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

A public school district in Pennsylvania that faced a national outcry after threatening to place children in foster care over unpaid cafeteria debt has received several offers to pay off the entire delinquent meal tab, but school officials do not seem interested.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Dozens of families in Pennsylvania received an alarming letter from their public school district this month informing parents that if their kid's lunch debt was not settled, their child could be removed from their home and placed in foster care.

Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state as measured by per-pupil spending, is located in a former coal mining community in Northeastern Pennsylvania, known affectionately by locals as "The Valley."

Anya Kamenetz is an NPR education correspondent, a host of Life Kit and author of The Art Of Screen Time. This story draws from the book and recent reporting for Life Kit's guide, Parenting: Screen Time And Your Family.

Elise Potts picked up her 17-month-old daughter, Eliza, from daycare recently. When they got home they were greeted by a strange scene.

More than 58,000 children were sexually abused in the U.S. in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Many states are trying to curb those numbers — 20 now require sexual abuse prevention education by law. In 2009, Vermont became one of the first.

Most days, 25-year-old Chavonne can push her student loan debt to the back of her mind.

Between short-term office jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, she drives for Uber. But once in awhile, a debt collector will get hold of her cellphone number — the one she keeps changing to avoid them — and it all comes back fresh. "I'll be like, 'Oh no!' " she says. "It's a sad reminder that I owe somebody money!"

In April, she got another reminder when the government seized her tax refund.

All this for a degree she never finished.

The Defense Department wants more Americans to speak Chinese, and it provides millions of dollars to train students at U.S. universities.

China's government, through language centers known as Confucius Institutes, has been doing the same thing, for the same reasons, and at some of the same U.S. universities.

But a new law has forced these American universities to choose: They can take money from the Pentagon or from the Confucius Institute — but not both.

Twin brothers Erin and Evan Addison had never heard a podcast before joining the podcasting club at their school. And they managed to convince their best friend, Andrew Arevalo, to join as well.

"We were just looking for a hobby and Erin was like, 'Hey, you know we could do podcasting — it will be fun,' " Arevalo says.

Courtesy of Anne Stava-Murray

If you've got kids, you may have gotten the call to come to the school immediately because your child forgot to wear a belt, or lost his asthma inhaler, or argued with his teacher. For some hourly employees, making a quick trip to their kid's school could cost them their job.

But a bill awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature would provide protection for workers who need to attend a parent-teacher conference or any other important meeting at their child’s school.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Changes in education policy often emanate from the federal government. But one policy that has spread across the country came not from Washington, D.C., but from Florida. "Mandatory retention" requires that third-graders who do not show sufficient proficiency in reading repeat the grade. It was part of a broader packet of reforms proposed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.

Copyright 2019 KPCC. To see more, visit KPCC.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Automation is already here. Robots helped build your car and pack your latest online shopping order. A chatbot might help you figure out your credit card balance. A computer program might scan and process your résumé when you apply for work.

What will work in America look like a decade from now? A team of economists at the McKinsey Global Institute set out to figure it out in a new report out Thursday.

Amazon employees who are filling boxes in warehouses may be the industry's next engineers.

The company announced Thursday that it will spend more than $700 million to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs over the next six years.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is defending a plea deal that he oversaw nearly a dozen years ago as a U.S. attorney in Florida.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Updated at 1:09 p.m. ET

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

Four year colleges and universities have difficulty recruiting talented students from the lower end of the economic spectrum who can't afford to attend such institutions without taking on massive debt. To remedy that — at least in part — the University of Texas-Austin announced it is offering full tuition scholarships to in-state undergraduates whose families make $65,000 or less per year.

The British Sierra Leonean journalist Isha Sesay led CNN's Africa reporting for more than decade — covering stories ranging from the Arab Spring to the death of Nelson Mandela.

But now, in her first book, titled Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay has a chance to explore, in depth, the story most important to her career and closest to her heart: the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok.

Americans owe about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. That's about twice the current budget for the Defense Department and around 22 times the budget for the Education Department.

Senator Kamala Harris told the nation a story two weeks ago.

Here is what she said.

And I will say also that — that, in this campaign, we have also heard — and I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History may add drawings made by formerly detained migrant children to its famous collection.

The drawings depict time spent in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some of the children's images appeared to show stick figures with frowns and people on floors under blankets.

Lots of people have student loans: more than 45 million people. They collectively owe about $1.6 trillion.

That is, of course, a lot of debt — but amid all the national debate right now about what to do about it, it's important to remember that not all debt is created equal, and some borrowers are struggling more than others.

Twenty years after two gunmen attacked Columbine High School, the community of Littleton, Colo. remains divided over whether it's time to tear down the site of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

albertogp123 / flickr.com

The Illinois State Board of Education has decided to review the slate of standardized tests students take, to try to make sure the exams align with each other.

Currently, kindergarteners are evaluated by one test, then elementary students with another, and high school juniors with a third. All those tests measure different concepts, making it difficult to see where the curriculum needs to be improved. 

Amanda Elliott, legislative affairs director with the state board, says the current system causes many districts to implement additional tests.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This story was adapted from an episode from a Life Kit podcast, Parenting: Raising Awesome Kids.

Are humans born kind?

We both assumed, as parents of young children, that kindness is just something our kids would pick up by osmosis, because we love them. It's a common assumption.

The University of Alaska System is bracing for a 41% cut in funding it receives from the state, after Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a $130 million line item in the state's budget.

The announcement came last Friday, three days before the fiscal year began on July 1. Dunleavy vetoed roughly $400 million in items in the budget, with education receiving the largest cut.

Copyright 2019 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Pages