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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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.

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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.

U.S. Education Secretary John King announced findings of fraud against 91 separate campuses of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges at a press conference in Boston today.

"Corinthian was more worried about profits than about students' lives," said Secretary King.

Kelly Henderson loves her job, teaching at Newton South High School in a suburb west of Boston. But she's frustrated she can't afford to live in the community where she teaches: It's part of the 10th most expensive housing market in the nation.

"For people in the private sector, they're probably saying 'Oh poor you, you can't live in the community where you work, what's the big deal?' " says Henderson, 35. "And I guess part of the nature of public education and why it's a different kind of job, is that it's all-consuming — as it should be."

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

The video, taken at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., went viral last fall: A school safety officer flips a desk to the floor with a girl seated in it, then flings her across the floor. The student is African-American; the officer is white.

On any given weekend, the Washington, D.C., public library system offers nearly a dozen classes. You can try Matt McEntee's class, where he'll teach you how to fix anything from a clock to a broken heart. Maybe you're interested in creating a photo book, or you'd like to get better at Microsoft Word?

Kansas Campuses Prepare For Guns In Classrooms

Mar 22, 2016

Next summer, in addition to textbooks, laptops and double-strength coffee, Kansas college students will be able to bring something else to class: guns.

By July 2017, all six state universities plus dozens of community colleges and technical schools must allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

The reason for the change was simple: to make schools safer.

Making Sense Of Alzheimer's At School

Mar 19, 2016

Greg Kintzele is a amiable, blonde seventh-grader from Denver who was always close with his grandmother. They would hike together in the mountains in Colorado where they live, and play a lot of games, too. Especially Scrabble.

"She'd always come up with all these words and I'd be like, 'Is that a word?' and then she'd be like, 'Oh yes it is. You can check it in the dictionary," Greg says.

And usually she was right.

Then he noticed his grandmother starting to change. Her mood became sharper and she couldn't seem to remember the grandson she'd known for a decade.

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