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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Ben Woloszyn

About eight years ago, Rebecca Ginsburg established the Education Justice Project -- a program that provides prisoners at the Danville Correctional Center with upper level college courses, workshops and other educational services. Ginsburg is a professor of education policy at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and today, she’s making her second visit to the White House to participate in a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform.

Illinois Issues: A Schooling in Democracy

May 5, 2016
Chicago Public Schools Board of Education

State lawmakers are considering whether school board members in Chicago should be elected — as they are in all other Illinois school districts.

There's no magical spending threshold for student success. Solutions are also complicated by the fact that children with different needs require different levels of support.

To better understand those needs — and what it will cost to meet them — a state can commission what's called an "adequacy study."

Most states have already done at least one.

Michigan is a late-comer. Its first adequacy study is due out this month.

Saying "colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed," Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed licensed owners to carry guns on campus in all but a few buildings.

The "campus carry" legislation, HB 859, would have allowed guns on campuses and in buildings owned by any public college, technical school or other institution, providing exceptions only for areas used for athletic events, dormitories, and fraternity and sorority houses.

When you enter Marissa McGee's classroom, the first thing you notice is her connection with her students. They're delighted by her enthusiasm, they pick up on her sarcasm, and they often double over with giggles when she makes a joke.

And this is kindergarten. So McGee's students — her audience — are 5-year-olds.

"They're easy to please," she says, laughing. "I'm not that funny. I wouldn't even consider myself funny at all."

This rapport is how Marissa McGee works to shape these kindergartners into thoughtful, educated adults.

In Colorado the economy is booming. The unemployment rate is 3 percent. And shiny new skyscrapers are rising all over Denver as revelers pour fistfuls of cash into downtown bars and restaurants.

But no one invited Colorado's public schools to the party.

In 1992, voters in the state amended the constitution with something called the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

Thousands of children in Flint, Mich., have been exposed to high levels of lead in their drinking water, creating problems that could last a lifetime.

A new effort is trying to help those most at risk.

For weeks, teachers and other volunteers from the Genesee Intermediate School District have been knocking on doors in Flint, trying to recruit kids for early childhood education programs that are critical for the youngest victims of Flint's lead-tainted tap water.

These High School Girls Have Something To Cheer About

May 3, 2016

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

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

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.

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