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

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Paying for college has taken on an entirely different meaning. We've known that wealthy parents can use their influence and their money to get their kids into better schools. But what we heard about yesterday, if true, is egregious and illegal.

Go to college, we tell students. It's a ticket out of poverty; a place to grow and expand; a gateway to a good job. Or perhaps a better job. But just going to college doesn't mean you'll finish. To unlock those benefits — you'll need a degree.

And yet for millions of Americans, that's not happening. On average, just 58 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

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If you're a wealthy family, you certainly enjoy some advantages when you're sending your kids to college.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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Taking Care: The Cost Of Child Care In 2019

Mar 12, 2019

NPR reported over the weekend that the Trump administration’s budget would include increased spending on child care, a policy priority of Ivanka Trump.

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

Federal officials have charged dozens of well-heeled parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, in what the Justice Department says was a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat college admissions standards. The parents allegedly paid a consultant who then fabricated academic and athletic credentials and arranged bribes to help get their children into prestigious universities.

A new father trying to provide for his family. A grandmother finishing what she started more than four decades ago. A man navigating multiple schools, hidden curriculums and financial hurdles. These are just some of the older students working toward a degree in the U.S.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Report: K-12 school funding up in states that had teacher protests

A report released Wednesday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says K-12 school funding is up in four states where significant teacher strikes or protests occurred in 2018.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Urbana school district has been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons — on campus fights. Most publicity has pointed to the district's implementation of a new restorative justice discipline policy, along with a shuffle of administrative personnel, as the causes of the uptick in school violence.

But over the weekend, Urbana’s high schools newspaper The Echo pushed back against that popular narrative in an editorial titled Racism at the Root of Recent Urbana High School Coverage.

Students, teachers, staff and volunteers pose for photo in prison
Karl Soderstrom

Ro’Derick Zavala grew up in Chicago at 21st and State Street — the northern tip of a four-mile corridor lined with 8,000 units of public housing. His mother worked three jobs, including one at Walgreens, where she would pick up the Disney and Hanna Barbera books that inspired Zavala to fall in love with reading at a young age.

That passion should’ve made him a successful student. But on Chicago’s south side, in the 1980s, it was hard to find a safe place to go to school.

The sunrise in rural central Michigan reveals a landscape of neatly divided cornfields crossed by ditches and wooded creeks. But few of the sleepy teenagers on the school bus from Maple Valley Junior-Senior High School likely noticed this scene on their hour drive to Grand Rapids.

They set out from their tiny school district of about 1,000 students, heading to the closest big city for a college recruiting fair. About 151 colleges and universities were waiting.

With guest host Todd Zwillich.

Two years ago, President Donald Trump nominated billionaire Republican fundraiser Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of Education.

Elite colleges are making strides to diversify their student bodies, both racially and economically. In the past few years, we've seen most top schools commit to enrolling more low-income students through financial aid, recruiting efforts and programs for high school students aimed at expanding the pipeline.

But once those students arrive on campus, says Anthony Abraham Jack, they often find the experience isolating and foreign.

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Death first visited me on a Thursday.

I had a brown 'n' serve roll in my hand and a Vesuvius of buttered mashed potatoes on my plate. It was Thanksgiving and my 7th birthday, 1983.

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Talking about death with children is never going to be easy, but the folks who make "Sesame Street" have some ideas about how to make it better. Education reporter Cory Turner has been talking with them and sat down with Rachel Martin.

School Principal Streams Bedtime Stories

Mar 3, 2019

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(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BELINDA GEORGE: It's 7:30, scholars. I'll be starting reading a book in about a few minutes.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. exactly, curled up in her pajamas, Belinda George gets a book and starts to read out loud.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Report: Limited school choice options for Native American students

According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, "Few areas provide American Indian and Alaska Native students ... school choice options other than traditional public schools."

Kankakee Community College

Officials from each of Illinois' public universities traveled to the statehouse this week to tell lawmakers about their leaky roofs, outdated science labs and broken air conditioners, in hopes of getting funding to fix them. It’s part of a push toward a public works program, known in the legislature as a capital bill. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has promised the state will spend billions of dollars in infrastructure improvements, and public agencies are lining up to ask for a piece of that pie.

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Eshauna Smith's TED Talk

Eshauna Smith says we cannot let luck decide the fate of underprivileged youth—we need to make purposeful interventions to create opportunities for all kids to reach their full potential.

About Eshauna Smith

Tina Seelig: Can We Control Our Own Luck?

Mar 1, 2019

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Luck, Fortune, And Chance.

About Tina Seelig's TED Talk

Are there things we can do to increase our luck? Through taking tiny risks, showing gratitude, and being open to new ideas, Tina Seelig says we can capture luck in our everyday lives.

About Tina Seelig

A graduate student's innovative and potentially lucrative idea for getting drugs to the eye is at the center of a lawsuit filed by the University of Missouri system against a former pharmaceutical professor. The school says Ashim Mitra patented the student's idea and sold it in a deal potentially worth millions.

Updated at 3:14 p.m.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Republican lawmakers have announced a proposed tax credit that would go toward donations to private school scholarships and other school choice initiatives.

"A great education shouldn't be determined by luck or by address or by family income," DeVos said Thursday at a news conference.

She appeared alongside Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., who said they plan to introduce the tax credit in Congress.

I know she died, but when is Grandma coming back?

Why is your skin darker than Mommy's?

Why do we live here but Daddy doesn't?

Are you the tooth fairy?

Anyone with kids in their life knows what it's like to be surprised by a tough question. It can come at any time, often when you least expect it: at breakfast, at bedtime or from the back seat.

How To Teach Black History

Feb 28, 2019

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Every February, teachers get out their black history lesson plans. But some struggle with how to engage their students about important issues of race in America on a more regular basis. NPR's Jason Fuller put that question to some educators and researchers.

Courtesy of Illinois State Board of Education

Gov. J.B. Pritzker replaced most of the state board of education this week and appointed a new superintendent.

The board includes seven women and two men. The new superintendent, Carmen Ayala, is the first woman and the first person of color appointed to hold that position full-time.

"It's amazing. It's such an honor, I mean, it still hasn't hit me today,” she said. “Somebody texted and said, ‘You know, Carmen, today you made history in Illinois,’ and I was like wow! That's just amazing. It's an honor."

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools are unconstitutional.

In 2018, on the 64th anniversary of that ruling, a lawsuit filed in New Jersey claimed that state's schools are some of the most segregated in the nation. That's because, the lawsuit alleged, New Jersey school district borders are drawn along municipality lines that reflect years of residential segregation.

This week, millions of students and teachers are taking part in Read Across America, a national literacy program celebrated annually around the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. For over 20 years, teachers and students have donned costumes — often the Cat in the Hat's iconic red and white striped hat — and devoured books like Green Eggs and Ham.

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