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

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer will not face prison time after pleading guilty to accepting bribes as part of a sweeping college admissions scandal that grabbed national headlines and shocked the U.S. higher education system.

Lonnie Bunch III's interest in the past began with an incomplete story. His grandfather, a sharecropper-turned-dentist, would read history books to him, and Bunch would wonder why the pictures of black children contained little detail — why the captions simply read "unknown children" or "anonymous."

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Sam Dunklau / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Illinois Governor J-B Pritzker is starting to act on the flurry of bills sent to his desk in the wake of this year’s spring legislative session. Among the first that he’s signed requires schools to provide a minimum of five hours of learning time.


The University of Alabama has released a series of internal emails regarding mega-donor Hugh Culverhouse Jr., saying the documents back the university's contention that its rejection of Culverhouse's $21.5 million gift had nothing to do with his stance against Alabama's strict abortion law. Culverhouse had also called for prospective students to boycott the university.

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This year, NPR held its first Student Podcast Challenge — a podcast contest for students in grades 5 through 12. As we listened to the almost 6,000 entries, we smiled, laughed, and even cried. Students opened their lives to us with stories about their families, their schools and communities and their hopes for the future.

Updated at 5:02 p.m. ET

The University of Alabama's board of trustees has voted to return a $21.5 million gift from Hugh Culverhouse Jr. — the school's biggest donor — and take his name off its law school. The move comes after Culverhouse urged businesses and prospective students to boycott the university and the state over Alabama's new abortion law.

High school students who stock shelves and bag groceries at Walmart now have more than just a paycheck to look forward to.

The giant retailer is adding several new education benefits with an eye toward high school student employees. The company will pay for ACT and SAT prep courses, allow students to schedule hours around the school day and offer up to seven hours of free college credit.

Courtesy of Lincoln Elementary School in Pana, IL

The legislative session that wrapped up a few days ago was dominated by debates over weighty topics like preserving abortion rights, legalizing recreational cannabis sales, and changing the income tax structure of the state.

But out of the spotlight, some comparatively smaller changes were considered for the public education system.

Every time Jennifer Tidd's son was secluded or restrained at school, she received a letter from his teachers. Her son has autism and behavioral issues, and over three years — from 2013 to 2016 — Tidd got 437 of those letters.

"I see this pile of documents that's 5 inches tall that represents hundreds of hours of being locked into a room, and I feel, you know, horrible," Tidd says.

She's sitting in her living room in Northern Virginia, her head hanging over the stack of papers. Tears are in her eyes.

A scientist walks up to a cottonwood tree, sticks a hollow tube in the middle and then takes a lighter and flicks it. A jet of flame shoots out from the tube.

It seems like a magician's trick. Turns out, there's methane trapped in certain cottonwood trees. Methane is the gas in natural gas. It's also a powerful greenhouse gas.

So how does it get inside towering trees like the ones on the campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee?

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of Planet Money's newsletter. You can sign up here.

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Ethics is something the world's largest tech companies are being forced to reckon with. Facebook has been criticized for failing to quickly remove toxic content, including the livestream of the New Zealand mosque shooting.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OLD TOWN ROAD")

LIL NAS X: (Singing) I'm gonna take my horse to the old town road. I'm gonna...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Oh, my goodness. History was made last night at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Indeed, it was. Round after round, these incredible contestants kept getting it right until this announcement came.

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Chris Chen 陳依勤 / Flickr Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0

Illinois school teachers may see a salary bump thanks to legislation poised for passage in the legislature. In education circles, this measure is nicknamed the “40k bill,” because it would make $40,000 the minimum salary for teachers by the time school starts in fall 2023. That means salaries would begin ramping up in fall 2020, to a minimum of $32,000.

Juan Ignacio Sánchez Lara / Flickr Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When Illinois overhauled its school funding formula almost two years ago, it took so much time and effort that lawmakers built in a provision designed to make changes easier in the future. It shows up near the end of the 550-page law, with the creation of the Professional Review Panel — a group of stakeholders and experts empowered to recommend recalibrations of the law.

 

But a measure moving through the legislature now, would recalibrate the Review Panel itself, by giving Gov. J.B. Pritzker power to appoint a chair and vice-chair.

The 2018 arrest of Vermont teenager Jack Sawyer raised some big legal questions. Among them: At what point does a thought — or even a plan — become a crime?

Copyright 2019 Vermont Public Radio. To see more, visit Vermont Public Radio.

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A version of this story was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.

They are popular. They are controversial. And now, video games have just become an internationally recognized addiction.

On May 25, the World Health Organization officially voted to adopt the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases, or ICD, to include an entry on "gaming disorder" as a behavioral addiction.

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It was sunny and cold on Feb. 13, 2018, when 18-year-old Jack Sawyer walked out of Dick's Sporting Goods in Rutland, Vt., with a brand-new pump-action shotgun and four boxes of ammunition.

The next day, Valentine's Day, Sawyer took his new gun out for target practice.

Around the same time, about 1,500 miles away in Parkland, Fla., a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Updated July 26

College is expensive. And juggling classes, work, and all of life's other challenges can be difficult.

NPR's education team is putting together a how-to guide — in podcast form — on navigating college when you're paying yourself. It's for Life Kit from NPR.

So, college students and recent grads: What are your best tips for paying your way through college? What's your best advice for other students trying to make ends meet?

Tell us by filling out the form below.

As colleges and universities across the country report an explosion of mental health problems, a new book argues that college life may be more stressful than ever. Dr. Anthony Rostain, co-author of The Stressed Years of Their Lives, notes that today's college students are experiencing an "inordinate amount of anxiety" — much of it centered on "surviving college and doing well."

Michigan State University's board of trustees unanimously voted to name Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. the 21st president of MSU during a special meeting on Tuesday morning. His term begins Aug. 1.

Stanley has been president of Stony Brook University in New York since 2009.

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In Missouri last week, there was a graduation ceremony.

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All the typical things you would expect for the graduation - you know, caps and gowns and a stage and even a brass band - but this ceremony was different.

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