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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Years ago, in a Brooklyn high school, a door slammed. Christopher Emdin, then a 10th-grader, immediately ducked under his desk. His math teacher accused him of being a clown and sent him to the principal's office.

Emdin wasn't being a clown.

A couple of days before, there had been a shooting just outside his apartment building. He thought the slamming door was a gun shot. His jump for cover was instinctual.

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

Last month, I found myself sitting across from my dad in a nice restaurant in Georgetown, when he popped the question.

"Have you ever thought about law school?" he asked. He's really curious about my plans for when I finish college. "I think you'd make a great lawyer. And then you'd be able to make some money."

Philadelphia's new mayor wants to do something few American cities have done: pass a tax on soda and other sugary drinks.

So far, Berkeley, Calif., has been the only U.S. city to approve such a tax. That measure was aimed at reducing soda consumption (and the negative health effects that go along with drinking too much of it).

High schools around the country are increasingly turning to external, for-profit providers for "online credit recovery." These courses, taken on a computer, offer students who have failed a course a second chance to earn credits they need for graduation, whether after school, in the summer or during the school year.

Graduate students at private universities are asking regulators to consider these questions: Are we employees, or not? Can we join a union?

The National Labor Relations Board recently decided to review its previous position, reigniting debate within the ivory tower.

For Paul Katz, who's three years into a history Ph.D. program at Columbia University, the 15 to 20 hours a week he spends teaching university undergraduates should mean he's an employee. He teaches in addition to conducting his own research.

"Discuss, monitor, and educate."

That's Kortney Peagram's advice to parents and teachers who want to help special needs teens lead an online life. She wrote up some of her experiences as a psychologist working to reduce cyberbullying in Chicago for our friends at NPR's All Tech Considered.

It must have seemed a straightforward way to honor a U.S. Supreme Court justice who was famous for, among other things, prizing straightforwardness. But then people began to titter about the unintended acronym of the Antonin Scalia School of Law — and now George Mason University has tweaked the name.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Governor Bruce Rauner has proposed increased funding for elementary and secondary schools.  But Democrats don't want to add money to a formula they say is fundamentally inequitable. Instead, they're proposing a new way to calculate how much state aid flows to each school district.

When Andrea Diaz was applying to colleges, she got good news and bad news. The good news was that American University, a private four-year university in Washington, D.C., wanted her. The bad news was that it required her to come to campus early to take two summer developmental-level courses in math and English.

"I was traumatized by it," Diaz says, "because I felt that they didn't see in me the potential to do well in college."

When we think of colleges, we imagine sprawling campuses, big-time sports programs, hefty endowments, and massive libraries stuffed with thousands of books.

But the earliest universities were a little less grand.

They were formed before Gutenberg invented the printing press, and before paper was universally available. Books were copied out by hand onto expensive manuscripts made from animal skins.

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

Princeton University's board of trustees has decided that it will not remove Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs and from a residential college, despite student protests over the former president's segregationist views.

It all started with a simple request. In 2006, Cathryn Couch was working as a chef, making home-delivery meals for clients. One day, a friend called and asked: Did Couch have any cooking jobs for her teenage daughter? She didn't, but the friend persisted. So Couch eventually came up with a project: making meals and delivering them to a local homeless center.

ilga.gov

In some Illinois school districts, transgender students are allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, rather than their anatomy. But an Illinois lawmaker wants to change that.

As a bullying counselor, I spend many of my days helping students and teachers handle confrontational behavior — or, as the kids say, drama. But this was a peculiar situation.

It started, as bullying often does, in a school hallway. E says she overhead A talking about her. (Editor's note: Only the girls' first initials are being used to protect their identities, given the sensitivity of the subject.)

It's one of the most basic things in education: seeing the board. Research has shown, over and over again, that if you can't see, you're going to have an awfully hard time in school. And yet too often this simple issue gets overlooked.

Chassy’s payments stayed out of the public eye primarily through a mechanism under fire in states across the nation: The use of private university foundations to discreetly accept donations that would be public record if given directly to the university. In this case, it was the University of Illinois Foundation that administered the Monsanto payments. DISCLOSURE: The University of Illinois Foundation (UIF) administers the gift funds of NPR Illinois.

New Mexico offers stunning ski slopes, high desert vistas and cultural sites, all sights you'll see in the state's tourism campaign called "New Mexico True."

The CIA "inadvertently left" explosive material on a school bus after a training exercise with local law enforcement in Loudoun County, Va., the agency and the country sheriff's office say.

Illinois lawmakers may soon take up the controversial question of which bathrooms should be used by transgender students.

More than half of public school students are members of minority groups, but 83 percent of their teachers are white. Half of students are boys, while three-quarters of teachers are women.

Students can benefit in many ways from having teachers who look like them, but in many schools around the country the math doesn't add up.

On a quiet street in Detroit, light pours into the back windows of the Kirksey home. In the back of the house the walls are lined with textbooks, workbooks and multicultural children's books. It's a home — but it's also a classroom.

Brandon, 8, is wearing pajamas and a paper crown from Burger King. He heads into the back room and pulls a large laminated world map off the bookshelf.

"This is the whole entire map! Michigan," he says enthusiastically pointing to his home state. His two siblings, Zachary, 3, and Ariyah, 1, echo him.

Teachers unions are breathing easier after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a deadlocked vote, rejected an effort to restrict public sector unions from collecting fees from nonunion members.

Set back from the main road, surrounded by trees along the Winooski River, is Vermont's only facility for youths in trouble. The building hardly looks like a jail, but young people come here from all over the state for offenses ranging from shoplifting or selling drugs to felony charges like sexual assault or murder.

When I first visited Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, I was given a tour by a young man named Tyler. To protect their privacy, we've agreed not to use the students' last names or tell you why they're here.

What's the first step of learning?

Paying attention.

Which may be hard for students to do when they're constantly peeking at their phones. So, as the adage goes: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

One app that teachers are embracing is Snapchat. That's the one where you send a video or picture, and then it disappears 10 seconds after you open it.

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

Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois in Springfield, hosted a budget forum last week. And despite receiving no state funding for more than nine months, she had some good news to share with faculty and staff at the forum. 

Ken Yeh is the director of technology at Ontario Christian Schools, a private K-12 school near Los Angeles with about 100 children per grade. Three years ago, the school began buying Google Chromebook laptops for every student in middle and high school.

The students would be allowed to take them home. Yeh says parents "were concerned" about what they might be used for, especially outside of school.

John B. King Jr was recently confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Secretary of Education for the remainder of President Obama's term, succeeding Arne Duncan.

With a slew of pressing issues from pre-K to college debt, I wanted to find out what King thinks he can get done in such a short window of time. Here's our conversation.

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