Education Desk

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Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent cut in Amtrak funding drew objections from 16 university and municipal officials on Tuesday morning. 

 Schools as small as Spoon River College and as large as the University of Illinois flagship in Urbana-Champaign rely on Amtrak trains to bring their students to campus. They say the cut would reduce services and negatively affect enrollment at all downstate schools.  

To get a really good sense of why Caroline Solomon is a great teacher, you have to go into the field with her. On this particular morning, that means a boat on the Anacostia River.

We're about 4 miles from the campus of Gallaudet University, where Solomon is a professor of biology. She and a student — Anna McCall — are heading in a small boat to take water samples.

The Anacostia is no more than 8 miles long, but it meanders through and around Washington, D.C., past a naval yard, a golf course and I-95, the busiest interstate highway on the Eastern Seaboard.

Only a small number of Boy Scouts make Eagle Scout.

The feat is even harder when you come from inner-city poverty.

Yet for 27 years, Romy Vasquez has successfully encouraged boys from South Central Los Angeles to become Scouts, and he has seen more than a dozen members of Troop 780 go on to reach scouting's highest rank.

His pitch: You want to be in a gang? Scouting is the biggest gang in the world.

"It's global," he tells the Scouts. "We got some in Japan, China, Israel, all over. So guess what? You belong to BSA!"

Rabbi Evan Goodman runs Hillel, the campus Jewish center, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In recent years, he's had to rethink his job.

"Years past, when I was in college," he says, the Jewish organization "was a rabbi at a campus that put up a schedule of classes ... and drew the same 10 students to everything all year."

These days, chances are good that half the Jewish students he works with have a parent who's not Jewish. One in three of them says Judaism isn't his or her religion.

Our story last week about the connection between ADHD, movement and thinking struck a nerve with readers. We reported on a small study in which students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder performed better on memory tasks when they were allowed to spin and move around in a swiveling chair.

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The commencement speech season is underway and recent grads are soaking up the advice and wisdom from speakers across the country.

Last weekend, Michelle Obama spoke at Tuskegee University in Alabama, one of the nation's premier historically black universities. She spoke openly about being black in America.

"There will be times ... when you feel like folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are," she told grads.

"The road ahead is not going to be easy," she said. "It never is, especially for folks like you and me."

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS-Illinois Issues


These days, it seems like every agency in Illinois is complaining about cutbacks. Public school officials, however, are seasoned veterans, having seen the state slash their funding repeatedly over the past few years. Now, they argue how the pain is distributed.

On a sunny spring day at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., students line up at a table grabbing ice cream sundaes, milk and cookies, and, if they're interested, a hug from MIT parents including Sonal Patel.

"Yes!" Patel says, "giving away ice cream and now hugs."

"Oh, I want a hug," a student says, "that will be good."

The event — billed as "Stress Less Day" — is sponsored by the student mental health awareness group Active Minds. Volunteers are handing out fliers listing mental health facts and campus resources.

Sophomore Matt Ossa gets his ice cream and rushes on.

"How well do today's schools prepare for tomorrow's world?"

That's the question in a new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. This group administers the Program for International Student Assessment to 15-year-olds in 75 countries. The goal is to find out whether they can use their math and science knowledge to answer a series of questions that measure skills needed for young people to make a contribution to the economy.

Are you a pen-clicker? A hair-twirler? A knee-bouncer? Did you ever get in trouble for fidgeting in class? Don't hang your head in shame. All that movement may be helping you think.

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Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

All signs point to more charter schools in our future. So I got a crash course from Christopher Lubienski. Click below to listen.

Illinois State Senator Pat McGuire headshot
ilga.gov

High school students taking advanced placement exams know they have to score at least a 3 on a 5-point scale to pass. What they don't know is which Illinois universities will give them credit for that score.

If you've followed education in the news or at the book store in the past couple of years, chances are you've heard of "grit." It's often defined as the ability to persevere when times get tough, or to delay gratification in pursuit of a goal.

Nicole P. Eramo, an associate dean of students at the University of Virginia who handles reports of sexual assault for the school, is suing Rolling Stone magazine over the way she was depicted in a now discredited story.

