Education Desk Blog

Education Desk
6:02 am
Tue April 14, 2015

Plan That Would Allow Ex-Felons To Work In Schools Gets Support From Conservatives

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)
Credit Illinois General Assembly


Current state law prohibits people with felony records from working in a school, or volunteering, or even driving a truck that makes deliveries to a school. But a measure pending before the Illinois House of Representatives could change that.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy — a Chicago Democrat — sponsors the legislation.

"What we operate under now is based on the assumption that someone with a criminal history is always a criminal, and never eligible to return to productive society,” she says.

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Education Desk
11:01 am
Fri March 27, 2015

"Everyone Is Ignorant, Only In Different Subjects"

Will Rogers
Credit Will Rogers Institute

That headline is a quote from Will Rogers. It was on a poster I had hanging in my bedroom as a kid, and I took it with me when I went to college. It's been my favorite quote forever. And today, here's a column by  Fareed Zakaria that provides some stats for that. It's an interesting perspective. Check it out.

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Education Desk
1:09 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

ISBE Responds To School Budget Cuts

Illinois State Board of Education will have $97 million to distribute to school districts most affected by the unexpected 2.25 percent cut in the current fiscal year budget, expected to be adopted this week. But Mary Fergus, spokesperson for the board, couldn't say how those funds would be distributed. Instead, she offered this statement:

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Education Desk
5:48 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

State Board Hears Advice On Restructuring School Funding


As Illinois struggles with public school funding, state officials received some expert advice today:

You have a rare opportunity; don’t mess it up. 

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Education Desk
1:50 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Foundations Help Fill School Funding Gaps

In 2014, students at Mt. Carmel High School performed "Grease." This year, they will perform "Mary Poppins."
Credit courtesy of Mt. Carmel High School

Rehearsing her students for the big spring musical, Kim Mandrell has crossed two huge worries off her list: She's decided not to have Mary Poppins fly - and this year, for the first time ever, she doesn't have to fret about the safety of the audience.

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Education Desk
2:55 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Educators Not Celebrating Governor's Budget Gift

Bruce Rauner - File photo
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

One of the few areas not threatened with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget ax today was public school education. But at a conference of school leaders, reaction was lukewarm. 

This is a story you have to hear. Click below to listen:

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Education Desk
5:08 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Purvis Appointed As Illinois Education Czar

Beth Purdis addresses the Alliance Leadership Summit, just a few hours after being appointed education czar for Illinois.
Credit Dusty Rhodes

Governor Bruce Rauner was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a meeting of public school leaders today in Springfield. Instead, he sent his new education czar.  

Beth Purvis, a member of Gov. Rauner's transition team, had been in office just about two hours. In fact, her exact title hadn't been determined. But for the past 10 years, Purvis has been the CEO of the Chicago International Charter School. 


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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
9:48 am
Mon February 9, 2015

Alabama Uses Pepper Spray In Schools

Police officers have used pepper spray at least 110 times in Alabama public schools, often for infractions of school rules (disrespectful comments, minor skirmishes) rather than actual criminal behavior. The decision on a class-action lawsuit that would allow police to continue this practice is expected today.

Read the story here:

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
2:47 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

New Measles Outbreak Focuses Attention On Parent Choice

A preschooler displays his band-aid after getting a vaccination.
Credit Dusty Rhodes


Five babies at a day care center in Palatine, a northwest suburb of Chicago, have the measles. These infants were vulnerable because they are all under the age of 1, and therefore too young to get the measles vaccine. It’s the latest in a rash of cases that have shown up in about a dozen states -- focusing new attention on families who choose not to vaccinate their children.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
11:47 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Springfield School Board Examines Amended Budget



The Springfield school board took a close look at its budget Monday night, and discovered that it’s either $3 million in the black, or $3 million in the red.


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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
9:14 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Is The CPS v. PARCC Fight Really Just Mayoral Politics?

That's the take from Mike Klonsky.

Read more HERE

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
7:12 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

Feds Outline Possible Consequences for Chicago Public Schools' Effort To Delay PARCC Testing

In mid-January, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet decided to take a stand against the Common Core test known as the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), announcing that it would be administered in only 10 percent of CPS schools and asking for a one-year delay in fully implementing the test.


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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
10:29 am
Fri January 23, 2015

Manar Incorporating 'Constructive Criticism' From Suburban Superintendents In New Draft Of Bill

Senator Andy Manar, pushing for an overhaul of school funding, shared a draft of his revised bill with the Associate Press. Click HERE to read the story.

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
2:56 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Chicago Public Schools CEO Opts Most Schools Out Of PARCC

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has declared that only 66 of her 6,000 schools will participate in PARCC testing this spring. That's because the kids don't have enough access to technology to do their best on an online test. HERE's the Chicago Tribune story. She does plan to fully-implement the test next year, and continue with the Common Core curriculum.

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
10:06 am
Thu January 22, 2015

New Chair Sworn In At ISBE

James Meeks
Credit Illinois State Board of Education

When the Illinois State Board of Education met yesterday in Springfield, there was a new chairman running the agenda.



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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
9:11 am
Thu January 22, 2015

School Funding Fight Set To Resume In Senate

Senator Andy Manar spoke to supporters of his bill at a rally in the state capitol in December 2014.
Credit Dusty Rhodes

When it comes to funding public schools, Illinois ranks near the bottom for equity. Legislation designed to change that stalled last session. Lawmakers are revising it to try again.

