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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The heated confrontations about race and equality at colleges and universities around the country have some commentators asking if today's culture of protest and political correctness on campus has gone too far.

In 1994, I read a book called Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times. It updated classic fairy tales with politically correct jargon aimed at comically — and of course, ineffectually — minimizing the disadvantages of Red Riding Hood's sight-impaired grandmother or the height-challenged Rumpelstiltskin.

The University of Missouri's Board of Curators has named Michael Middleton, a recently retired senior administrator at the school, as the university system's interim president.

University Of Illinois OK's Salaita Settlement

Nov 12, 2015
Jim Meadows/WILL

On an 8 to 1 vote… University of Illinois Trustees have signed off on an 875-thousand dollar settlement with Steven Salaita.

Over the past few weeks, NPR has featured the stories of 15-year-old girls all over the globe as part of our #15Girls series. These young women are pushing back against parental expectations, cultural norms and economic hardship and taking charge of their future.

Many of you told us you were surprised and inspired by these stories. And lots of you wanted to know more. Below, we've asked our reporters to answer some of your queries.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

Just days after the University of Missouri's chancellor and the system president resigned under pressure from students, another college leader is facing a crucial moment.

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At 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, you'll find Mark Gaither standing on Gough Street in southeast Baltimore. He's outside Wolfe Street Academy, the neighborhood elementary school where he's the principal.

Gaither has a huge umbrella in case it rains, and thick gloves for when it snows. He's here each morning to greet students and families as they come to school — which should make for at least 225 "good mornings."

Illinois Issues: The Racial Achievement Gap

Nov 12, 2015
School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn www.flickr.com/photos/dcjohn/

Why does it persist, even at well-funded suburban schools?

Tim Wolfe is not the first college administrator to come under fire for responding poorly to campus racism. And Wolfe, until this week the head of the University of Missouri System, isn't likely to be the last.

College presidents who have themselves been in crisis have learned there's a right way — and a wrong way — to respond.

When Rosa Coj Bocel was in sixth grade, her parents told her she had to drop out of school so she could help take care of her four brothers. Rosa didn't put up a fight.

"What else can be said? No woman was studying at the middle school level," she told Goats and Soda in an interview translated from Spanish. "So I took it as if it were normal."

But it's what happened in the years after that put Bocel on an extraordinary path — a story that's told in an 11-minute documentary called Rosa — These Storms.

A University of Missouri professor who is seen in a video requesting "muscle" to kick out a journalist from the scene of a protest has given up her journalism appointment.

Melissa Click, an assistant professor in the department of communication, resigned her "courtesy appointment" with the prestigious School of Journalism. The appointment allowed her to review student theses.

Here in Pall Mall, Tenn., you can walk up on the front porch of the Forbus General Store, est. 1892, and still hear Alvin C. York's rich Tennessee accent.

Every day, the older neighbors gather on the store's front porch.

"My grandfather used to cut Sgt. Alvin York's hair," Richard West recalls. "He would pay a quarter. He was a big man, redheaded."

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Our Ideas series is exploring how innovation happens in education.

Almost all college students have a cellphone. They use them an average of eight to 10 hours a day and check them an average of every 15 to 20 minutes while they're awake.

Heavier smartphone use has been linked to lower-quality sleep and lower GPAs — oh, are you getting a text right now?

I'll wait.

Anyway, as I was saying, one professor at the University of Colorado Boulder has come up with a solution to smartphone distraction in one of his astronomy classes.

When two rights that this country holds as fundamental come into conflict, it makes for complex drama.

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Yale University is in turmoil after a series of emails about culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. Some students there are protesting what they say is a hostile environment for students of color. Aaron Z. Lewis, a senior at Yale, speaks with NPR's Audie Cornish.

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Updated 7:50 p.m. ET

Over the weekend, players of color on the University of Missouri football team announced they would not participate in any football-related activities until university system president Tim Wolfe resigned, saying Wolfe had failed to address racist incidents on campus. As many have noted, the players' strike could have cost the university's football program millions of dollars.

This morning, Wolfe resigned.

Our Tools of the Trade series examines iconic objects of the education world.

The 24 juniors and seniors in the astronomy class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., sink into plush red theater seats. They're in a big half-circle around what looks like a giant telescope with a globe on the end. Their teacher, Lee Ann Hennig, stands at a wooden control panel which, appropriately, has enough buttons and dials to launch a rocket.

Updated 6:10 p.m. ET

Amid continued pressure, the University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, both tendered their resignations on Monday.

Wolfe announced his resignation this morning and by late afternoon, Loftin had followed suit, saying he would leave his post as chancellor at the end of this year.

"I take full responsibility for this frustration, and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred," Wolfe said.

Last Thanksgiving, NYU junior Micah Finkelman sat down to dinner with her white, liberal, Ohio family the same week a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Finkelman's parents had watched the dramatic news coverage of clashes between police, protesters, and looters and wondered what to make of the images. Their daughter struggled to explain why the Black Lives Matter movement should matter to them. But now, she's spent a semester in a classroom gathering the evidence to make her case.

A group of University of Missouri faculty plan to walk out of their classrooms for the next two days to "stand in solidarity with the Mizzou student activists who are advocating for racial justice on our campus."

The news comes a day after some football players said they would not play another game until university system President Tim Wolfe steps down.

In 2008, a surge of young voters transformed the political landscape. They were critical in making underdog candidate Barack Obama the Democratic nominee and, eventually, the president. They also helped propel Obama to a second term and gave candidates a crash course in communicating in the digital age. As we get closer to the 2016 election, are candidates successfully reaching young people?

There is a letter that school districts really don't like sending home to parents of special education students. Each state has a different version, but they all begin with something like this:

"Dear Parent, as of the date of this letter your child's teacher is not considered 'highly qualified.' " And then: "This doesn't mean your child's teacher is not capable or effective. It means they haven't met the state standards for teaching in their subject."

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