Eramo has filed suit against Rolling Stone LLC, parent company Wenner Media LLC, and Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the article called "A Rape on Campus," which painted a harrowing picture of a rape and its coverup at U.Va. The complaint was filed in the Charlottesville, Va., circuit court. Eramo is seeking a total of $7.85 million.

Part of our series of conversations with leading teachers, thinkers and activists on education issues

Jordan Shapiro's recent post in Forbes in which he laid out four misconceptions about the future of education, caught my attention because, like much of his work, he tries to take a cattle prod to the conventional education narrative.

Are you a glass half-full kind of person? Or glass half-empty?

Depending on your answer, you'll find the new report on state-funded preschool programs from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University either delightfully encouraging or downright depressing.

For example, glass half-full: Pre-K enrollment is up!

Glass half-empty: It's still pretty low.

The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever

May 11, 2015

It's getting to be that time of the year when students wipe tears from watery eyes, exchange final goodbyes and throw their graduation caps into the sky. In other words, it's graduation season — and that also means the season of commencement speeches.

In the past academic year, four students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken their own lives.

And in the days that followed two of her freshmen classmates' deaths by suicide, 18-year-old Isabel "Izzy" Lloyd noticed something.

"Things just sort of stopped for a week or two and there were people posting on Facebook and sending out emails and Twitter and Instagram and people were saying, 'I care, you can come see me,' " she says.

This weekend, the Class of 2015 graduated from Howard University, a historically black college located about a mile from NPR's headquarters. The new graduates include two of the students who have spent the last semester talking with NPR's Weekend Edition about their college experience.

Leighton Watson and Kevin Peterman are still kind of in denial.

"It's very surreal, because I think a lot of people expect you to feel like you've graduated earlier in the process," says Watson. "But it literally didn't hit me until I was walking off of the stage and out."

Researchers, grant-makers and policymakers have long relied on enrollment numbers for the federally subsidized Free and Reduced-Price Lunch program. They use those numbers as a handy proxy for measuring how many students are struggling economically. The paperwork that families submit to show their income becomes the basis of billions in federal funds.

To be eligible for these programs, a family must earn no more than 85 percent above the poverty line. Just over half of public school students fit that description.

The Harlem Children's Zone is a nonprofit known for its innovative, multifaceted approach to ending the cycle to poverty. It's garnered kudos from President Obama and philanthropists like William Louis-Dreyfus, who recently announced he would donate up to $50 million to the organization.

For most college students May is a happy month: the senior class graduates and summer vacation beckons. But at Sweet Briar College, a women's college in western Virginia, there's little celebration this spring.

The board of directors says declining enrollment leaves them no choice: Classes ended this week for the year and forever.

Walking through Sweet Briar's campus feels a bit like stepping into a 19th century romance novel — lush green hills, chanting cicadas and colorful chirping birds. But this spring, an air of sadness sours the humid southern air.

Part of our ongoing series of conversations with thinkers and activists on education issues

In a year in which we're exploring great teaching, it's a good time to talk with Ken Bain. He's a longtime historian, scholar and academic who has studied and explored teaching for decades, most notably in his 2004 book, What the Best College Teachers Do.

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Univ. of Illinois

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees has voted to give retiring President Robert Easter a bonus as he prepares to retire.

Easter will receive the additional $167,200 even though he is leaving office May 18.

Board Chairman Ed McMillan says the award was performance based and a part of the president's contract.

"So it wasn't a raise it was actually the payment of the performance bonus objectives which was established at the beginning of the year," McMillan said.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate a change in the flow of immigrants arriving in the U.S. from around the world and offer a look at what the nation will look like in the future.

Raised in foster care from the time he was 14, Marquell Moorer was determined to go to college, keeping up his grades and working part time at Dairy Queen to save up money for it.

By the end of his senior year at a high school in Milwaukee, he'd done so well that letters of acceptance started pouring in from not one or two, but 12 colleges and universities.

Moorer was still riding high when another wave of letters started to arrive: the ones outlining how much financial aid he would or would not be offered by each school.

And those proved a lot less clear cut.

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