

Florida schools reopening after Irma

Schools all over Florida remained closed this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Most have targeted this Monday to reopen. The closures affected several hundred thousand students in some of the largest districts in the country, from Miami to Jacksonville.

DeVos' "Rethink School" tour

A recent study out of Philadelphia tracked kindergartners who were learning English and found that four years later there were major discrepancies between which groups of students had mastered the language.

Students whose home language was Spanish were considerably less likely to reach proficiency than any other subgroup. And, on the extreme end, Spanish speakers were almost half as likely as Chinese speakers to cross the proficiency threshold.

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Christina Broussard was trapped in her grandmother's living room for three days during Hurricane Harvey. Rain poured through the ceiling in the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Broussard's a student at Houston Community College. Her grandmother is 74 and uses a wheelchair.

"We had peanut butter, tuna, crackers, we had plenty of water," she remembers. "We were hungry, but we managed. We tried to make light jokes about it — we said we were on a fast." And to pass the time? "We prayed."

The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School announced Wednesday that Chelsea Manning would be one of its visiting fellows, but less than two days later, the school's dean withdrew the invitation.

Manning, a 29-year-old transgender woman, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was convicted of leaking classified information.

He was once a respected school superintendent. Now Larry Wyllie is being indicted for fraud.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Campus entry signage
University of Illinois Springfield

Enrollment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus fell nearly 9-percent this fall, with most of that drop among graduate students.

"What would it mean to redesign higher education for the intellectual space travel students need to thrive in the world we live in now?"

That is one of the provocative questions that opens Cathy Davidson's latest book, The New Education. And unlike some of the journalists and business figures who have taken previous swings at that piñata, Davidson has a full career of research and practice to inform her abundance of answers.

Back-to-school brought an extra burst of joy, relief and other emotions to students and teachers in Houston Monday, as Texas' largest school district was able to finally start class since Harvey flooded much of the city in August.

At Codwell Elementary, the school's secretary Demetria Cain stood by the bus drop-off, where she estimated she gave out some 200 hugs to students.

"Never forget" became a national rallying cry after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet America's schools — where collective memory is shaped — are now full of students who never knew because they weren't alive then. Many teachers now struggle with whether and how to teach the attacks and their aftermath.

According to one survey, only about 20 states include anything in depth about the events of that fateful day in their high school social studies curriculum.

And when they are taught, critics say, it's often through a narrow lens.

UIS.edu

 In his book Law Mart, Riaz Tejani explores how for-profit law schools expose the limits of market-based solutions to inequalities in legal education and access to justice. Despite the many graduates with law degrees. 

President Trump appears to be in the mood to make deals with Democrats — and Democrats see an opportunity to protect young immigrants.

On Wednesday, the president overruled leaders of his own party — and members of his own Cabinet — to back a plan pushed by Democrats to pair hurricane relief aid to a short-term hike in the debt ceiling along with a measure to keep the government funded until early December.

Paper ... or glass?

Advances in laptops and technology are pushing screens into schools like never before. So what does this drive toward digital classrooms mean for that oldest and simplest of touch screens: a plain old sheet of paper?

It may seem a wasteful and obsolete technology, ready to follow the slate chalkboard and the ditto machine into the Smithsonian, or a flat, white invitation to creativity, just waiting for some learning magic to happen.

This week, President Trump finally made good on his campaign promise to end DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This 2012 administrative program implemented by President Obama, has allowed about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

"We had a parent go by and check on the chickens. They were fine and Wilson the cat was ok too! I know many people are concerned. What a wonderful community we have."

For the staff of Wilson Montessori, a public pre-K-8 school in Houston, the days after Harvey meant tracking down members of the community via text, collecting donations for those in need — and reassuring students about the fate of the school's pets.

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