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

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

 The Illinois State Board of Education this week hosted a conversation on possible solutions to the state’s teacher shortage. We discussed the highlights on Statewide.

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has issued another big policy proposal as part of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. This one concerns higher education.

Warren proposes that the federal government write off hundreds of billions of dollars in existing student loan debt.

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The death toll in Sri Lanka is going up after a series of coordinated blasts hit churches and luxury hotels across that country on Easter Sunday.

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More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.

A separate poll of teachers found that they are even more supportive, in theory — 86% agree that climate change should be taught.

Inmates are among the least-educated people in America. That's despite research that shows education is one of the most effective ways to keep people from coming back to prison.

Now, there's renewed interest in giving adults behind bars better access to higher education. A new bipartisan bill in Congress would allow incarcerated people to use federal Pell Grants — designed for low-income students — to pay for higher education, including college classes and workforce training.

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After more than three decades, University of North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has resigned from leading the celebrated program. Her resignation followed an external review that found she made "racially insensitive" remarks, exercised "undue influence" on athletes to play while injured and lacked a connection with her players.

How Effective Are School Lockdown Drills?

Apr 19, 2019

On the morning of her 16th birthday, in her AP music class, Megan Storm thought she was going to die.

The sophomore at Lake Brantley High School in suburban Orlando, Fla., said she heard an announcement over the intercom that the school was in a code red lockdown — it was a drill, but Storm said students were not told that. She and her classmates hid in the dark, behind an instrument locker.

"It was just really quiet. And we all sort of huddled together," Storm said.

Sebastián Hidalgo

 

Johnny Page saw something as a child that no young person should ever see.

“I witnessed my cousin being killed when I was maybe six, seven-years-old,” he said. Page said he was traumatized by the experience. He said he was overcome by a need to protect his family and friends. He became a fighter.  

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education used their monthly meeting Wednesday to host a conversation on possible solutions to the state’s worsening teacher shortage. The board is looking for ways to maintain high quality standards without discouraging potential teachers from entering the profession.

 

Afterwards, the agency’s chief education officer, Ralph Grimm, said there is no single solution.

 

“Two and a half hours of testimony I think really reinforced to the board how deep and structural the teacher shortage issue really is across the state, that its effects are felt differently in different parts of the state, but all over the state,” he said.

Teachers have been protesting for higher wages. In Indiana, lawmakers introduced measures to improve the situation but many teachers say it may not be enough to keep them in the profession.

This story comes to us from Indiana Public Broadcasting.

Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University is known for its adherence to church teachings and for its strict Honor Code, which regulates everything from beards to premarital sex. Student protest is uncommon.

But last Friday, 300 gathered at the school's flagship campus to question its Honor Code Office, chanting, "God forgives me, why can't you?"

Students allege that the university is mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment, especially women and LGBTQ students.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, entered not guilty pleas Monday in federal court in Boston.

Both waived their right to appear in court for arraignment.

Federal prosecutors announced additional charges last week against Loughlin, Giannulli and 14 other wealthy parents. They face one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest-services mail and wire fraud, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

On Thursday, Arizona lawmakers repealed a law that restricted how public school teachers could talk about LGBTQ relationships in health classes.

The Arizona law regulated HIV/AIDS instruction in public schools. Since 1991, it has banned teachers in those courses from promoting "a homosexual life-style," portraying "homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style" or suggesting there are safe ways to have homosexual sex.

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Working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, like Down syndrome or autism, can be complex and challenging even for those with years of training. But one group — law enforcement — often encounters people with these conditions in high-stress situations, with little or no training at all.

Patti Saylor knows all too well what the consequences of that can be.

Her son Ethan, who had Down syndrome, died after an encounter with law enforcement when he was 26. It's a tragedy she believes could have been prevented.

CollegeDegrees360 / flickr.com

Illinois lawmakers today rejected legislation that could have made it easier for former felons to apply for college. Popularly known as a “ban the box” bill, it would have prevented colleges from asking about criminal history on basic application forms.

Once a student is admitted, colleges would still be allowed to consider criminal history for housing and participation in campus activities.

 

But State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), said it was still dangerous.

A new musical explores life in high school in a way that's eerily familiar. It's called Ranked, and it's set in a dystopian world where your class rank — determined by grades and test scores — governs everything from where you sit to what your future holds.

Right now, students across the country are in the process of choosing where to go to college. For many, that decision is closely tied to a school's financial aid offer. But with no current standardization of these offers, letters look vastly different from one college to the next. They're often filled with confusing terms and jargon, and not all colleges define and calculate these terms the same way.

Student athletes in gym
Mark Ambrose

Illinois has 852 school districts — the third highest number of any state in the nation. Some are just single schools, with fewer than a hundred students. But getting districts to merge, or consolidate, has proven difficult.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, one of the largest retailers in the United States which serves millions of active-duty military members and their families, is clarifying a memo sent this week which recommended that stores stop displaying the news on their televisions.

The message, obtained by NPR, told managers, "News channels should not be shown on common area TVs due to their divisive political nature."

Just after 6 a.m., a handful of cars drive down the ramp into the LeConte, the Alaska state ferry docked in Juneau.

The LeConte's destinations that day include Angoon, an indigenous village of 450, and Tenakee Springs, a town of about 150. Both sit on islands with no connection to the state's road system and airports. To get to Angoon or Tenakee Springs from Juneau, you can buy a seaplane ticket for $150, or spend $50 to ride the ferry.

Lee V. Gaines

Melissa Esparza fled her home in west suburban Chicago two years ago. Then 16, she said her parents became physically violent after years of verbal abuse.

 

“One day, my mom and I were having an argument, and it turned into the day that she ended up hitting me, pulling some of my hair out. She punched me, scratched me and I had scratches all over me,” Esparza said.

This time last year, McKenna Hensley had a big question on her mind: Where would she go to college? The answer — sort of — was somewhere in her pile of 10 financial aid offers. Each school she'd been admitted to had its own individualized letter, terms and calculations.

"It was very confusing," the now college freshman remembers.

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