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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Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Lawmakers considering changing how the state funds public schools heard testimony yesterday from districts that would lose money under a plan currently on the table.

Hear that change jingling in my pocket? Good. I have two little questions for you.

  1. I have a quarter, a dime and a nickel. How much money DO I have?

  2. I have three coins. How much money COULD I have?

The first question is a basic arithmetic problem with one and only one right answer. You might find it on a multiple-choice test.

Whether or not you're a citizen in New York state, you have a right to attend a public high school and earn a diploma until you're 21. That was Pawsansoe Bree's plan after she left a refugee camp in Thailand when she was almost 19.

Florida is poised to become the first state to allow computer coding to fulfill a foreign-language requirement in high school. In a competitive job market, the thinking goes, computer skills are as important as speaking another language.

At SAIL High School in Tallahassee, a 3-D printer whirs away. It's turning PVC pipe into a red, Lego-like piece for a robot.

This is the OctoPiRates robotics club. These students will soon compete in a national contest with their hand-built robot. It features a square, metal frame with eight rubber wheels and a scooping arm.

When Samuel Smith graduated with a master's in engineering from Cornell, he thought the $190,000 in debt he incurred would pay off. But it took him a while to land job at a software firm in Austin, Texas. And now, after paying $1,750 a month in loan payments, rent and food, he says he doesn't have much left over.

He doesn't own a TV and says "it'd be nice to go out for drinks once in a while."

Standing at the foot of Mount Wachusett's slopes, Ray Jackman bends over and hoists Robbie McAllister out of his wheelchair and onto two neon yellow skis.

The teenager squeezes into a thick plastic seat mounted just above the skis.

"OK, there are a bunch of straps," says Jackman as he buckles the crisscrossing seatbelts.

Jackman is a program coordinator at the Massachusetts Hospital School, a state-run facility. It's half school, half pediatric hospital, and all 85 students are patients, with serious, long-term conditions.

"Stronger Together" is not the name of the latest social-media fitness app. It's a grant proposed in President Obama's new budget, reviving an idea that hasn't gotten much policy attention in decades: diversity in public schools. If the request is approved, $120 million will go to school districts for programs intended to make their schools more diverse.

For one day, kids at Milwaukee College Prep's 36th Street campus aren't wearing their uniforms. Instead, they're decked out in suits and dresses for the first-ever Academy Awards of Excellence.

Office administrator Tanya Griffin plays paparazzi by snapping pictures of students, parents and teachers as they step in front of a gold backdrop.

"Who are you wearing?" Griffin asks parents as they make their way down the red carpet — plastic runners taped to the linoleum floor.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Parents in the North Mac school district are asking for the dismissal of superintendent Marica Cullen. 

Champaign College Announces Layoffs

Feb 26, 2016
parkland.edu

Parkland College in Champaign will begin layoffs next week as a result of the ongoing state budget standoff.

Marley Dias is like a lot of 11-year-olds: She loves getting lost in a book.

But the books she was reading at school were starting to get on her nerves. She enjoyed Where The Red Fern Grows and the Shiloh series, but those classics, found in so many elementary school classrooms, were all about white boys or dogs ... or white boys and their dogs, Marley says.

Black girls, like Marley, were almost never the main character.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama a few months ago.

When Taevin Lewis first arrived at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis — a long plane ride from her native Tennessee — she was a little lost.

"I didn't know where to go," remembers the sophomore biology major. "I didn't know where a lot of the offices were."

And it wasn't just the campus map. She didn't know some of the basics of college life: How to sign up for classes, how to sign up for a campus job, how to maintain a checkbook.

public domain

Congress recently authorized a complete rewrite of the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. What does that mean for Illinois?

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Nike co-founder and Chairman Philip Knight has pledged $400 million to Stanford University for a new scholarship program aimed at tackling major global challenges.

csu.edu

Chicago State University has announced the elimination of spring break this year to ensure its students will finish the semester before the school may be forced to close down due to a lack of state funding. 

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

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One cold Monday this month, all the students of Park Ridge High School stayed home: wearing their PJs, munching on pretzels and Oreos, hanging out on the couch.

It wasn't a snow day or measles epidemic. It was the school's first Virtual Day, where in-person classes were replaced with written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.

The idea arose because the school, just north of New York City in Park Ridge, N.J., issued every student a Mac laptop last year, says Tina Bacolas, the school's head of instructional technology.

Book publishers love stories about first-year teachers. The narrative arc is familiar: Exuberant idealism fades as the teacher battles entrenched bureaucracy, stale curriculum and disengaged colleagues or kids. The young educator then tries to overcome despair with creative grit and determination and struggles to make a difference.

The books often teeter between self-promotion and slams against the public education system. Some, however, actually shed light on the yawning gap between reformist rhetoric and classroom reality.

High school students nationwide are filling out college financial aid forms — and it's not just seniors this year.

Some changes are on the horizon to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. For one, the form can be submitted much earlier. One student capitalizing on the early deadline is Isaac Horwitz-Hirsch, a junior at Santa Monica High School.

But Horwitz-Hirsch and his parents, Joshua Hirsch and Ruth Horwitz have found that the new changes to the FAFSA are hard to understand.

"The financial aid part is really confusing," Horwitz-Hirsch says.

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

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Tens of thousands of Tennessee students steadied their clammy, test-day hands over a keyboard several days ago. And, for many, nothing happened.

It was the state's first time giving standardized exams on computers, but the rollout couldn't have gone much worse.

In lots of places, the testing platform slowed to a crawl or appeared to shut down entirely. Within hours, Tennessee scrapped online testing for the year.

The move comes after schools spent millions of dollars to buy additional PCs and to improve their wi-fi networks.

Many middle and high school science teachers are getting climate change wrong.

That's according to the results of a new, national teacher survey backed by the National Center for Science Education and published in the journal Science.

Before we get to those results, a quick, climate science refresher is in order.

NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce says the world's major scientific organizations are now clear on global warming:

Courtesy of IBHE

The budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed yesterday recommends a 16 percent cut to higher education. This year's proposed cut sounds gentler than the 32 percent reduction Rauner recommended last year. But instead of being spread across higher education, virtually all of the pain would fall upon the state's universities.

ACES Too High

Next fall marks the launch of a new school discipline law that limits suspensions and expulsions. To help teachers prepare, the Illinois Education Association brought in Jim Sporleder, an expert in getting even the worst kids to behave.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Public schools were singled out in Governor Bruce Rauner's budget address yesterday as one of the rare state services he’s happy to fund. In fact, he said increasing education funding is the one thing that he will not back down on.

When Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking in 2012, it was a big success. The book made the cover of Time magazine, spent weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list and was the subject of one of the most-watched TED Talks, with more than 13 million views.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democratic lawmakers led a group of college students to the office of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday. They asked him to fund tuition grants promised to low-income students.

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