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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How stressful is medical training? So bad that in a class that encouraged medical students to express their feelings by drawing comics, nearly half of them depicted their supervisors as monsters, researchers say.

Google products are growing as ubiquitous in classrooms as dry-erase markers. The most recent numbers show that more than half of classroom computers purchased for U.S. schools are low-cost Chromebooks. And 50 million students, teachers and administrators use Google Apps For Education, a group of tools that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and the purpose-built Google Classroom.

Children's personal information isn't supposed to be an online commodity. But whether kids are using Google apps at school or Internet-connected toys at home, they're generating a stream of data about themselves. And some advocates say that information can be collected too easily and sometimes, protected too poorly.

Every morning, the familiar routine plays out in hundreds of thousands of classrooms: A teacher looks out over the desks, taking note of who's in their seats and who isn't.

On any given day, maybe there are one or two empty chairs. One here, one there. And that all goes into the school's daily attendance rate.

But here's what that morning ritual doesn't show: That empty desk? It might be the same one that was empty last week or two weeks ago. The desk of a student who has racked up five, 10, 20 absences this year.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, used the occasion of their daughter's birth to announce they'll be investing nearly all their fortune, some $45 billion, in good causes.

John Graziano, a second-grader in 1986, was diagnosed with HIV in a Chicago suburb called Wilmette. He had contracted the disease from his biological mother, but he had been adopted by the Graziano family.

"John was one of the first children in the state of Illinois to be diagnosed as HIV-positive," his adoptive father, Tom, remembers. Tom Graziano recently spoke with John's elementary school principal, Paul Nilsen, on a visit with StoryCorps.

After months of negotiations, the battle over locker room access for a transgender student in Illinois ended late last night when Township High School District 211 — about 30 miles northwest of Chicago — approved a deal with the Department of Education.

For nearly three hours, the board met in a closed session — ultimately voting yes on the agreement which allows the transgender student to use private areas within the locker room.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The documentary The Hunting Ground, a searing look at the failure of American universities to grapple successfully with campus rape, has been embraced by CNN and shortlisted for next year's Oscars, while helping to sharpen the focus of college administrators.

For our Tools of the Trade series, we're exploring the iconic, seminal tools that some of us remember using in our early schooling. Things like the slide rule and protractor, the Bunsen burner and the planetarium.

Illinois has not funded its colleges or universities for the past five months. It's easy to overlook that fact, because professors have continued to teach, athletes have continued to compete, and students have continued to learn. But around the state, college administrators are saying they've burned through their financial reserves.

It's almost a decade overdue, but the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law.

Since NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002, the federal government has played a major role in telling states how to run — and reform — their schools. But this new bill signals a sea change in the federal approach.

Last year, Susan Avey, the principal of Bogle Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz., had a heart-to-heart with one of her new teachers about how he was relating to students.

In a previous year, this might have been a conversation based on subjective impressions. The teacher might have gotten defensive. But this year, Avey had a new tool up her sleeve: a survey of her students.

"He came in to talk to me and said, 'I felt like I had really good relationships with kids, but reading my comments, I was surprised that I wasn't rated as highly.' "

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Craig Ferris begins his morning with an unscheduled stop in his black suburban.

"I usually have to come get these guys at least once a week," Ferris says, honking his horn.

Ferris is best known around here as the basketball coach who's led Wyoming Indian High School to four state championships. But he also works for the elementary school as what's called a "home-school coordinator."

The job seems to be equal parts mailman, social worker and taxi driver.

As he prepares to leave office this month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan reunited with a former student as part of a StoryCorps interview project.

More than 25 years ago Duncan took part in a mentorship program run by the "I Have a Dream" Foundation at Shakespeare Elementary School in Chicago. And Lawanda Crayton was one of the young students he mentored.

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Illinois lawmakers are set to reconvene this week, and college presidents are hoping they will make progress toward passing a budget. But even if they do, universities are facing a proposed 30 percent cut. 

