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

How Effective Are School Lockdown Drills?

Apr 19, 2019

On the morning of her 16th birthday, in her AP music class, Megan Storm thought she was going to die.

The sophomore at Lake Brantley High School in suburban Orlando, Fla., said she heard an announcement over the intercom that the school was in a code red lockdown — it was a drill, but Storm said students were not told that. She and her classmates hid in the dark, behind an instrument locker.

"It was just really quiet. And we all sort of huddled together," Storm said.

Sebastián Hidalgo

 

Johnny Page saw something as a child that no young person should ever see.

“I witnessed my cousin being killed when I was maybe six, seven-years-old,” he said. Page said he was traumatized by the experience. He said he was overcome by a need to protect his family and friends. He became a fighter.  

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education used their monthly meeting Wednesday to host a conversation on possible solutions to the state’s worsening teacher shortage. The board is looking for ways to maintain high quality standards without discouraging potential teachers from entering the profession.

 

Afterwards, the agency’s chief education officer, Ralph Grimm, said there is no single solution.

 

“Two and a half hours of testimony I think really reinforced to the board how deep and structural the teacher shortage issue really is across the state, that its effects are felt differently in different parts of the state, but all over the state,” he said.

Teachers have been protesting for higher wages. In Indiana, lawmakers introduced measures to improve the situation but many teachers say it may not be enough to keep them in the profession.

This story comes to us from Indiana Public Broadcasting.

Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University is known for its adherence to church teachings and for its strict Honor Code, which regulates everything from beards to premarital sex. Student protest is uncommon.

But last Friday, 300 gathered at the school's flagship campus to question its Honor Code Office, chanting, "God forgives me, why can't you?"

Students allege that the university is mistreating victims of sexual assault and harassment, especially women and LGBTQ students.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, entered not guilty pleas Monday in federal court in Boston.

Both waived their right to appear in court for arraignment.

Federal prosecutors announced additional charges last week against Loughlin, Giannulli and 14 other wealthy parents. They face one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest-services mail and wire fraud, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

On Thursday, Arizona lawmakers repealed a law that restricted how public school teachers could talk about LGBTQ relationships in health classes.

The Arizona law regulated HIV/AIDS instruction in public schools. Since 1991, it has banned teachers in those courses from promoting "a homosexual life-style," portraying "homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style" or suggesting there are safe ways to have homosexual sex.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, like Down syndrome or autism, can be complex and challenging even for those with years of training. But one group — law enforcement — often encounters people with these conditions in high-stress situations, with little or no training at all.

Patti Saylor knows all too well what the consequences of that can be.

Her son Ethan, who had Down syndrome, died after an encounter with law enforcement when he was 26. It's a tragedy she believes could have been prevented.

CollegeDegrees360 / flickr.com

Illinois lawmakers today rejected legislation that could have made it easier for former felons to apply for college. Popularly known as a “ban the box” bill, it would have prevented colleges from asking about criminal history on basic application forms.

Once a student is admitted, colleges would still be allowed to consider criminal history for housing and participation in campus activities.

 

But State Rep. Jeff Keicher (R-Sycamore), said it was still dangerous.

A new musical explores life in high school in a way that's eerily familiar. It's called Ranked, and it's set in a dystopian world where your class rank — determined by grades and test scores — governs everything from where you sit to what your future holds.

Right now, students across the country are in the process of choosing where to go to college. For many, that decision is closely tied to a school's financial aid offer. But with no current standardization of these offers, letters look vastly different from one college to the next. They're often filled with confusing terms and jargon, and not all colleges define and calculate these terms the same way.

Student athletes in gym
Mark Ambrose

Illinois has 852 school districts — the third highest number of any state in the nation. Some are just single schools, with fewer than a hundred students. But getting districts to merge, or consolidate, has proven difficult.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, one of the largest retailers in the United States which serves millions of active-duty military members and their families, is clarifying a memo sent this week which recommended that stores stop displaying the news on their televisions.

The message, obtained by NPR, told managers, "News channels should not be shown on common area TVs due to their divisive political nature."

Just after 6 a.m., a handful of cars drive down the ramp into the LeConte, the Alaska state ferry docked in Juneau.

The LeConte's destinations that day include Angoon, an indigenous village of 450, and Tenakee Springs, a town of about 150. Both sit on islands with no connection to the state's road system and airports. To get to Angoon or Tenakee Springs from Juneau, you can buy a seaplane ticket for $150, or spend $50 to ride the ferry.

Lee V. Gaines

Melissa Esparza fled her home in west suburban Chicago two years ago. Then 16, she said her parents became physically violent after years of verbal abuse.

 

“One day, my mom and I were having an argument, and it turned into the day that she ended up hitting me, pulling some of my hair out. She punched me, scratched me and I had scratches all over me,” Esparza said.

This time last year, McKenna Hensley had a big question on her mind: Where would she go to college? The answer — sort of — was somewhere in her pile of 10 financial aid offers. Each school she'd been admitted to had its own individualized letter, terms and calculations.

"It was very confusing," the now college freshman remembers.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

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