Education Desk

Illinois State Senator Pat McGuire headshot

High school students taking advanced placement exams know they have to score at least a 3 on a 5-point scale to pass. What they don't know is which Illinois universities will give them credit for that score.

Women are underrepresented in some academic fields because of stereotypes that make it seem that they are not as brilliant as men, according to a recent study produced by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Princeton University.

President Barack Obama
The White House

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address included a proposal to grant free tuition for some community college students. Dubbed America’s College Promise, it’s the kind of idea that had a chorus of Illinois officials lining up to sing its praises.

Bruce Rauner
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:

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. 


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:

A group of volunteers are working to bring a skill to youth in the juvenile justice system that could give them an edge in the workforce.

Tinkerers and the technologically savvy have been using 3-D printing for years to make models, parts and just about anything. The printers rapidly manufacture items from a set of instructions. They typically render in plastic, but they can make things out of metal and other materials, too.

That's the take from Mike Klonsky.

Read more HERE

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.


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.

  Even as Illinois runs ever shorter on cash, the board of education is asking for $730 million increase in state funding.

Illinois' superintendent of schools is well aware of the state's financial strain. Christopher Koch has been in charge as over the past several years, the state has failed to come through with all the money it's supposed to give to meet local district's basic needs.

But, Koch says, "education is the smartest investment we can make in the economic future of our state."

Incoming University of Illinois system president Timothy Killeen says he's negotiating to begin his new job earlier than his official July 1 start date.  

Killeen tells the Chicago Sun-Times ( he'll be a regular presence on the University of Illinois campuses ``and the start date might move forward.'' Killeen is replacing the retiring university President Robert Easter. He didn't give an exact date but says he hopes to start work in late spring.  


Community Colleges do more than simply of for-credit classes.  They are a place where personal enrichment can be discovered. 

Jamie Stout is the Community Education Director for Lincoln Land Community College. She joined WUIS' Sean Crawford to talk more about some of the offerings, ranging from culinary classes to ghost hunting. 

Jamey Dunn headshot 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Listen to Dunn's interview about her column with Rachel Otwell: 

Sexual Assault: The Nationwide Campus Crisis Hits Home In Illinois

Nov 1, 2014

Veronica Portillo Heap became an advocate for sexual assault survivors as a sophomore at the University of Chicago. She got an email from a group of students organizing The UChicago Clothesline Project, which offers survivors a chance to tell their stories on T-shirts in an annual art installation. Portillo Heap was not a survivor herself, but she thought getting involved as an organizer with The Clothesline Project would be worth her time.

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

This story is the third part of A Teachable Moment, a three-part series that profiles how issues raised by events in Ferguson are being discussed in classrooms across the St. Louis region.

In Riverview Gardens High School’s library, students have formed small groups. For many of the kids here, peaceful demonstrations and at times violent clashes between police and protesters weren’t just on TV; they were down the street, around the corner or in their backyards.

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

This story is the second part of A Teachable Moment, a three-part series that profiles how issues raised by events in Ferguson are being discussed in classrooms across the St. Louis region. 

From pulpits to protests, a wide cross section of St. Louis’ religious leaders has been deeply involved with demonstrations following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9. And for some teachers at religious schools in St. Louis, talking with students about the protests in Ferguson and Brown’s death is about more than education -- it’s a matter of faith.

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?”


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


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. 


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.

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.


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.