Pike County calls itself the "pork capital of the world." However, in an area so tied to farming, it might be a bit surprising that a local school district has cut its agriculture education program. I graduated from high school there five years ago, and went back to report on how districts are struggling to pay for activities not tied to the core curriculum.
Education is among the top issues being debated this spring, as lawmakers consider changing the way schools are funded in Illinois. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that something must be done as the state moves into the future.
WUIS/Illinois Public Radio recently caught up with Dr. Paul Reville, an education expert from Harvard University. Reville was an architect of Massachusetts' school reform in the 1990's, and was in Springfield to share his knowledge on overhauling education.
Springfield public schools may start classes later once per week, beginning next school year. But the district is going to garner more public feedback before making a final decision. After district officials spoke with a group of parents, it was clear some are against the original plan of pushing back the start of the school day. Now another option is on the table: early dismissal. Either way - it'd be a redistribution of hours slated for professional development.
Public schools are not allowed to forbid students' right to freedom of speech, unless it disrupts education. But that wasn't necessarily true until a court case from Iowa made its way to the Supreme Court back in the 60s. John Tinker was behind the case, known as Tinker v. Des Moines. He and other students went to school wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. They were kicked out and told not to come back to class unless they removed the bands and the rest as they say, is history.
Charter schools have long been a divisive issue. Supporters say they allow schools to teach kids free of burdensome regulations. Opponents say they take money away from traditional schools. In Illinois this year, those views are colliding. In the final installment of our series, we find out about the fight at the statehouse and what it might mean for charters:
All four of the Republican candidates for governor have said they will make education funding a priority if elected, but they face an uphill battle finding the money to send to schools. Each of the contenders has an unique solution for fixing education funding in Illinois.
First, some background: Illinois is ranked last in the nation when it comes to how much the state kicks in to public education.
Dozens of District 186 employees will be without a job come the end of the school year. A week ago the interim superintendent, Bob Hill, suggested cutting teaching jobs at all levels. On Tuesday he came to the board with further cuts, including in technology and special education.
Most teenagers spend more time on the internet chatting with friends than reading books - let alone poetry. However, the art form has seen a recent resurgence, and in some circles is even considered "hip." In Springfield, 14 area high school students recently competed in the regional version of the Poetry Out Loud contest to recite a wide variety of poems from memory.
In 1984, it cost $10,000 a year to go to Duke University. Today, it's $60,000 a year. "It's staggering," says Duke freshman Max Duncan, "especially considering that's for four years."
But according to Jim Roberts, executive vice provost at Duke, that's actually a discount. "We're investing on average about $90,000 in the education of each student," he says. Roberts is not alone in making the claim. In fact, it's one most elite research institutions point to when asked about rising tuition.
Often times, the strongest advocates for students with disabilities are their parents. Dr. Holly Novak is a member of the group Springfield Parents For Students with Disabilities. On Saturday the group hosts its "6th Annual Disability to Possibility Conference" from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm at Southeast High School.
Springfield District 186 plans to give parents and students a shorter deadline for immunizations and physicals next school year. They'll have to be completed by the 10th day of school, which means around the end of August. That's much sooner than this year's mid-October deadline. Around 500 students failed to comply and some were out of school for up to 3 weeks.
In a mobile classroom — basically a trailer outfitted with a desk and some chairs — music teacher Chris Miller works with a group of active kindergartners dressed in green and khaki school uniforms. He teaches them the basics: musical concepts, artists and styles of music.
"Everybody repeat after me," he says. "Wade in the water." Kids sing back, "Wade in the water."
Monday's ice storm didn’t stop Springfield public schools from holding classes. But it also meant many school buses were late to pick up students. Parents complained of students waiting up to 45 minutes in the cold and freezing rain as buses maneuvered the slick roads. Many took to the district’s Facebook page to hurl insults about the decision to keep school open.
Many people are aware that the Illinois Lottery helps fund schools. But just how much do the proceeds actually help? Well, that's what we aimed to find out:
Most of the money for the state's public schools K-12 come from local sources, like property taxes. The state contributes a large portion as well, and the lottery profits are part of that, but just how much? To find that out, our first stop is the Hometown Pantry at the intersection of Edwards and MacArthur in Springfield.
With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in.
That's because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.
A former Illinois state superintendent of education has been chosen as Southern Illinois University's new president.
The SIU board of trustees announced Monday that Randy J. Dunn will be the university's eighth president, replacing Glenn Poshard. Poshard is retiring in June. Dunn is currently president of Youngstown State University in Ohio.
Randal Thomas is chairman of the SIU board. He says Dunn ``has both the skills and the background to ensure that SIU continues to live up to its mission of providing a quality education.''
A new report has found that Illinois high school graduates are slightly above the national average for Advanced Placement exam scores.
According to a Advanced Placement Program report released Tuesday, 21 percent of 2013 graduates received an AP exam score high enough for college credit. The national average is 20 percent. Scores of three or more out of five are generally eligible for college credit.
It took about a year - but Springfield has officially found a replacement for its previous district 186 superintendent. Jennifer Gill will take over the role on May 1st. She's been a teacher and administrator in the district. She'll be leaving her current role as the director of teaching and learning for the McLean County Unit 5 School District. This interview begins with Gill reflecting on how she became a third-generation educator:
There have been delays rebuilding a tornado-damaged high school gym.
A tornado ripped off part of a wall of Gillespie High School gym last May. Superintendent Joe Tieman says there have been setbacks in the effort to rebuild the gym. He tells The (Alton) Telegraph (http://bit.ly/1ocv2AS ) those include issues with insurance claims, power lines and the harsh winter weather. Tieman says officials thought the gym would be repaired by March, but now it's looking more like May.
Springfield's district 186 is struggling to fill a 5 million dollar gap in the budget for the coming school year. A group of parents and community members say they have an answer to supplementing the district's budget: raise property taxes. But passing a referendum will prove challenging. And if it's going to happen, some say efforts to get the word out need to ramp up now.
When tragedy strikes, politicians often line up to say they'll do something to make sure it doesn't happen again. But the follow-up can lag early promises. That's what happened after the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.
Governor Pat Quinn says expanding Illinois' early childhood education programs should be one of the state's top priorities, but he hasn't detailed how to pay for them. Some lawmakers say Quinn's "Birth to Five'' initiative's success is tied to the ongoing tax and spend debate that's expected to dominate this year's legislative agenda.