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

University administrators say the FBI, whose headquarters are shown above, has urged them to monitor some Chinese students and scholars.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

illinoisreportcard.com

Who should pay pension costs for Illinois teachers and school administrators? Currently, the state bears virtually all the cost, leaving the state’s 852 school districts free to negotiate benefits without worrying about the price tag. 

As Statewide listeners heard earlier this month, the education advocacy group called Stand For Children hopes to persuade lawmakers to shift pension costs to districts by integrating them in the new school funding formula. The group’s legislative director, Jessica Handy, calls that an “equity boost.”

This week, we bring you the response from the Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — whose lobbyist, Will Lovett, spoke with our education reporter Dusty Rhodes.

During the 2016 election, Bernie Sanders stood out as one of the first major presidential contenders to call for making college free.

For 2020, Sanders is at it again. Ahead of tonight's debate, he proposed not only eliminating tuition at public colleges, but canceling Americans' outstanding student loan debt — all $1.6 trillion.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his proposal to cancel American's outstanding student loan debt, all of it - $1.6 trillion worth.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

A report released today by the Illinois State Board of Education shows most kindergarteners in the state start school unprepared. The Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, known by the acronym KIDS, has teachers observe their students during the first 40 days of school to assess math, language and literacy, plus social and emotional readiness. 

Similar to last year’s survey, the results show only 26 percent of students are ready in all three areas. Almost 40 percent failed to demonstrate readiness in any of the three developmental areas.

A Catholic high school in Indianapolis says it has decided to fire a gay teacher to remain in the local archdiocese.

In a letter to the community, leaders of Cathedral High School said they had been in talks with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for 22 months before deciding to cut ties with the teacher.

They are early risers and hard workers. They have a "talent for struggling through" and the determination that follows. Some are the first in their family to go to college — or even graduate from high school — and many are financially independent from their parents. They're often struggling to pay for rent, groceries and transportation while taking classes. And that means working while in school — in retail, on campus or even with a lawn care business.

graduation ceremony
WOSU Public Media / flickr

Low-income college students in Illinois got some good news today. The state's Monetary Award Program — which provides MAP grants to help pay for tuition — will be able to give more grants with more money, thanks to the largest appropriation in the fund’s history.

Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says the agency approved a new formula that will boost grants by an average of $220 and cover at least 6,700 more students.

PSX / Tumblr

Video games have always been a popular pastime among children and adults. It's clear they are not going away anytime soon. Honestly there's a great chance the industry outlives most of us. This may alarm some people given the stigmas attached to video games sometimes.  Growing up, many children were told not to spend too much time playing video games because they would rot their brains and turn them into social misfits. Let me be the first to tell you that that is not the case.

This year's high school graduates were born after the dawn of the new millennium. Some have dealt with school shootings. Others helped organize demonstrations to speak out against gun violence or climate change. We've reported on how college students are becoming more "nontraditional" than we think, but high school students — through social media and their experience — are also becoming more nontraditional.

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Marijuana Pepsi's mother told her that her birth name would take her places.

She wasn't wrong.

After a life spent being mocked for having an unusual name, the 46-year-old seized on her experience to earn a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. Her dissertation focused on unusual names, naturally.

As of last week, Marijuana Pepsi is now Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck.

Oberlin College President On Bakery Case

Jun 22, 2019

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Kyle Kashuv, one of the survivors of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., applied and was accepted into Harvard University.

His acceptance, however, was rescinded after Harvard discovered that Kashuv, now 18, used racial slurs in texts, Skype conversations and Google documents when he was 16.

Here's why people are talking about Kashuv's case.

A Parkland survivor turned activist

When Gwen Lynch graduated 8th grade from Cuttyhunk Elementary on Monday, she was the only one. Cuttyhunk is a tiny island — the last of a chain of about 10 small islands southeast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The school, the only one on the island, is comprised of one room and Lynch was its only student.

Lynch says a lot of people might think it would be cool to go to school on an island that's only a mile long.

Updated July 8 at 4:10 P.M. ET

When students are believed to be a danger to themselves or others, they're sometimes restrained in school or isolated in a separate room. These practices, known as restraint and seclusion, are supposed to be a last resort, and they disproportionately affect boys and students with disabilities or special needs.

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Plenty of students hate gym class. And, Noel, I'm not going to lie. I was one of them.

NOEL KING, HOST:

I can see that.

INSKEEP: Now a school in Dubuque, Iowa, is taking a different approach to gym.

When 565 spellers took the stage in Maryland last month for the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, five of them shared something more than the spirit of friendly competition. They shared a coach.

Bill Schaefer, a 77-year-old retired teacher, first started teaching spelling in the early 1970s. Schaefer kept his eyes on this year's bee from his home in Denver.

Just like any other professional coach, Schaefer is always full of emotions watching his spellers compete.

When students pose a threat to themselves or others, educators sometimes need to restrain them or remove them to a separate space. That's supposed to be a last resort, and it's a controversial practice. As we've reported recently, school districts don't always follow state laws or federal reporting requirements.

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And it is that time of year when high schools are saying goodbye to their seniors. Graduation ceremonies mean caps and gowns, diplomas, proud parents and commencement speeches by top students.

WIU

MACOMB, Ill. (AP) — The president of Western Illinois University is resigning at the end of June after eight years in the post.

Courtesy of Stand For Children

When Illinois revamped its school funding formula in 2017, lawmakers didn’t touch the teacher pension system. That means it’s still operating under the same inequitable framework that led to the push for school funding reform in the first place.

Now, an influential advocacy group is warning those inequities will be compounded if the state doesn’t address the teacher pension system soon.

Emmanuel Mahgerefteh has wanted to attend Virginia Tech for as long as he can remember.

When he was accepted after applying early to the engineering school, he was thrilled. So were his parents. But an email he received two weeks ago has led him and his family to re-evaluate his plans for next fall.

Last month, Virginia Tech offered about 1,500 incoming in-state freshmen financial incentives to delay enrollment after the school over-enrolled by more than a thousand students. Nearly 8,000 students accepted offers from an admission cycle of over 30,000 applicants.

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Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer will not face prison time after pleading guilty to accepting bribes as part of a sweeping college admissions scandal that grabbed national headlines and shocked the U.S. higher education system.

Lonnie Bunch III's interest in the past began with an incomplete story. His grandfather, a sharecropper-turned-dentist, would read history books to him, and Bunch would wonder why the pictures of black children contained little detail — why the captions simply read "unknown children" or "anonymous."

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Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker is starting to act on the flurry of bills sent to his desk in the wake of this year’s spring legislative session. Among the first that he’s signed requires schools to provide a minimum of five hours of learning time.


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