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.

Ways to Connect

Sarah Mueller / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Twenty years ago, Illinois adopted a school funding plan that relies heavily on local property taxes, leaving areas with low property values at the mercy of state aid. And for the past seven years, the state has failed to send those schools the full amount of aid promised under that plan.

2 Breakfasts May Be Better Than None For School Kids

Mar 17, 2016

When it comes to school breakfasts, two is better than none, says a new report released Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

http://www.op-cusd187-il.schoolloop.com/

The Illinois State Board of Education yesterday released a report showing that many school districts had improved their financial ratings, despite receiving less state funding. But the news wasn't all good. The board's annual review of financial data showed that most districts were operating more efficiently, but board members pointed out that these efficiencies came at a cost. Almost 60 percent of districts are in deficit spending, and many have been forced to cut fine arts and other electives. State school superintendent Tony Smith says it's not fair to students.

The mathematics problem he solved had been lingering since 1637 — and he first read about it when he was just 10 years old. This week, British professor Andrew Wiles, 62, got prestigious recognition for his feat, winning the Abel Prize from the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for providing a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem.

When we're reporting on special education, we inevitably run up against questions of how we should refer to students with disabilities and to the disabilities themselves.

It's a minefield, comparable to the tensions and complexity of writing about race and ethnicity.

It's important to get it right. As journalists, of course, we want to be accurate. And clear. And we want to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or giving offense.

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

An artificially intelligent computer system built by Google has just beaten the world's best human, Lee Sedol of South Korea, at an ancient strategy game called Go. Go originated in Asia about 2,500 years ago and is considered many, many times more complex than chess, which fell to AI back in 1997.

Low Graduation Rates Among Black Athletes

Mar 16, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

At Southwest Baltimore Charter School, preparing lunch takes a few extra steps.

"We don't use the water from the building for cooking, not at all," say cafeteria worker LaShawn Thompson, shaking her head.

Her colleague, Christine Fraction, points to a large water bottle sitting on the counter of a stainless steel sink.

"We having greens or something like that, we having vegetables, we'll just turn it over into the pan and then put it on the stove," she says.

In Alabama, Teachers School Lawmakers

Mar 15, 2016

Alabama lawmakers face a legislative calendar this year with about 50 — yes 50 — education-related bills.

And many of the people drafting those laws haven't been inside a classroom since they were students themselves.

"People tend to think that they're experts in education because they were educated," says Kira Aaron, an English teacher at Vestavia Hills High School, just outside Birmingham. "And so, since they've sat in a classroom, they know what's going on, and how to best tell us what to do."

K-12 education hasn't exactly been front and center in this presidential election, but Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made some news on the topic this week. Here's how he responded to a question about charter schools at a CNN televised Town Hall meeting:

"I believe in public education and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in privately controlled charter schools."

albertogp123 / flickr.com

One of the few areas that's been exempt from the state's budget impasse -- now in its ninth month -- is public schools, the institutions that prepare children for college. Of course, to get into college, you need to take an entrance exam, like the ACT or the SAT, and that's traditionally funded by the Illinois State Board of Education.

 

But not this year.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Some Illinois districts spend just above six-thousand dollars per student in a school year, while other districts spend more than five times that amount. The difference is due to the disparity in property values across the state, because schools rely on property taxes for funding.

Today is Pi Day, a time to celebrate the never-ending number that helps us calculate the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

public domain

Higher education officials used terms like "starving," "dismantling," and “economic suicide” last week as they tried to persuade state senators to find some way to heal the budget impasse.

Few public high schools in the country have attracted as much shine as Pathways in Technology Early College High School — P-TECH — in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

A large classroom at the school is hung with blown-up color posters of President Obama, smiling with students on a visit to the school in 2013. That year, just two years after its founding, Obama mentioned the school by name in his State of the Union Address:

Before I became a reporter, I was a teacher. After 27 years on the education beat, I've met a few fantastic teachers and a few bad ones. So I've wondered, where would I have fit in? Was I a good teacher?

Recently I went back to the site of the school where I taught so many years ago, just outside Tucson, Ariz. Treehaven was both a day school and a boarding school for so-called "troubled kids."

Marietta College has earned a global reputation for its program in petroleum engineering, drawing students from as far away as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and China to this liberal arts school in southeast Ohio.

In the past, nearly every one of the program's graduates has scored a good job in the surging energy field. But not this year. As the price of oil has plummeted, companies are cutting back on production and expansion, and cutting into Marietta's placement rate.

When I first read Originals I couldn't help but take notes. What I jotted down was essentially a to-do list for how I could be more creative, how I could think up and then communicate new ideas.

But the book — written by Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — is not just a guide for adults.

Its pages are littered with interesting advice on how teachers and parents can encourage and cultivate their kids to be original, too.

The epidemic of opioid abuse that's swept the U.S. has left virtually no community unscathed, from big cities to tiny towns.

In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in this country: more than gun deaths; more than car crashes.

A controversy over a secretly installed data monitoring system is simmering at university campuses across California.

Last summer, hackers broke into the computer network at the UCLA medical center. A few months later, the University of California system's president quietly ordered a new security system to monitor Internet traffic on all UC campuses.

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

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We all know that American college education isn't cheap. But it turns out that it's even less cheap if you look at the numbers more closely.

That's what the Wisconsin HOPE Lab did. The lab, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted four studies to figure out the true price of college.

To get a sense of student realities, researchers interviewed students on college campuses across the state of Wisconsin. But they also examined 6,604 colleges nationally and compared their costs with regional cost-of-living data from the government.

Employers want to hire the best and the brightest to get the job done.

So do terrorist groups.

In Africa, terrorist groups are actively recruiting well-educated boys and girls. The groups want recruits who can be leaders, who know how to give orders, who can boost the brand on social media.

One Kenyan teacher is fighting back — and his efforts have made him a candidate for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which comes with a $1 million award.

Shannon M. O'Brien / UIS Campus Relations

Tim Killeen has been president of the University of Illinois for less than a year. During that time, he has been visiting the system's campuses, holding town hall meetings with the goal of drafting a strategic plan. The Springfield campus hosted the first town hall in November, and when the time came for audience comments, one young professor stood up and bluntly critiqued the plan. Last week, when Killeen returned for another town hall meeting, that brash young professor was sitting on the stage, next to Killeen.

After the meeting, she chatted with me.

By the time they're in elementary school, some kids prove to be more troublesome than others. They can't sit still or they're not socializing or they can't focus enough to complete tasks that the other kids are handling well. Sounds like ADHD. But it might be that they're just a little young for their grade.

A new study confirms what many Americans already knew deep in their hearts: We're not good at math.

Not only that, but when it comes to technology skills, we're dead last compared with other developed countries.

The PIAAC study — the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies — looks at the skills adults need to do everyday tasks, whether it's at work or in their social lives.

nokidhungry.org

The National School Breakfast Program provides free, federally funded breakfasts to school kids.  But a recent study found nearly half a million Illinois kids who qualify are missing out.

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

Yes, You Can Still Teach Kids To Love Books

Mar 8, 2016

The Internet has not killed the book.

For film critic David Denby, this wasn't immediately obvious. He would watch young people hunched over their phones — on the subway, in coffee shops, walking down the street — and wonder: Are kids still learning to read books?

Denby, who is best known for his work in The New Yorker, went back to high school to find out. He describes his experience in Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives.

Pages