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

As the recent college admissions scandal is shedding light on how parents are cheating and bribing their children's way into college, schools are also focusing on how some students may be cheating their way through college. Concern is growing about a burgeoning online market that makes it easier than ever for students to buy essays written by others to turn in as their own work. And schools are trying new tools to catch it.

Texas Tech University's medical school has agreed to end its consideration of race in selecting candidates for admission, an outcome actively sought by the Trump administration.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center submitted to pressure from the Education Department's Office on Civil Rights, which had conducted a 14-year probe into the use of affirmative action in admission policies at the medical school. The agreement is the first reached by the administration and a school to stop using race as an admissions factor.

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Temporary employees fill a very specific need at a specific time, and they can give employers flexibility. But what happens when those temp workers are working at the highest levels of the U.S. government?

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Updated at 5:07 p.m. ET

Thirteen parents and one coach charged in the college admissions scandal will plead guilty, federal prosecutors announced Monday. One of the parents is Felicity Huffman, the actress who is among the best known of the wealthy individuals arrested in the cheating case that broke last month.

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We've heard a lot in recent weeks about the cheating that happens to get kids into college, but schools are also focusing on how students may be cheating their way through school. There's a lot of concern specifically about students who don't do their work; instead, they buy ghostwritten essays online. Here's NPR's Tovia Smith.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: It's not hard to understand the temptation; the pressure is enormous, the stakes high, and for some students, college-level work is a huge leap.

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George Mason University looks like any other big college campus with its tall buildings, student housing, and manicured green lawns – except for the robots.

This Northern Virginia university recently set up several dozen meal delivery robots from Starship Technologies to make it easier for students to access food.

George Berzsenyi is a retired math professor living in Milwaukee County. Most people have never heard of him.

But Berzsenyi has had a remarkable impact on American science and mathematics. He has mentored thousands of high school students, including some who became among the best mathematicians and scientists in the country.

I learned about Berzsenyi from a chance conversation with a scientist named Vamsi Mootha.

We asked teachers and students to put on their headphones and turn their ideas into sound for our first-ever NPR Student Podcast Challenge — and boy, did they. We got nearly 5,700 entries, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Podcasts that explored climate change. Podcasts about gun control and mental health. About great books and mythology. Hedgehogs and history.

Teachers and their students at 1,580 schools participated: all told, roughly 25,000 students nationwide.

Six Democratic senators, including two presidential candidates, sent a letter to the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday demanding that the agency prove it is policing the companies, known as servicers, that the government pays to manage its trillion-dollar, federal student loan portfolio.

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When California started authorizing charter schools in the 1990s, it created some rules around the system. But they were purposely limited.

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For some students, there's a new way to pay for college. It's not alone. It's not a grant or a scholarship. As Jacob Goldstein from our Planet Money podcast reports, it's a bit like students are selling stock in themselves.

Jim Bare didn't used to spend his Friday evenings watching math videos. But then again, he didn't used to be a college student.

Bare is one of 13,000 adults who enrolled last fall in Tennessee Reconnect, a state-led program that gives free community college tuition to almost anyone over age 25 who doesn't yet have a college degree.

A coalition of state attorneys general is suing the Trump administration for weakening the federal nutrition standards for school meals that are fed to about 30 million children across the country.

Tom Magliery / flickr.com

Every baby born in Illinois could get a tiny college savings account under a plan that passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday. The proposal comes from the state treasurer’s office, as a way to  encourage families to start planning for their children's college education.

Beginning in 2021, each baby born or adopted in Illinois would automatically receive a 529 college savings account with $50 deposited by the treasurer's office.

Wall of framed board member head shots
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

A few months ago, the Illinois State Board of Education voted to ask lawmakers for $15.6 billion to fund public schools. Now, a newly appointed board wants to change that request, to ask for just under $9 billion.

These board members were appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, so it's no surprise that the $8.9 billion request they’re proposing aligns almost perfectly with Pritzker's budget.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi midshot
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Graduate students who work as research assistants alongside university professors could win the right to go on strike. Current law excludes them from being counted as employees. But a proposal to change that (HB253​)   was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives last week.

Several Republican state representatives argued giving them that right would raise college costs. State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) argued the measure could eventually lead to higher tuition prices for undergraduates.

 

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If you're naming top colleges, you might not think of the City University of New York right away. It's not selective — it serves what one former official called "the top 100 percent." It also has a pretty low graduation rate.

But if you look deeper, at metrics like diversity and sheer number of lives changed, then CUNY can make a strong case.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Confronting Racism.

About Howard Stevenson's TED Talk

What does racial literacy look like in today's social climate? Howard Stevenson talks about navigating racially stressful encounters, and how it's actually an acquired skill-set.

About Howard Stevenson

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Confronting Racism.

About Monique Morris's TED Talk

Black girls are disproportionately punished more often in schools. Monique Morris says schools should be a place for healing rather than punishment to help black girls reach their full potential.

About Monique Morris

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Confronting Racism.

About Travis Jones's TED Talk

Travis Jones examines the "codes of whiteness" that keep many people from engaging in conversations on race. He says white people need to take a more active role in confronting racism.

About Travis Jones

For the second time in as many years, the nation is in the midst of a frenzy over who gets to sleep in the extra-long twin beds at a tiny fraction of highly selective colleges and universities. Last year, it was a lawsuit over Harvard University's admissions process, particularly its treatment of Asian-Americans.

With Rainbow Butterfly Unicorn Kitty on one side and bulbous-headed Fart Ninjas on the other, the gender divide was impossible to avoid at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City back in February.

The light-up Barbie mermaids vying for space with Gatling-style foam-dart blasters in Manhattan's Javits Center raised a question: Have toys really progressed since our grandparents' days? And how do the toys we play with shape the people we grow up to be?

Duke University is paying the U.S. government $112.5 million to settle accusations that it submitted bogus data to win federal research grants. The settlement will also bring a $33.75 million payment to Joseph Thomas, the whistleblower who drew attention to the fraud when he worked for Duke.

Thomas, a former Duke lab analyst, sued the university on behalf of the federal government, saying that a Duke researcher fudged data to help the university win and keep lucrative grants from two agencies, the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Courtesy of Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School

Illinois lawmakers are considering a variety of bills that would change the requirements to earn a teaching certificate.

 

Right now, to become a licensed teacher in Illinois, you have to pass at least three tests.

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