A generation ago, a high school diploma could open doors, especially to well-paying manufacturing jobs. But today, with technology radically reshaping the U.S. economy, many of those doors have closed. The high school diploma is as important as ever — but as a stepping stone to a higher degree, no longer as a destination.

Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Anytime there's an innovation in education, often the first question anyone asks is, "Will it scale?"

Sure, you've managed to improve learning outcomes for one classroom, one school, one district. But if you can't reach 50,000 — or 5 million — students, the thinking goes, then it's not real or worthy.

Matt Candler is one person arguing the opposite. And the White House, among others, is listening.

First thing Friday morning, Bill Florence is getting his two kids, Chloe, 11, and Austen, 8, ready to head out the door.

"Did you guys brush your teeth?" he asks. "Yes," they moan.

Monday through Thursday, Chloe and Austen catch the bus to Peralta Trail Elementary School, but today, their dad scoots them into the family's silver Honda.

Diya Abdo, a professor at Guilford College, has launched Every Campus a Refuge, a project that aims to get every college and university campus to host one Syrian refugee family. As Guilford College makes plans for a refugee family to move on campus, North Carolina's governor is now one of a couple dozen who have said they don't want Syrian refugees entering their states, citing security reasons. Abdo and the college are moving forward with the program, despite requests from state legislators to rescind their offer to refugees.

For high school students looking to choose a college, grade-point averages and test scores may weigh heavily on their minds. But campus atmosphere may not be far behind given recent demonstrations on college campuses across the country.

Students at the University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia were the forefront of a wave of protests over racist incidents and the reaction of school officials. For some high school students, those protests make racial relations factor highly in their college search.

How To Talk To Kids About Thanksgiving

Nov 25, 2015

You know the drill: Trace your hand, then add the details. Two feet, a beak, a single eyeball. Color it in, and voila! Hand becomes turkey.

You know the rest too: The Pilgrims fled England and landed on Plymouth Rock. The native people there, the Wampanoag, taught them to farm the land. In 1621, they sat down together for a thanksgiving feast, and we've been celebrating it ever since.

It's a lesson many remember from childhood, but the story has some problems.

Protests over racial discrimination on college campuses are leading to some swift responses and pledges of reform by college administrators. Even as the protests themselves appear to be quieting down ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, activists are pledging a prolonged fight.

Last year, when Jann Peña was in eighth grade at a public school and his little brother was in second grade at a charter school, the little brother got more homework.

That was just fine with Jann, an easygoing 14-year-old who passed his ample free time racing cars on his Xbox. But it was unacceptable to the boys' mother, Jovanka Anderson, a Dominican immigrant who wants to give her children a better life than she has.

After a long stalemate, a bipartisan team of congressional negotiators has agreed to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind, sends roughly $14 billion a year to schools that serve mostly low-income students.

Here's what we know about the rough agreement. First, annual testing — a major feature of NCLB — would remain for grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Schools would still have to test 95 percent of their students and report the results by race, income and special need.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The two births that would change everything for Taylor Delhagen were due to occur 24 hours apart. If all went according to plan, his school would come into being one day, and his first child would arrive the next.

The baby boy's impending arrival had Delhagen contemplating the gravity of his role as a teacher opening a charter high school in one of New York City's poorest neighborhoods: Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Starting A High School From Scratch

Nov 22, 2015

To return to Brooklyn to open a high school, Melissa Jarvis-Cedeño had to make peace with her past.

She remembers the New York City borough as the place where relatives abused her as a young girl, where she lived with her alcoholic mother in a shelter, where she would have done anything to escape. When she finally did get out as a teenager, she vowed never to return.

Does It Pay To Pay Teachers $100,000?

Nov 19, 2015

We're brought up to believe our teachers are modern-day saints.

Just look at how we portray them in the movies and on TV. From Dead Poets Society's iconic Mr. Keating to resourceful LouAnne Johnson in Dangerous Minds, we reinforce time and again that teaching is a noble calling.

These teachers are heroes, we're told. It's hard to imagine them even thinking about money.

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