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

Teaching Thanksgiving

Nov 24, 2019

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Many of us have celebrated or will celebrate Thanksgiving at school like this.

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Minnesota Dept. of Ed via ProPublica

The Illinois State Board of Education is encouraging anyone with information about abusive time-out rooms or restraints in any school setting to share that information directly with the agency. The request comes in the wake of a report earlier this week by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of instances of children, usually with special needs, placed in seclusion in their schools.

Kevin Rubenstein, president of a statewide group of special education administrators, told the board to expect to hear even more stories.

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Hateful graffiti, racist slurs shouted at students, the sharing of a white supremacist manifesto - a dozen racist incidents are roiling Syracuse University.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: What do we want?

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While many Americans are watching the impeachment hearings play out on television screens, some are learning about it in classrooms.

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First, we're going to talk about an event on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., that's caused an uproar. Not so much about what happened during the event but about how student news organizations decided to cover it.

NPR Illinois

Several media and legal organizations spoke out at a University of Illinois Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, saying university policy is impeding reporting on sexual assault at the school.

In August, an NPR Illinois and ProPublica investigation found the university had protected multiple professors accused of sexual harassment. Reporters reviewed a total of seven cases.

The U.S. Department of Education agreed to hand over department records late Thursday to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House education committee, just hours before Scott was set to subpoena Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for the records.

The information relates to the Education Department's unwillingness to fully forgive the federal student loans of borrowers who say they were defrauded by for-profit colleges, including the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges.

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In her private testimony, she says she felt threatened by President Trump. Today, Marie Yovanovitch will be able to tell the public why.

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When Elle Simone Scott was a young girl, her family relied on food stamps and her school's free lunch program to get by.

"At several points in my life, receiving free lunch when I needed it the most, it was so beneficial for me," she says. "You know, it was sometimes the most complete meal that I and some of my friends would have in a day."

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Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Teachers and educational support personnel in the Springfield School District approved a new two-year contract last night by a vote of 422 to 150.The package includes annual 3 percent raises for teachers and 4.25 percent for support personnel over each of the two years of the contract.

Christine Sanders, a teacher assistant at the Early Learning Center and a member of the bargaining team, said there's a reason support personnel got a higher percentage raise.

For the fourth time in history, Congress is considering impeaching the president of the United States. For teachers around the country, it's an opportunity to explore concepts and skills that are often relegated to textbooks.

We asked social studies teachers from around the country how — if at all — they're using this teachable moment, navigating the nationally polarizing topic and trying to sidestep the often asked question, "What do you think?"

McConchie in office
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Illinois has more than 850 school districts, and most of those stop at 8th grade, or serve only high school students. State Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Lake Zurich), has proposed legislation that would give such districts three years to merge to become “unit” districts — the kind that serve all grades.

“I actually have a K-8 district that feeds more than one high school district,” he says. “And some of the experts that I’ve talked to, when I tell them that, they just look at me kind of incredulously and say, ‘How do they even establish a curriculum appropriately?’ ”

A regular drumbeat of mass shootings in the U.S., both inside schools and out, has ramped up pressure on education and law enforcement officials to do all they can to prevent the next attack.

Close to all public schools in the U.S. conducted some kind of lockdown drill in 2015-2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Two colleges in Kentucky offer something that most university administrators can only dream of. Berea College and Alice Lloyd College charge students nothing for tuition.

While each developed unique business models that don't transfer easily to other schools, they do have some tips to help reduce the price of college tuition. More precisely — two tips and one caution.

Free college since 1892

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Summer Kriegshauser is one of 150 students in the inaugural class of the University of Maryland, Baltimore's Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics, the first graduate program of its type in the country.

This will be Kriegshauser's second master's degree and she hopes it will offer her a chance to change careers.

When Rhonda Gonzales was in college in the early '90s, the term "first-generation" wasn't part of her vocabulary. Sure, she was the first in her family to go to college and she did have a sense of discomfort on campus — not quite fitting in. But it wasn't something she advertised, or even identified with, and no one else on campus seemed to care much, either.

There's new evidence that girls start out with the same math abilities as boys.

A study of 104 children from ages 3 to 10 found similar patterns of brain activity in boys and girls as they engaged in basic math tasks, researchers reported Friday in the journal Science of Learning.

"They are indistinguishable," says Jessica Cantlon, an author of the study and professor of developmental neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

If a school resource officer wants to question a student about a criminal act, they first have to notify the student's parents. That's according to a new law implemented at the beginning of this school year.

But State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego), says at least one district has already created a workaround. 

"The resource officer's dog, a K-9 unit, was walking through the parking lot and alerted on a student's car. The student got questioned with the resource officer present. They looked at the car, there was nothing there,” Kifowit says. “And the parent was never notified of this questioning until the student came home upset."

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Oklahoma is home to one of the largest Native American student populations in the country. A new charter school hopes to better serve these kids by promoting Indigenous identities in the classroom. As Caroline Halter of member station KGOU reports, it's part of a growing movement.

America's top public universities, known as flagships, are generally the most well-resourced public universities in their respective states — think the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Springfield teachers are headed back to the bargaining table after their union, the Springfield Education Association, voted last night to reject the latest proposal from School District 186. Although the district made an offer that included raises, only 300 union members voted to accept the contract, while 448 voted against. 

Larry Hale, a member of SEA’s bargaining team, said they're asking the school board for more than just money.

"I was in there counting votes. The number one issue is safety and security. We've had several talks with them, but there's no teeth to what they tell us that they're going to do and all they are are talks," he said. 

A New Alphabet Song

Nov 3, 2019

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This is probably the very first song you ever learned.

ELI YOUNG: (Singing) A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

CHARLI SUCGANG: (Singing) H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P.

LOGAN NGUYEN: (Singing) Q, R, S, T, U V.

RAMONA HOPKINS: (Singing) W, X, Y and Z.

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