Education Desk

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.

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These High School Girls Have Something To Cheer About

5 hours ago

A group of high school girls are chanting. You could call it a cheer. But it's definitely not your typical high school cheer:

"I need my freedom, I want my rights, the right to education, the right to choose and the right to grow into the woman I want to be."

Welcome to the Sekenani Girls Secondary School, located in Kenya's Maasai Mara, a world famous game reserve known for its rolling grasslands, giraffes and safari jeeps. But not for schools.

Imagine your bright young son or daughter comes to you, high school mortarboard in hand, and says, "Mom, Dad, I'm not going to college next year." What's your reaction?

If you're the commander in chief or first lady, the answer is, reportedly, supportive. Their older daughter, Malia Obama, made headlines this week by announcing that she would put off matriculating at Harvard University until 2017.

It turns out that this decision is becoming more popular at Harvard and around the country.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More than 90 Detroit public schools were closed Monday because of a teacher "sickout" over pay.

The public schools will run out of money after June "unless Michigan lawmakers approve hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term aid," Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek tells our Newscast unit.

Without that longer-term funding, teachers who spread their paychecks throughout the year would not get paid for work they had already done.

Cwiek reports:

Alex McCray was in the news a lot last week — he was on TV, in the newspaper, and here on NPR Illinois -- because he had reached a settlement with the Williamsville School District expanding services for transgender students.

 

Here's a more extensive talk with McCray, and with David Root, superintendent of schools for the Williamsville-Sherman school district.

Sleep has a big impact on learning. And not just when you do it in class. Sleep deprivation affects memory, cognition and motivation, and the effects are compounded when it's long-term.

In 13 states, parents and school districts are suing, saying schools aren't getting enough money to serve the needs of students.

In no other state are the courts more baked in to school funding than in Kansas, though.

There, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the latest funding case within the next week. If justices don't approve of the legislators' fix to the system, the court could shut down public schools on June 30.

Ending months of speculation, the White House has announced that Malia Obama will attend Harvard starting in Fall 2017.

A statement from the office of the first lady reads: "The President and Mrs. Obama announced today that their daughter Malia will attend Harvard University in the fall of 2017 as a member of the Class of 2021."

The Kansas Supreme Court gave state lawmakers an ultimatum:

Make school funding more equitable by June 30, or it will consider shutting down the state's public schools.

Since then, things have gotten ugly.

Lawmakers followed up with a plan — to make it easier to impeach Supreme Court judges who attempt to "usurp the power" of the Legislature or governor.

There's a long-held debate in education. " 'Do you fix education to cure poverty or do you cure poverty to cure education?' And I think that's a false dichotomy," says the superintendent of Camden schools in New Jersey, Paymon Rouhanifard. "You have to address both."

That can be expensive.

In 1997, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state's school funding formula was leaving behind poor students. It ordered millions of dollars in additional funding to 31 of the then-poorest districts.

It's a well-worn (if not-entirely-agreed-upon) idea that college makes people more liberal. But a new report adds a twist to this: the most educated Americans have grown increasingly liberal over the last couple of decades.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 WSHU Public Radio Group. To see more, visit WSHU Public Radio Group.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

There are many qualities of a great teacher. Two big ones? Kindness and a willingess to make learning fun. At least that's what Marlem Diaz-Brown's fourth-graders say.

For our 50 Great Teachers project, we've searched all over for teachers like her. Which brought us to Sunset Elementary School in Miami ... and "Mrs. D-B."

So we're about halfway through our 50 Great Teachers project, and we've been looking for ways of shaking it up. We've done photo essays, web comics and videos.

These endeavors brought us to our latest idea: Instead of us reporting the story, let's let the kids do it.

Once we found a great teacher — Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown in Miami — we had to be sure she was willing to let us take over her fourth-grade class. And she was.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited Auburn High School this morning. Rauner told students the main reason he was in their gymnasium was to thank their teachers for doing the most important job in the America. But he also promoted his plan to increase school funding statewide by about $50 million.

 

That plan would end up costing some needy districts millions of dollars, while adding funds to wealthier areas, because the money would be funneled through a formula widely described as the most inequitable in the nation.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This winter, high school junior Jameria Miller would run to Spanish class. But not to get a good seat.

"The cold is definitely a distraction," Jameria says. "We race to class to get the best blankets."

Because the classroom has uninsulated metal walls, Jameria's teacher would hand out blankets. First come, first served. Such is life in the William Penn School District — an impoverished, predominantly African-American school system situated among Philadelphia's inner-ring suburbs.

Ed Yohnka

The bathroom Alex McCray used during his sophomore year at Williamsville High School was small, dark, subject to extreme temperature fluctuations, and inconveniently located. Near the end of his junior year, he asked school administrators to allow him to use the boys' bathroom. McCray, who was born female, has identified as male for several years.

The latest results of the test known as the Nation's Report Card are in. They cover high school seniors, who took the test in math and reading last year. The numbers are unlikely to give fodder either to educational cheerleaders or alarmists: The average score in both subjects was just one point lower in 2015 compared with the last time the test was given, in 2013. This tiny downtick was statistically significant in mathematics, but not for the reading test.

But even though the changes are small, chances are you're going to be hearing about them in a lot of places.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Courtesy of Shannon Bumann

When a member of the military is laid to rest, the funeral traditionally concludes with three volley shots and the playing of "Taps" -- a bugle call that dates back to the Civil War. But finding a musician available to perform on short notice can be a challenge.

A  student in Woodhull, Illinois, about 20 miles north of Galesburg, inspired legislation that could make it easier. 

jhs117.org

Jacksonville High School sports teams will likely continue seeing red.

An advisory committee found little interest in changing the teams' "Crimsons" nickname.

But the (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports  the group suggests developing a standardized "J'' on jerseys and clothing.

Committee chairman Craig Albers says no one suggested dropping "Crimsons" but modifying it with "Knights" or other mascot-suitable character.

The way Daphne Patton remembers it, it was more money than she'd ever seen.

It was 1990, and the Kentucky Supreme Court had declared the state's school funding system unconstitutional. Within a year, a lot more money started flowing to the poorest school districts, a 50 to 60 percent increase in their budgets.

Patton, an elementary school teacher from Wolfe County in eastern Kentucky, says schools had an abundance of resources, "everything we needed."

It was 1993 when Massachusetts Gov. William Weld declared: "A good education in a safe environment is the magic wand that brings opportunity." The Republican was signing into law a landmark overhaul of the state's school funding system. "It's up to us to make sure that wand is waved over every cradle," he added.

With that, Massachusetts poured state money into districts that educated lots of low-income kids, many of which also struggled to raise funds through local property taxes.

As the state budget stalemate drags through its 10th month, school funding has emerged as one of those pivotal issues that has the potential to coerce lawmakers into compromise. After all, neither party wants to be the reason that schools don’t open in the fall. But there’s a big battle brewing over the question of how we should fund schools.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

It’s official: Governor Bruce Rauner today signed legislation that provides a bit of relief to state colleges and universities desperate for funds. 

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