Education Desk

It was early September and Vincent Flewellen had just wrapped up his day teaching at Ladue Middle School.

“It was a pretty day,” Flewellen remembered. “I had a great day here at Ladue Middle School. I was really in a good mood.”

But Flewellen knew he could be in for a heavy night.

Less than four weeks had passed since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown. And Flewellen, who is African American, was on his way to an event at Saint Louis University designed to help teachers unpack complicated issues of race and class.

flickr: EdenJanineJim

Getting more kids into pre-school might not solve all the problems, but there is mounting evidence that it can help ensure a child gets off to a good start. 

However, some communities struggle to get more youngsters into early learning.  

The Education Coalition of Macon County has studied the issue there and found some pressing needs when it comes to early childhood education. 

Sarah Bjelland is the group's Research and Data Manager.

The Papers Of Abraham Lincoln

With the rise of computers and electronic communications, educators have all but written off penmanship. And kids who don’t learn to write cursive tend to have trouble reading cursive. 

Last week, I went around torturing teenagers. I handed them a copy of a letter, written on stationery from the Executive Mansion and dated April 5, 1864. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Horace Mann.

It was especially challenging for 18-year-old Edwin Robles. 

“I’m sorry, I’m really bad at cursive. Like horrible at it," Robles said. "Why? Is this like a test?”

flickr/dcjohn

Bet many of you didn’t know that the state of Illinois has the power to take over your local schools.

As in - fire school board members - even those you and your neighbors voted for. As in put a new superintendent in place. But two years ago - it did just that.

The state took over two school districts. One in East Saint Louis. The other in North Chicago...a low income and racially mixed suburb wedged between more the tony North Shore and Waukegan.

KOCH: You have to take actions when kids aren’t getting the basics. And that’s certainly what’s happening here.

Stephen Smith

The Science Of Smart

Schools across the country are trying new ways to teach based on brain science. Teachers say current techniques are failing, but new approaches can help students learn more deeply.  

Until recently, we didn't know much about the best ways to learn. Now that's changing. Over recent decades, experts working in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience have opened new windows into how the brain works, and how we can learn to learn better.

WUIS Education Desk logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

REGISTER TO ATTEND

Residents are encouraged to share what they see as the top education issues affecting Illinois at the next WUIS/Illinois Issues Forum on Education September 27, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.  The forum will be in the WUIS Suggs Performance Studio on the UIS campus. 

UIS.EDU

University of Illinois trustees on Thursday approved a $5.64 billion budget for the current fiscal year. That's an increase of $11.1 million, or .2 percent.  

University President Robert Easter said the small increase reflects in part of the university's hope that it can keep students costs from rising too rapidly. A year on campus at the flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign costs a student more than $20,000.  

The vote by the Board of Trustees approving the new spending plan was unanimous and made without comment.  

Jim Meadows, WILL

University of Illinois trustees on Thursday voted not to hire a professor whose anti-Israel Twitter messages were deemed anti-Semitic by some, raising the likelihood of a lawsuit and further campus protests.  

Steven Salaita, who last year accepted a job to begin teaching this fall in the university's Native American Studies Program, has threatened legal action if the university rescinded the offer. His attorneys have said if he isn't hired, they'll go to court to try to get an injunction to force the university to hire him.  

apple.com

Students at Decatur public schools will each have their own iPad or laptop to use. That's the goal the district has set for the coming two years. Elementary schools will have 1-to-1 iPads, middle schools will have a mix of iPads and laptops, and the two high schools will use laptops. At Eisenhower High School it's already taken place - with each student having their own MacBook Air.

SethSawyers/Flickr

An internet event next week is aimed at reaching out to parents in the state. 
The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois PTA have teamed up to offer their first Back To School webinar on Tuesday September 9.   It will feature the state superintendent and others giving parents more details about changes in schools.  That includes new learning standards and tests.

The mayor of Springfield has no authority over the public school district.  But with so many campaign promises dependent on growing the city's tax base and population, District 186's image is pertinent in the race.

Those who have announced a bid for mayor include the incumbent Mike Houston, Sangamon County Auditor Paul Palazzolo and City Treasurer Jim Langfelder.

The WUIS Education Desk asked all three candidates about their views of the district, including how to deal with revenue problems.  

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

District 186 students are back in the classroom on Monday.  They will see some changes,  including all Springfield public schools observing a one hour early dismissal every Wednesday. Bus routes will run an hour early and after-school programs are available on those days. The district also has a new superintendent, Jennifer Gill. She joined us for this interview about how budget cuts will affect students, why she's hoping to focus on the district's drop-out rate, and more: 

WUIS/Lee Strubinger

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.

Marketplace

On May 2, WUIS held an engagement event at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.  It featured Chris Farrell, Economics Editor for the Marketplace programs and Business Week. 

He touched on several education related topics and gave his views. 

"I think education and local economic development are two sides of the same coin," Farrell said. "When someone says what should we do to grow our economy, simply say education."

Wikimedia Commons

  Spring is budgeting time for schools in Illinois. Over the past few years, school officials in poorer districts have had to cut staff and programs in order to balance their checkbooks.

Declining state funding, coupled with decreased property values have resulted in a double-whammy shortfall, especially in districts that aren't property-wealthy to begin with.

Many local school districts would be 'winners' under a plan to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois. That includes Springfield District 186.

IGPA

Illinois budget cutting has targeted higher education for more than a decade.   But a professor who has studied funding for colleges says it actually leads to more state financial problems.
 

Walter McMahon is a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Illinois.  He says more investment would serve the state well in the future.

McMahon's column below on higher education spending is part of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs' Illinois Budget Policy Toolbox.

Courtesy of Harvard University's Graduate School of Education

  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.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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.

Chris Farrell headshot
APM

Join WUIS in an important community conversation at the first 

A WUIS ENGAGE BREAKFAST
May 2, 2014, 8-9:30 a.m.
Hoogland Center for the Arts - Theatre III
AUDIO SPECIAL COMING SOON!

Special guest, Chris Farrell, is coming to Springfield to share his thoughts and take your questions about education and our local economy.   

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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:

Brian Mackey/WUIS

  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.

As the state legislature threatens additional cuts to local schools, education officials are firing back. Some say taking more money away from students would be morally reprehensible.

sps186.org

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. 

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

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.

flickr/LizMarie_AK

Illinois lawmakers are considering what steps police should have to take before questioning kids at school.

The legislation would basically make police read kids their Miranda rights — that they can remain silent, and anything they say can be used against them in court.

It would also make police notify parents they have the opportunity to be present during questioning.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, calls it a "student bill of rights."

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."

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