To understand the differences in school funding across Illinois, consider this partial list of art classes available at New Trier Township High School, in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka.

There’s ceramics, drawing and painting, glass art, photography, sculpture, video art, and even animation.

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illinois Issues - Education Desk
8:30 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Poll Reveals Springfield Students' Feelings About School

Click HERE to see the complete results for District 186.

And check back for data specific to each school.

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
2:06 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Controversial Dismissal Of Steven Salaita Will Not Be Reconsidered

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees announced today that its previous decision not to hire Steven Salaita was final and will not be reconsidered. 

Last summer, Salaita had been offered, and accepted, a tenured position at the U. of I., but the Board of Trustees refused to approve his hiring after learning that he had posted numerous tweets criticizing Israel during the conflict with Gaza. Some of these tweets used profanity, and U. of I. Chancellor Phyllis Wise deemed some of them "hate speech."

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
2:28 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Bill Sets Criteria For State Takeover Of Failing School Districts

Heather Steans
Credit WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just before leaving office yesterday, now-former Governor Pat Quinn signed a slew of bills. One of those bills spells out when the state can take over a school district. 

Before this bill became law, the Illinois State Board of Education was theoretically required to intervene when any school district spent at least three years on the academic watch list. That’s about a hundred districts, but the board has neither the resources nor the desire to take such drastic action in so many schools.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
9:34 am
Tue January 13, 2015

In-depth Look At Illinois' Chinese Student Population

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has more Chinese students than any other university in the nation. The journal Inside Higher Ed takes an in-depth look at what life is like for these students, and how they're changing UIUC. The comments that follow are also interesting reading.

I worked on the UIUC campus for three years, and this article taught me things I did not know.

Illinois Issues - Education Desk
10:25 am
Mon January 12, 2015

Differentials: How Universities Charge Higher Prices For Certain Majors


For the first time in two decades, the University of Illinois plans to hold basic tuition rates steady for the upcoming school term. But that proposal, adopted by the U. of I. budget committee on January 5, comes with a caveat.


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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Introducing The 'Education Desk' Blog

Credit 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor's note:
January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative." 

Dusty Rhodes

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
12:14 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

UI Chancellor Responds To Salaita Report

Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Here is Chancellor Phyllis Wise's full statement in response to the report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure's analysis of the university's handling of Steven Salaita's dismissal:

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
8:48 pm
Tue December 23, 2014

UI Faculty Association President Calls Salaita Report A Game Changer

Bruce Rosenstock


  Bruce Rosenstock, president of the Campus Faculty Association at the University of Illinois, said the report released today by the school’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure is a “bombshell and a game changer” that will force university officials to revisit their decision to not hire controversial professor Steven Salaita.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
1:00 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

IIAA Teaches Life Skills Through Sports

Two teams warm up for a match in the IIAA state volleyball tournament.
Credit Dusty Rhodes


Watching her daughter play volleyball, April Standage sounds like any good sports mom. She keeps an eye on the refs, she encourages the players, and she keeps a mental tally of the score. And like any good sports mom, she would much rather watch the game than talk to a reporter.

It turns out that Standage has loved sports all her life. Starting in middle school, she played volleyball and basketball, threw the shotput and discus, and ran the 4-by-200 in track. Her 15-year-old daughter, however, is just now discovering sports. 

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
7:08 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Springfield Schools Are Prepped for PARCC

The PARCC test is designed to be given on computers or tablets, though there is a pen-and-paper version available.
Credit Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons


Illinois schools are preparing to implement a new standardized test based on the Common Core standards. Some school districts have pleaded with state officials to delay the implementation of the new test, but Springfield school officials say they're ready.

Educators refer to this new test as the PARCC test. That’s the acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s a standardized test, designed by the Pearson company, that will be given to most Illinois students beginning in March.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
6:21 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Illinois Set To Test Common Core Standards

Christopher A. Koch, superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education, says opting out of PARCC is not an option.

If you want to get an idea of how controversial the new Common Core standardized test is, consider this: The number of states that have legalized marijuana use (23) is double the number of states that have agreed to use this test (11). Only eight of the 11 states signed on have agreed to use both the elementary and high school portions of the test. Illinois is one of these states.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
10:48 am
Fri November 21, 2014

School Funding Testimony Taken At Capitol

State Senator Andy Manar speaks to supporters of his school funding bill at a rally in the capitol prior to the committee hearing.
Credit Dusty Rhodes

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education held a lengthy hearing this week on a bill that would drastically change the way Illinois distributes state education funds. Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Senator Andy Manar of Macoupin County, would send more money to schools where property values are low, while decreasing the amount sent to schools in wealthier Chicago suburbs. 

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
4:06 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Springfield School Officials Prepare For Ferguson Decision

District 186 administrators received this memo to prepare teachers to handle any reaction to the decision of the grand jury regarding the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown

The grand jury decision is expected any day now in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. In anticipation of that announcement, Springfield school officials have issued instructions on how to handle students' reactions.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
6:02 am
Fri October 31, 2014

"Growth" Graph Is New Gauge Of Illinois Schools

Here's a glimpse of how one local elementary school is performing as compared to the district and state averages.

Illinois new report cards on public schools become available online today. But parents hoping to find a simple snapshot of how their kids' school measures up might be in for a surprise.

Thanks to a federal waiver received in April, Illinois schools are no longer judged by whether students have achieved "adequate yearly progress" -- the standard set by No Child Left Behind.

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