Education Desk

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tens of thousands of GED test takers who barely missed the cut may soon receive a diploma, after the company that oversees the test said this week it's lowering the minimum passing score.

Since the new GED was unveiled two years ago this month, complaints have been rising. Students and teachers don't like that the high school equivalency test is now a for-profit venture, that it is more expensive than before and that it is solely computer-administered.

Amherst College Drops Mascot Criticized As Offensive

Jan 26, 2016

Amherst College says it will stop using the controversial "Lord Jeff" as an unofficial mascot following complaints that the character is racist.

The mascot is a caricature of Lord Jeffery Amherst, an English general who proposed giving blankets from smallpox patients to Native Americans.

"Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?" Lord Amherst wrote in one letter, the college says.

In a high school theater in Arcadia, Calif., Amber Zhang and the rest of the teenage cast of a production of Molière's comedic play The Miser gather in a tight circle.

"Everyone say, 'Hey, hey, hey!' " bellows Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, an instructor at Arroyo Pacific Academy. "Helloooo!"

Zhang, cast as a spunky ingénue, throws her body — and pipes — into the exercise.

One month after photos emerged showing cadets wearing white pillowcases on their heads, The Citadel says its investigation found that while 14 cadets may not have meant to be offensive, their behavior warranted punishments — and in some cases, dismissal.

Copyright 2016 Southern California Public Radio. To see more, visit Southern California Public Radio.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For Some Schools, Learning Doesn't Stop On Snow Days

Jan 26, 2016

For kids up and down the East Coast, the snow that piled up over the weekend translates into a day or two without school. But in other parts of the country, snow days are taking on a new meaning.

Students in Delphi, Ind., are expected to log onto their classes from home when schools are closed for snow.

The seniors in Brian Tonsoni's economics class at Delphi Community High School are no strangers to technology — everybody has an Internet-connected laptop or smartphone in front of them in class as they work on business plans.

WIU students demonstrating.
Rich Egger / Tri States Public Radio

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees voted 5-to1 during a special meeting Monday to authorize staff reductions for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.  Staff cuts are just one part of Western’s plan for cutting spending by roughly $10 million due to declines in enrollment and state financial support.

Picture your favorite college professor. Here are some adjectives that might come to mind: Wise. Funny. Caring. Prompt. Passionate. Organized. Tough but fair.

Now, are you thinking of a man or a woman?

A new study argues that student evaluations are systematically biased against women — so much so, in fact, that they're better mirrors of gender bias than of what they are supposed to be measuring: teaching quality.

If you're the parent of a Springfield student, you probably spent the winter holidays reminding your kid to study, or supervising homework projects. That's because this year, final exams began a week after students returned from winter break. District officials didn't plan it that way just to take all the fun out of Christmas.

  When you hear the word ACES, you probably think of kids who make good grades. But in the documentary Paper Tigers, ACES is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as the loss of a parent, that can affect how kids cope with school.

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

In front of one of the colleges at Oxford University, a statue of Cecil Rhodes stands overlooking the campus. Rhodes, a South African businessman, started the De Beers diamond company and went on to become the namesake of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

He was also a colonialist who believed in the superiority of Anglo-Saxons, and he enforced a policy of racial segregation in South Africa.

Now, because of that history, a growing number of students at Oxford say it's time to take down the statue of Rhodes.

The Los Angeles Unified School District welcomed a new superintendent who represents a first for the nation's second-largest school district on Jan.11.

Michelle King is the first African-American woman chosen for the job, heading more than 900 schools in the district. She is also an insider — she has worked in the system for three decades — unlike the string of outsiders who held the job before her.

On campuses across the country, millions of students have an app called Yik Yak on their phones.

It's like an anonymous version of Twitter. But because it's anonymous, it can get ugly and be a breeding ground for hate speech.

Black student leaders across the country have held sit-ins and protests asking college officials to block the app.

Yik Yak, an Atlanta-based social media app, has a presence on more than 2,000 college campuses. Users of the app post comments anonymously, and anyone in within a radius of a few miles can see, share and rate the comment.

