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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A dancing police officer, a founding father with a wig made from sweat socks and a physics professor in a jester cap on a pogo stick - these are just some of the many characters from American schools who blew up on social media in 2019.

Courtesy of Medium Anonymous

An Illinois freelance journalist was inspired by his personal experience at CEDU — widely recognized as the flagship enterprise of the "troubled teen boarding school" industry — to undertake an investigation of that facility. In 2018, he published an in-depth 16,000-word history of CEDU and its offshoots on Medium.com. 

Esports Programs Plug Students Into Careers

Dec 22, 2019

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Some low-income college students are among the 688,000 food stamp recipients projected to lose benefits as a result of a Trump administration rule announced Dec. 4.

Illinois State Board of Education

In the 2017-18 school year, Illinois taxpayers funded the placement of close to 350 special education students at some 40 facilities in other states. Those facilities were as varied as the students’ needs.

Steve Appleford

When Avital van Leeuwen was in 10th grade, she was into skateboarding, punk rock, smoking pot and feminism. Her home life was in turmoil in the aftermath of her parents’ divorce, and even though — or maybe because — she’s high IQ, she was having problems at school. She wanted to transfer to a completion program, get her high school diploma and move on. 

That plan got derailed in the wee hours one morning, when she was sitting in bed reading Bitch magazine.

“I just remember my parents coming into my room out of nowhere — both of them, which was weird… I was at my dad’s house. And they said, ‘Avital, we love you very much.’”

She instantly knew: “Something really bad’s about to happen.”

Maya-Elena Jackson

Last year, Illinois amended its school code to limit options for districts sending special needs students out of state. Under this new amendment, districts are no longer be able to send students to states that don’t provide oversight of residential facilities. But some families quickly found a way to work around the new law. 

The amendment might as well have been called the Utah law. Because even though the plain language doesn’t mention Utah, that’s the state it excluded.

Stephanie Jones was general counsel for the State Board of Education in 2017, and she advocated for the change. But today, she acknowledges that families quickly resorted to unilateral placement as a workaround.

All is not well in Banana Slug country.

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The State Of American Education

Dec 17, 2019

The Program for International Student Assessment, a test designed to evaluate education standards around the globe, determined that American students have stagnated in reading and math performance since 2000.

The disappointing news comes after years of bipartisan efforts to overhaul the U.S. education system.

Why are students from one of the richest countries in the world performing relatively poorly on this exam? And what can be done to move America’s education system forward?

QuoteInspector via Flickr CC BY ND 2

Every child in America has the right to a “free and appropriate public education,” thanks to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush almost three decades ago.

And if that education can’t be provided in the student’s home district, the student can go elsewhere —  also for free. Illinois taxpayers typically spend at least $25 million per year to place hundreds of students outside the state, in residential treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and other private facilities designed to serve students with special needs. 

Courtesy of the family

In the 2017-18 school year, Illinois sent close to 350 students with special needs to private boarding schools in other states. The cost added up to more than $10 million for tuition, and close to $20 million for housing. But it’s not always possible for school officials to know exactly what that money buys, or for parents to know what’s happening to children in those facilities.

This fall, there were nearly 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than a year ago, according to new numbers out Monday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment by student.

"That's a lot of students that we're losing," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the Clearinghouse.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos endured a withering barrage of questions on Thursday about her handling of a program meant to provide debt relief to federal student loan borrowers who say they were defrauded by for-profit colleges.

"Madame Secretary, your refusal to process claims is inflicting serious harm on students," Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said in his opening statement. "These defrauded borrowers have been left with piles of debt, worthless degrees and none of the jobs that were promised."

Updated at 6:18 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that will make Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to anti-Semitic acts. The order is generating concern that it will stifle free speech by those who oppose Israel's policy toward the Palestinians.

The executive order takes indirect aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has generated intense controversy on college campuses.

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The House Judiciary Committee will move forward on impeachment today.

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Documents obtained by NPR shed new light on a bitter fight between defrauded student borrowers and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

These borrowers — more than 200,000 of them — say some for-profit colleges lied to them about their job prospects and the transferability of credits. They argue they were defrauded and that the Education Department should erase their federal student loan debt under a rule called "borrower defense."

A bill introduced in the House Tuesday aims to block Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from implementing changes she's seeking in Title IX rules.

What makes a great pop song? Is it the way it makes you want to dance? Or maybe how it gets stuck in your head?

At the end of 2019, with genre-bending hits like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” what do we even consider pop to be today?

There’s a lot more to pop music than initially meets the ear — and few are more equipped to know that than the hosts of “Switched on Pop.”

The University of Phoenix is paying a record $191 million to settle a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission accusing the for-profit university of using deceptive ads to lure students with the promise of future job opportunities with large companies such as AT&T, Adobe, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The settlement includes a plan to cancel $141 million in student debts that are owed to the school by people who enrolled from October 2012 through the end of 2016 – the period in which the FTC says prospective students might have been duped.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Quote, "This is not a happy day." That is what reporters heard from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel last night as he signaled plans by fellow Democrats to unveil articles of impeachment against President Trump.

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Fatima Martinez knows there's a lot riding on her SAT score.

"My future is at stake," says the Los Angeles high school senior. "The score I will receive will determine which UC schools I get into."

But that may not always be the case.

Mike Calhoun is a man on a mission. He's flying around the country, warning state lawmakers and prosecutors, sounding the alarm at conferences and with members of Congress.

Minnesota is home to the largest Somali American population in the U.S.

It’s a community that’s been in the headlines often, but if its members had a direct line to the nation, what would they say?

The divide among Democrats over "Medicare for All" has dominated the policy conversation in the 2020 Democratic primary. But another rift has opened among Democrats, this one about college affordability. The question: Who should get to go to college for free?

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg jabbed at his more liberal opponents in a new ad airing in Iowa. It doesn't name other candidates, but it's clear he's taking aim at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have pitched plans making free public college available to all.

Updated Friday at 11:04 a.m. ET.

Lawmakers have called for an investigation into a troubled student loan discharge program one day after an NPR report revealed that the program — meant to erase the student debts of borrowers with significant, permanent disabilities — wasn't helping the vast majority of those who are eligible.

Earlier this year, an NPR investigation with WAMU and Oregon Public Broadcasting found deep problems in how school districts report restraint and seclusion. Following that investigation, NPR reached out to educators about their experiences with these practices.

Brent McGinn spent a year early in his career working with students who could sometimes hurt themselves.

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