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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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

What It Means When Students Become 'Heroes'

May 11, 2019

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Fundraising efforts to spare kids from from lunchtime humiliation in a Rhode Island school district have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in donations over a couple of days, including nearly $50,000 by New York-based yogurt-maker Chobani.

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Last year, a school nurse in East Moline faced a moral dilemma when a diabetic student lost consciousness in her office. Now she’s trying to make sure no other school nurse has to face the same tough choice.

Low blood sugar can usually be cured with orange juice and a granola bar. But those snacks and glucose tabs weren’t helping the 7th grader sitting in Jennifer Jacobs’ office.

“Her blood sugar kept falling, and we kept pushing the snacks,” Jacobs says.

inslidelockdown.com

Illinois school administrators hoping to protect staff and students against the threat of an active shooter could get a new addition to their toolkit — devices designed to quickly barricade classroom doors during an emergency situation.

But that tool would come with its own set of problems.

Matt Perez, the State Fire Marshal, today warned lawmakers that any lock handy enough to be grabbed in a crisis could also be used by, for example, the shooter, or even one student wanting to bully a classmate.

Updated at 8:06 p.m. ET

A day after the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado, local officials urged people not to view such attacks as part of life in Colorado.

"These are aberrant acts," 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said.

This week's attack happened not long after the 20th anniversary of the school shooting in nearby Columbine. The shooting injured eight people and left one student dead. Police say he has been identified by the Douglas County coroner as Kendrick Ray Castillo, 18.

illinoisreportcard.com

A clause in the 2017 school funding reform law was designed to provide property tax relief. But after one year of implementation, the State Board of Education is suggesting lawmakers might want to reconsider.

Under Illinois’ previous school funding structure, most of the burden fell on property owners. The 2017 law was designed to shift more of that load to the state, with an additional $350 million going mainly to the neediest districts. But $50 million of that was set aside to abate taxes in districts that were squeezing homeowners too hard.

What Happens After You First Get Sober?

May 7, 2019

There’s no shortage of news and feature stories about addiction. Oftentimes, they follow a similar narrative — from painkillers overprescribed, to heart-wrenching family interventions, to challenging stints in rehab, to the happy endings of sobriety.

But for people who have lived through addiction, a lifetime remains after initial treatment ends. What happens next?

More and more school districts across the U.S. are embracing the four-day school week.

Right now, nearly 560 districts in 25 states have adopted the change, with most implementing a Monday-Thursday schedule. The trend is especially popular in rural areas.

Raymond Tillman spent most of his adolescence and early adulthood behind bars. His last release — after three stints inside — was in 2011. When he got out, he had a lot to catch up on — like, the digital age.

"When I first came home I was illiterate to technology," he explains. "Didn't know how to turn on a computer, let alone what an email was." But he needed a job, and to get one, he'd need to be able to apply online.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This week, Lego announced plans to unveil customized bricks designed to help children who are blind or visually impaired learn to read Braille.

At a time when Braille literacy is declining among Americans, advocates for the visually impaired say the new product introduces a fun, interactive way to engage with the tactile system.

Copyright 2019 South Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit South Carolina Public Radio.

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The rules for playing Mystery Skype are simple: Students can only ask "yes" or "no" questions, and whichever class guesses the other's location first wins.

At Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, Va., an eighth-grade class plays through video chat with another classroom.

"Are you north of Virginia?"

"Do you border an ocean?"

"Is your state one of the original 13 colonies?"

After about 45 minutes of back-and-forth, the students think they have it.

"Are you guys in Hilton, New York?" asks student Rawan Nasir.

Nearly 2,300 teachers have just had a mountain of student loan debt lifted off their backs, according to previously unreleased figures from the U.S. Department of Education. The move follows reporting by NPR that exposed a nightmare for public school teachers across the country.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Kristin Walters

Illinois continues to lose residents, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau released in April. Overall, around 45,000 fewer people lived in the state in 2018 than 2017, a loss of about 0.4%.

About half of that decline is in the Chicago metropolitan region, particularly in Cook County, which saw a 0.5% decrease. The recent numbers show growth in the Chicago region has slowed, but long-term trends find that downstate is shrinking at a much faster and sustained pace.

“If we take that longer view, we’re actually seeing population growth centered up around Chicago,” said Cynthia Buckley, a professor of sociology and social demographer at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

When Akiya Parks first got to campus at the University of Florida, everything was new and exciting. Her mom and brother had driven her to campus and moved her into the dorms, she'd agreed to try a long-distance relationship with her high school boyfriend, she was ready to start a new chapter in Gainesville.

The only two fraternities at Swarthmore College have unanimously agreed to disband and give up their houses, ending a four-day sit-in and weeks of protest by outraged students after the publication of documents chronicling years of misogynist, racist and homophobic remarks, as well as jokes alluding to sexual assault by members.

The decisions to dissolve Phi Psi and Delta Upsilon were announced on Facebook on Tuesday night, after what both said were weeks of deliberation.

What happened to a circus elephant in the small East Tennessee town of Erwin a century ago, and what are the people there today doing about it?

And what do a group of middle school girls from the Bronx have to say about the stigma that surrounds talking about periods?

Updated May 1 at 11:25 a.m. ET

Two people died and another four were wounded, three critically, in a shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department announced in a tweet that a suspect, Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, was in custody. Terrell, a former student at the university, now faces charges of murder and attempted murder in the attack.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Courtesy of Illinois Public Media

Authorities are investigating an anonymous letter threatening the lives of anyone in line to receive state-funded pensions. The letter was mailed to several legislators and at least one public radio station. In big letters, the mailing says “Dead people can’t collect fat state pensions,” and goes on to warn lawmakers and union leaders of death by arson, strangulation or other unspecified means.

Rodney Robinson is this year's National Teacher of the Year, and this week he was honored at a White House ceremony. Robinson has been teaching for 19 years, most recently at a juvenile detention center in Richmond, Va.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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School is harder than it's ever been for 13-year-old Antonia Manuel Tom, a seventh grader at Eduardo Mondlane Primary Completion School in Mozambique.

She's got no textbooks or notebooks. She doesn't get enough to eat. And when rain begins to fall, she and her classmates grow nervous. "I'm scared if another cyclone comes, it will take our house and the wind will blow us all away," she says.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

While Illinois is struggling with a teacher shortage, some potential teachers are finding barriers to getting a license. Our education reporter Dusty Rhodes introduces us to one of those aspiring teachers.

 

Aniya Cox is sure she wants to be a dermatologist. What she's been less sure about is what she needs to do to get there — she's just 16, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C.

She can remember, at various points of the past two years, desperately trying to navigate all that's required to graduate high school and get into college.

"I was all over the place, I was frustrated," Cox said. "I didn't know what I needed to do."

Cox said even the process of asking her teachers for advice — and finding time to meet with them — was confusing.

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