This weekend, college hopefuls will line up for the last time to take the SAT.

That is, at least, the current version of the famous college entrance exam. The SAT, which remains a pillar of college admissions, has gotten a serious makeover (its first since 2005), and a new test will roll out in March.

By some accounts, education is a $7 trillion global industry ripe for disruption. Others see it as a sacred pursuit, nurturing developing minds while preserving tradition. Around the world, education means equal rights and opportunity.

People risk their lives for it every day.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois colleges and universities have gone seven months with zero state funding – that includes funding of MAP grants that help poor students pay tuition. Now, some business and labor leader have joined students calling for lawmakers to resolve the budget stalemate. 

WBEZ

Gov. Bruce Rauner says that if Illinois takes over Chicago Public Schools, he'll stand up to the teachers' union on contract negotiations. 

When the first Mac computer came out in 1984, it cost nearly $2,500 and had a floppy drive for storage. In 2016, a spate of computers with a price as low as $5 and a lot more storage are hitting the market, and they may be opening up a new era of experimentation.

Recently, I got a look at one of these low-cost computers — the $9 CHIP, which has 4 gigabytes of storage.

Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed Wednesday after teachers called in sick, en masse, to protest poor school conditions. The latest "sickout" comes a day after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's State of the State address, in which he did not directly address teachers' protests or school conditions.

UIS

Lynn Pardie will step down from the Provost position in May, according to an announcement sent to the university campus today. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The state budget impasse has largely spared public schools, thanks to Governor Bruce Rauner’s decision to fund them for the entire year. But some school districts are still hurting. 

On a recent, chilly Sunday morning, children ranging in age from 4 to 6 waited with their parents in the cafeteria of a Brooklyn school. Each wore a name tag.

The kids chatted cheerfully (in several languages) until each was summoned upstairs to be tested for a spot in New York City's gifted program. Their parents sent them off with hugs and the promise of special treats for doing their best.

President Obama has increased college aid by over $50 billion since coming into office. And he's trying to do more.

Acting Education Secretary John King announced two new proposals today that would expand the Pell Grant program, the biggest pot of federal money for students with financial need:

  • Year-round Pell. Currently, students are only eligible for two semesters of Pell grants in a school year. Today's proposal would allow students to get extra money to cover a third session of, say, summer courses.

Things to know about Stephen Ritz, one of NPR's 50 Great Teachers:

He and his students made bow ties out of Scrabble tiles.

His Bronx classroom, a refurbished school library, has more plants than desks.

He calls the room his National Health, Wellness and Learning Center. It's got tower gardens, gleaming cabinets and counters, an industrial sink and a new, mobile cooking station.

"In this class, we go from seed to tower to table to plate in 20 feet," Ritz says.

Killeen: U of I Is "Fiscally Prudent"

Jan 18, 2016
University of Illinois

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen says he agrees with some of the concerns about excessive spending at public universities raised by an aide to Governor Bruce Rauner.

On Friday, the fifth-graders from Watkins Elementary School in Washington, D.C., gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to recite Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. Each student delivered one line at a small lectern, and then the class sang songs from the civil rights era. This is the 14th year of the celebration.

Listen to a clip here:

At one high school in Maryland, fears of deportation are playing out in the classroom.

In Prince George's County, a suburb of Washington, D.C., about 70 percent of the students at High Point High School are Latino. It's a student population that's prompted the school's principal, Sandra Jimenez, to term it "Central American Ellis Island."

Principal Jimenez says the fear of deportation raids is making many immigrant students scared to come to school, despite assurances from government officials that there are no raids happening at schools.

All over the United States, schools are scrambling to find qualified special education teachers. There just aren't enough of them to fill every open position.

That means schools must often settle for people who are under-certified and inexperienced. Special ed is tough, and those who aren't ready for the challenge may not make it past the first year or two.

Really good teacher preparation might be the difference. At least, that's what the Lee Pesky Learning Center believes.

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