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

Courtesy of Anne Stava-Murray

If you've got kids, you may have gotten the call to come to the school immediately because your child forgot to wear a belt, or lost his asthma inhaler, or argued with his teacher. For some hourly employees, making a quick trip to their kid's school could cost them their job.

But a bill awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature would provide protection for workers who need to attend a parent-teacher conference or any other important meeting at their child’s school.

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Changes in education policy often emanate from the federal government. But one policy that has spread across the country came not from Washington, D.C., but from Florida. "Mandatory retention" requires that third-graders who do not show sufficient proficiency in reading repeat the grade. It was part of a broader packet of reforms proposed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.

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Automation is already here. Robots helped build your car and pack your latest online shopping order. A chatbot might help you figure out your credit card balance. A computer program might scan and process your résumé when you apply for work.

What will work in America look like a decade from now? A team of economists at the McKinsey Global Institute set out to figure it out in a new report out Thursday.

Amazon employees who are filling boxes in warehouses may be the industry's next engineers.

The company announced Thursday that it will spend more than $700 million to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs over the next six years.

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Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is defending a plea deal that he oversaw nearly a dozen years ago as a U.S. attorney in Florida.

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Updated at 1:09 p.m. ET

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

Four year colleges and universities have difficulty recruiting talented students from the lower end of the economic spectrum who can't afford to attend such institutions without taking on massive debt. To remedy that — at least in part — the University of Texas-Austin announced it is offering full tuition scholarships to in-state undergraduates whose families make $65,000 or less per year.

The British Sierra Leonean journalist Isha Sesay led CNN's Africa reporting for more than decade — covering stories ranging from the Arab Spring to the death of Nelson Mandela.

But now, in her first book, titled Beneath the Tamarind Tree, Sesay has a chance to explore, in depth, the story most important to her career and closest to her heart: the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram's 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian town of Chibok.

Americans owe about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. That's about twice the current budget for the Defense Department and around 22 times the budget for the Education Department.

Senator Kamala Harris told the nation a story two weeks ago.

Here is what she said.

And I will say also that — that, in this campaign, we have also heard — and I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History may add drawings made by formerly detained migrant children to its famous collection.

The drawings depict time spent in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some of the children's images appeared to show stick figures with frowns and people on floors under blankets.

Lots of people have student loans: more than 45 million people. They collectively owe about $1.6 trillion.

That is, of course, a lot of debt — but amid all the national debate right now about what to do about it, it's important to remember that not all debt is created equal, and some borrowers are struggling more than others.

Twenty years after two gunmen attacked Columbine High School, the community of Littleton, Colo. remains divided over whether it's time to tear down the site of one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

albertogp123 / flickr.com

The Illinois State Board of Education has decided to review the slate of standardized tests students take, to try to make sure the exams align with each other.

Currently, kindergarteners are evaluated by one test, then elementary students with another, and high school juniors with a third. All those tests measure different concepts, making it difficult to see where the curriculum needs to be improved. 

Amanda Elliott, legislative affairs director with the state board, says the current system causes many districts to implement additional tests.

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Are humans born kind?

We both assumed, as parents of young children, that kindness is just something our kids would pick up by osmosis, because we love them. It's a common assumption.

"We often just expect people to be kind without talking about it," says Jennifer Kotler, vice president of research and evaluation at Sesame Workshop. "We think, 'Oh, you're a good kid. You're gonna be kind.' "

Now, that's not entirely wrong. Humans are certainly born with a capacity to be kind — even leaning toward kindness in many situations.

The University of Alaska System is bracing for a 41% cut in funding it receives from the state, after Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a $130 million line item in the state's budget.

The announcement came last Friday, three days before the fiscal year began on July 1. Dunleavy vetoed roughly $400 million in items in the budget, with education receiving the largest cut.

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Updated Oct. 21

NPR is looking into the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, and we want to hear from educators who currently use, or have used, these methods.

Restraint and seclusion might include holding a student down or secluding the student in a room alone.

A History Of School Busing

Jun 30, 2019

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This story is based on an episode of NPR's Life Kit.

Geoff and Ellie live in a suburban Chicago neighborhood that looks familiar from movies like Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller's Day Off — both filmed in the area.

They have three kids — Nathan, 5, Benji, 11, and Abby, 14 — and they're worried that all three are too into their screens.

An all-too-common experience

At a primary school in a middle-class neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, the students' parents play an outsize role.

Gasoline shortages have collapsed public transportation, making it hard for teachers to get to work. Others skip class to scrounge for food and medicine, both of which are in short supply in Venezuela. Due to low salaries, some teachers have quit.

That's why Karen Benini, the mother of a sixth-grader, often steps in to substitute even though she lacks a teacher's certificate.

PBS NewsHour via / YouTube

Updated at 4:57 p.m. ET

If you have student debt, but never finished your degree, you're not the only one. Millions of people take out loans to start college, but never finish.

These people often struggle to pay back their loans. Does this sound like you? If so, we want to hear your story.

Fill out the form below or by clicking on this link. A producer at NPR may follow up for a story.

We will not publish your name or responses without your permission.

University administrators say the FBI, whose headquarters are shown above, has urged them to monitor some Chinese students and scholars.
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illinoisreportcard.com

Who should pay pension costs for Illinois teachers and school administrators? Currently, the state bears virtually all the cost, leaving the state’s 852 school districts free to negotiate benefits without worrying about the price tag. 

As Statewide listeners heard earlier this month, the education advocacy group called Stand For Children hopes to persuade lawmakers to shift pension costs to districts by integrating them in the new school funding formula. The group’s legislative director, Jessica Handy, calls that an “equity boost.”

This week, we bring you the response from the Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — whose lobbyist, Will Lovett, spoke with our education reporter Dusty Rhodes.

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