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

Golden Apple

In Illinois, students of color comprise more than half of the school population, but their teachers are overwhelmingly white. And even when schools recruit and hire teachers of color, those educators tend to leave the profession much faster than their white colleagues. A recent report took a look at what schools can do to encourage Black and Latinx teachers to stay.

Rural America has never been only one place, one type of person or one type of job.

And new data points to the growing complexity and diversity of those parts of the country.

Author and podcast host Sarah Smarsh wrote in The New York Times recently about so-called “brain gain” instead of “brain drain.”

Schools across the country are so fed up with students vaping on campus that they're suing the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs.

Multiple districts filed lawsuits on Monday, including school systems in Olathe, Kan.; St. Charles, Mo.; Long Island, N.Y.; and La Conner, Wash. Three of those suits charge that Juul has hooked a generation of young smokers with its sweet flavors, placing a burden on schools.

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Keith Allison / - https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/2334872072/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17653644

Last week, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing college athletes to get endorsement deals, he set off a wave of copycat legislation proposed in at least a dozen more states, including Illinois. 

State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) filed a bill here to make sure Illinois keeps up. 

"If I'm a coach in California right now, this is an amazing recruiting tool, and I think it places them at an advantage in the recruiting arena. And so I'd like to make sure colleges and universities in Illinois have the same tool that California universities do,” Welch says.

A majority of parents rarely, if ever, discuss race/ethnicity, gender, class or other categories of social identity with their kids, according to a new, nationally representative survey of more than 6,000 parents conducted by Sesame Workshop and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Kate Szumanski still remembers the note her professor wrote at the top of an essay in her senior year: "This is a good argument ... Why don't you come visit me at office hours and we'll talk about graduate school."

By all accounts this was a good note. Szumanski got an A on the paper – and she'd done well in the political science class all semester. But that note terrified her. "I started to shake, my cheeks turned bright red," she told me recently. In all four years of college, she'd never once gone to office hours.

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In the struggle to end global warming, one community in central Pennsylvania is having remarkable success. It's growing, with tens of thousands of people, yet its greenhouse emissions have been dropping dramatically.

Perhaps most amazing: Those reductions have paid for themselves.

This is not your typical town — it's Penn State University. But in many ways, it's just like any other town or small city.

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

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Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Springfield District 186 school teachers have been working without a contract since mid-August. And despite hours of bargaining, they haven't come to any agreement with the school board. 

Joey Gobble, who teaches history at Lanphier High School, said sure, they're asking for better salaries. But they're also asking for smaller class sizes, more alternative education classes, plus more social workers and psychologists, and more help for students.

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House Democrats have been suggesting that their impeachment investigation could take just a matter of weeks, not months. But the White House is drawing battle lines as tensions between the executive and legislative branches are really increasing.

Copyright 2019 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.

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Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

A judge has ruled in favor of Harvard University in a high-profile court case centered on whether the school's admissions process forces Asian Americans to clear a higher bar to get in.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

About a dozen children with complex medical needs have been kicked out of school over a funding dispute. The children reside at Children's Habilitation Center — a long-term care facility for children with complex medical needs, located in Harvey, Illinois.

On Friday, CHC filed a lawsuit against the West Harvey-Dixmoor Public School District 147, the Illinois State Board of Education, and several other school districts.

Updated at 12:17 p.m. ET

In a move that puts California on a collision course with the NCAA, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill effectively allowing college athletes in the state to earn compensation for the use of their likeness, sign endorsement deals and hire agents to represent them.

The governor signed the measure in a segment released Monday by Uninterrupted, a sports programming company co-founded by LeBron James.

Teaching Impeachment In The Classroom

Sep 29, 2019

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Impeachment is a huge political story and a great teaching opportunity. Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Shockman reports from one middle school that's using current events in the classroom.

When a student at Georgia Gwinnett College couldn't find a replacement babysitter in time for her anatomy and physiology class earlier this month, she did what student-parents sometimes have to do – she brought her child to class with her.

Ramata Sissoko Cisse, an assistant professor of biology for anatomy and physiology, had scheduled an important lecture for that day. It focused on the integumentary system — the organ system comprised of the skin, hair, nails and glands. For Cisse, the lecture went beyond biology.

Friday News Roundup - Domestic

Sep 27, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House would open a formal impeachment inquiry into whether President Trump lobbied a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election. The whistleblower complaint that initially brought the issue to light was released to the public in redacted form.

The Chicago Teachers Union voted in overwhelming numbers to authorize a strike, union officials announced late Thursday. The union is planning to set a strike date next Wednesday. Teachers likely will walk out in mid-October if no deal is reached by then.

CTU leaders said 94% of members had voted in favor of a strike, surpassing the 75% threshold required by law. Some 90% of the ballots had been counted Thursday night.

Many Illinois colleges and universities are struggling to attract and keep students.  The problem, along with what some are doing about it, is outlined in the Illinois public radio series Enrollment Exodus. 

On this episode of Statewide, we hear those reports from journalists throughout Illinois.  

Under current projections, analysts are expecting severe environmental disruptions due to climate change by the time babies born today enter adulthood.

This forecast has some young people questioning whether to bring more children into such a world.

Illinois colleges and universities have been under pressure for years from smaller graduating classes, out-of-state competition and changing demographics. Private higher education institutions in the state face the same challenges public schools do and a couple extra.

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

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Updated 8:35 p.m. ET

A California businessman was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison and was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a fine of $95,000 for his role in the multimillion-dollar college admissions fraud scheme.

Devin Sloane, 53, admits that he paid $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit. He is one of 15 parents who have pleaded guilty in the bribery scandal that FBI investigators call Operation Varsity Blues.

Illinois State University had another great recruiting year, with a 1.2% increase in total enrollment and the largest freshman class in 33 years. It's another stable year. Several other schools throughout the state continued years of enrollment drops.

Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Newsroom

When Francisco Gamino arrived at Parkland College four years ago, he didn’t know how to balance work and find the time he needed to study.

Zihan Wang poses on Quad
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

International students, especially those from China, play a crucial role in funding the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Tammy Yates was excited to come to Macomb seven years ago.

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