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

Krista Holland wanders past huddles of people at a storm shelter in Chapel Hill, N.C. Some are wearing Red Cross vests; others are in bathrobes and pajamas. The Wilmington principal is looking for any of her students who may have evacuated to the shelter before Hurricane Florence made landfall.

She recognizes a young man wearing earbuds.

"You remember me," the longtime educator says. "Ms. Holland?"

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You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Student loan forgiveness applicants largely denied

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Dusty Rhodes

Illinois’ new school funding formula — approved last year — could already be facing revisions. That's because lawmakers had such a tough time agreeing on this new formula, they tried to ensure they'd never have to fight so hard again. So they built in a Professional Review Panel, and empowered the group to recommend recalibrations as needed.

​One idea under consideration: Adding a racial equity component, to address the historic underfunding of predominantly black districts.

Young people around the country are among those joining the debate over Christine Blasey Ford's accusation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh in 1982, when both were teenagers.

What are teens learning from all this? And how should adults be handling this conversation?

One night during the summer of 2017, a teenager named Francesca in Virginia was assaulted by a classmate: "I was pinned down and he fondled my breasts and sexually assaulted me." We're only using her first name because she's 15 years old.

Activist and journalist Bil Browning describes part of his childhood this way:

The bullying started as early as first grade for me, steadily getting worse as time wore on. Classmates quickly pegged me as “the gay one” and that was that. Turns out, they were right.

Rice University is "dramatically expanding" its financial aid offerings, promising full scholarships to undergrads whose families have incomes under $130,000. The school says it wants to reduce student debt — and make it easier for students from low-income families to attend.

"Talent deserves opportunity," Rice President David Leebron said while announcing the plan on Tuesday.

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The new school year marches on, and so does our weekly roundup.

Tropical Storm Florence closes schools in the Carolinas

Seeking to "evaluate the independence and effectiveness" of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's student loan office, 15 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus sent a terse letter Thursday evening to Mick Mulvaney, the CFPB's acting director. The letter was first obtained by NPR.

A federal judge ruled this week that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' delay of a key student borrower protection rule was improper and unlawful.

"This is such an important win for student borrowers and anyone who cares about a government that operates under the rule of law," says Toby Merrill, of Harvard Law School's Project On Predatory Student Lending. The judge is expected to order a remedy in the next week.

Around the globe, more scholars are now threatened and displaced than since World War II began. In response, U.S. universities have sponsored endangered scholars and recently created a consortium that offers a broader academic community to refugee scholars threatened by war and authoritarian governments.

Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois

The University of Illinois Springfield is the latest state school to see an enrollment decline, part a recent    trend for the campus.  

To millions of parents and students, they're magical words: free college.

But is the idea pure fantasy?

More than a dozen states now offer grants, often called scholarships, promising to help qualifying students pay for some or all of their college education. In fact, that word, "promise," shows up again and again in these programs' official names: Nevada Promise, Oklahoma's Promise, Oregon Promise, Tennessee Promise ... you get the idea.

On the Atrai River in the northwest of Bangladesh, a small beige boat is tied up in tall grass that lines the riverbank.

The interior of the boat is packed with narrow benches which in turn are jammed with children.

There are 29 students in this third-grade class and it would be hard to fit any more into the narrow vessel. The kids sit shoulder-to-shoulder facing a blackboard at the back of the boat.

When the teacher asks for a volunteer to recite a multiplication table, 8-year-old Nila Khatun's hand shoots straight toward the unpainted ceiling.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Schools and colleges are coping with extreme heat

Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinois government wants to keep kids from leaving the state for college. Its latest effort is a website and app that allows students and their parents to compare in-state schools.

During the first Mass of the school year, two students at St. Bernard Elementary School in suburban Pittsburgh stand in front of the congregation and lead their classmates in prayer.

They pray for the leaders of the world, for the sick and suffering, and for the victims of abuse in the Catholic Church.

It is the only time clergy abuse is mentioned during the service. It might be the only time it's mentioned in the school. Principal Anthony Merante says he wants to leave that conversation up to parents.

Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living "paycheck to paycheck."

After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.

On one camping trip, Acevedo's troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.

Senior medical student Giselle Lynch has plenty of accomplishments to list when she applies for a coveted spot in an ophthalmology residency program this fall.

But one box she won't be able to check when she submits her application is one of the highest academic awards medical students can receive, election to the honor society Alpha Omega Alpha.

Can Anyone Fix A Rigged Economy?

Sep 4, 2018

A key component of political stump speeches is summed up in this longstanding idea: “The economy is rigged.”

Two new books have indicted the super-wealthy as a source of major societal ills — even when they mean well.

Anand Giridharadas is a former columnist for The New York Times, and Steve Hilton is the host of Fox News’ “The Next Revolution.”

In July 2017, I wrote a story about two young Nigerians who quit their office jobs to start an informal school for kids in a camp for displaced people in Abuja, the country's capital. How's the project going?

Popular culture tells us that college "kids" are recent high school graduates, living on campus, taking art history, drinking too much on weekends, and (hopefully) graduating four years later.

NPR's weekly education roundup is back after a short hiatus. This edition features a longer list to catch you up on the news you may have missed over the long, hot summer.

1. Student loan ombudsman resigns, and slams the door

What is the lasting impact of the budget impasse on higher education? 

Walking through the woods alone can be a scary prospect for a kid, but not for 7-year-old Matthew of Portland, Oregon. He doesn't have much of a backyard at his condo, so the woods behind his house essentially serve the same purpose. He spends hours out there: swinging on a tire swing, tromping across the ravine to a friend's house, and using garden shears to cut a path. He lays down sticks to form a bridge across the small stream that flows in the winter.

And he does all of this without any adult supervision.

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