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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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Eli Bundy, a 15-year-old sophomore at Charleston County School of the Arts in South Carolina, knows how it feels to be ignored in the classroom. In South Carolina, it's illegal for teachers to address queer relationships, unless they're talking about sexually transmitted infections, also called STIs.

Eli, who identifies as queer, says they and their classmates have broached the subject of non-heterosexual relationships in health classes, but that their questions go unanswered.

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classroom
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether parents should be allowed to keep their children from participating in active shooter drills at school.

Some parents and school personnel say the exercises have a negative effect on children. State Sen. Scott Bennett, a Democrat from Champaign, said he’s not against active shooter training, but he said it should be conducted with more sensitivity.

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Olivia Mitchell / NPR Illinois

Lawmakers are considering whether to make comprehensive sexual education mandatory for grades K-12 in public schools across the state.

When kids at Warner Arts Magnet Elementary School act up, they aren't sent straight to the principal's office. Instead, many students at the high-poverty school in Nashville, Tenn., go to the "BeWell" room.

The serene space is awash in sunlight and brimming with plants. There are yoga mats, toys, a lounging nook and soothing music drifting out of a desk speaker. In this room, teacher Riki Rattner, who is also trained as a yoga instructor, helps students practice deep breathing and check in with their emotions.

Imagine this: you’re in the 9th grade, and when the bell rings, you’ve got five minutes to get from Language Arts to algebra. That gives you just enough time to visit the ladies room. And surprise! Your menstrual period has arrived a few days early. 

With no supplies in your purse, you panic. But wait. There, on the wall, you see a dispenser. Problem solved, right?

At Lahne Romaker’s school, you’d be out of luck.

In a world where more educators are turning to project-based learning, some students may now have the option to submit a podcast instead of a traditional assignment — like a research paper. But just how exactly do you grade a podcast? How do you gauge its success?

NPR's Education Team wants to hear from educators who are using podcasts in their lesson plans. We want to know what's working and what isn't? How well are students performing in these assignments?

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Michael Tafolla says the books he read in prison helped him understand how he had landed there in the first place. He remembers one especially eye-opening title: Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant.

"The main topic of this book is how a human being is reduced to an action that's perceived by others to be wrong," Tafolla says. "And therefore he is not a human being, but he is a walking, talking, breathing crime act."

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Even though Gov. J.B. Pritzker says school funding is one of his top priorities, Republican lawmakers are criticizing his budget proposal, which could significantly cut promised funding if voters don’t approve the graduated income tax in November.

Karen Keating's eighth-grade English students at Lower Dauphin Middle School in Hummelstown, Pa., fire up their laptops and gather a bundle of snowball microphones. With the click of a mouse, their laptops become studios, and they're ready to record.

Keating's class is writing, producing and editing podcasts that they'll submit to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge, and, like many teachers, Keating is using apps to help them make it happen.

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Two pending rule changes meant to reduce what the Trump administration calls abuse of federal benefit programs could also mean hundreds of thousands of children lose access to free school meals.

Shannan Muskopf / Flickr Creative Commons

Nationwide, colleges and universities are changing their admissions policies to make traditional standardized tests like the ACT and the SAT optional. In Illinois, more than a dozen schools have already adopted some version of this approach, including Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and several private schools. 

 

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Updated at 4:37p.m. EST.

The U.S. Department of Education says it is opening an investigation into Yale and Harvard universities for failing to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts and contracts from foreign donors.

The two Ivy League schools have been singled out in a federal crackdown on institutions of higher learning for allegedly not reporting foreign donations of more than $250,000, as required by law under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

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Contests in New Hampshire and Iowa have done little to resolve the Democratic Party's divisions between moderates and progressives.

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Dean Terry via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Illinois lawmakers are considering a proposal to give students mental health days away from school.

The legislation would allow children in kindergarten through twelfth grade who have mental health issues the opportunity to take up to five days off during the school year.

Copyright 2020 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

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We have reached the point where the New Hampshire primary is a round-the-clock affair.

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Ryan Pascal, a 17-year-old student at Palos Verdes High School near Los Angeles, says when her school holds active shooter drills, it's "chaos." The first time it happened, not long after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, rumors started flying over Snapchat and text that the school was really under attack.

"We had some students trying to stack up desks to blockade the door. We had some students sort of joking around because they weren't sure how to handle this. There are other students who are very, very afraid."

Updated at 8:10 p.m. ET

Students in Howard University's Karsh STEM Scholars Program say they tend to feel the lack of diversity in their fields most when they go on their summer internships.

"A lot of times ... we're one of something," says Adjoa Osei-Ntsansah, a junior from Laurel, Md., studying biology, chemistry and community health. One of the only women. Or one of the only black students. "Now we get to see that there's a real need for us ... so that just fuels us to want to do more and be more."

Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

A new University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign survey finds most students who experience sexual misconduct don’t tell anyone. 

Campus officials say the findings of the Spring 2019 Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct are a signal that they need to do more to encourage victims to come forward.

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