Education Desk

The Education Desk is our education blog focusing on key areas of news coverage important to the state and its improvement.  Evidence of public policy performance and impact will be reported and analyzed.  We encourage you to engage in commenting and discussing the coverage of education from pre-natal to Higher Ed:

Dusty Rhodes curates this blog that will provide follow-up to full-length stories, links to other reports of interest, statistics, and conversations with you about the issues and stories.

Additional Education Coverage

About Funders

UIS Senior Photographer Shannon O’Brien

Jamie Anderson grew up in the foster care system. She relies on her 4-thousand-dollar MAP grant to pay tuition at the University of Illinois Springfield. She says she works two jobs totaling 50 hours a week to cover living expenses.

A teacher friend of mine shared THIS ARTICLE about the book "Teach Like a Champion 2.0" with no comment, but the style of teaching described in it is something I'm hearing about more and more, as the wave of the future, especially in charter schools.

If you have time, please read the blog post and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

PARCC Parsed

Sep 18, 2015
Tony Smith
Illinois State Board of Education

News director Sean Crawford quizzes me about what the just-released preliminary PARCC scores do -- and do not -- say about Illinois students.

Illinois State Board of Education

Today, Illinois became the first state to release results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers -- or PARCC -- assessment. It's the new standardized test linked to the Common Core. 

" by US Department of Education / Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Illinois students will get a hint about how they scored on the PARCC test — the standardized test based on the Common Core — when statewide results are announced tomorrow. State officials have warned that scores will be lower than with previous tests. But U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says it’s time for an honest assessment.

Andrew Conneen


There's good news for high school students taking advanced placement courses: Thanks to a new law, they'll get more credit for passing AP tests than before.

Bud Worley

The following interview aired Aug. 20, and provides background and context for our series, Black & White.

I’m Sean Crawford, I’m the News Director here at WUIS, and our Education Desk reporter, Dusty Rhodes, has spent much of her time this summer researching racial disparity in school discipline. Starting next week, we’ll be airing a series of reports -- it begins on Monday. I asked Dusty to give us a preview of what we’ll hear.

So what got you interested in this topic?

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In 2007, Springfield middle schools began implementing a new discipline system that allows teachers to send a kid to the corner for infractions as minor as rolling their eyes. 

Mike Zimmers, president of the District 186 School Board, was principal at Jefferson Middle School when he brought BIST to Springfield. 

Springfield School District 186

Jennifer Gill has been superintendent of Springfield School District 186 only since May 2013, but she is already confronting racial issues in the district. She has chosen a diverse cabinet of administrators, and she has sent key employees to training sessions in restorative practices. Below is an excerpt of our lengthy conversation about race and discipline:

  How did WUIS decide to do this series?

Joanna Klonsky / VOYCE

In May, we reported on the passage of legislation that would limit school suspensions and expulsions, and introduced listeners to some of the young activists who lobbied lawmakers for two years to get the bill passed. This week, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law. Below is the press release from the activist group VOYCE, or Voices Of Youth in Chicago Education. 

Governor Rauner Signs Groundbreaking Law Disrupting “School-to-Prison Pipeline”

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS

If you’ve got a kid in school, chances are you’ve got a handbook with a long list of rules and expectations. But data suggests that, in many schools, enforcement may be unequal, with black students getting more disciplinary actions than white students.

“If you’re an African American male, you’re going to get targeted at Springfield High, regardless. You can be a person who’s into school; they still gonna watch you.”


A researcher on national education issues came to central Illinois this week to give teachers a back-to-school pep talk and to give them ideas on how to improve kids' learning.

John Draper, a former middle school teacher and principal, works for the National School Public Relations Association. It's his job to tout neighborhood schools, and he did plenty of that in his presentation to Macon County teachers this week. 

But Draper also pitched a few ideas that would shake up traditional school calendars. 

If you want your kids to get into an Ivy League school, you might want to read this fascinating story from Fast Company. And btw, my kids call me mom.

Courtesy of Gwen Harrison

Ted Harrison is proud that his son, Malik, plays football for Eastern Illinois University on a full scholarship. But ask Harrison about his son’s history of concussions, and he’s not sure he knows the exact number. He thinks the first one occurred during an afternoon practice early in Malik’s playing career at Springfield High School.

The Harrisons weren't notified by the coaching staff.

“We were alerted by Malik," Harrison says. 

Chicago Tribune reveals info about new science test required for 5th, 8th and 10th graders this year.

Our next-door-neighbor state has legally ended its relationship with the curriculum associated with Common Core.


The highly-touted 25-year-old program that boasts it's more selective than Harvard comes under criticism from its own alums in a new book edited by T. Jameson Brewer.

Courtesy of Funding Illinois Future

Governor Bruce Rauner has approved the portion of the state budget earmarked for public schools. His move yesterday ensures schools will be able to open on time.

The legislation even increases funding for education by more than $200 million dollars over the previous year. But the new money has strings attached.

US CPSC/flickr

A bill awaiting Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature would require Illinois schools to install carbon monoxide detectors.

One Monday morning last fall, some students and teachers at North Mac Middle School in Girard weren’t feeling well. The health teacher, Alan Love, who also happens to be a registered nurse, told superintendent Marica Cullen the school might have a gas leak.


The American Association of University Professors voted today to censure the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the state’s flagship university. Censure is a means of informing the academic community worldwide that the administration of an institution “has not adhered to generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure.”

A couple of years ago, two people in Urbana were hit by darts fired from a blow-dart gun. They weren't seriously injured. That’s not what this story is about.  

The attacks were so random, and frankly so weird, that most people found them humorous. One of those happened to be a middle-school teacher, who posted a comment on Facebook.

Timothy Killeen will make this announcement today, in a speech at the City Club of Chicago. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A plan awaiting Governor Bruce Rauner's signature would overhaul the way schools handle discipline. We wanted to meet some of the young activists behind the legislation. 

Timothy Killeen
Bill Wheelhouse / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Timothy Killeen, the new president of the University of Illinois, met with reporters on the Springfield campus last week. Flanked by the chancellors of the university’s three campuses, Killeen said they were touring the state as part of a strategic planning process that would culminate next spring in a “statement of shared vision.”


May 21, 2015
Milo Skalicky / for WUIS


School administrators are typically too polite to say “Told ya so!” but they have every right to when it comes to the PARCC test -- the new standardized test associated with the Common Core curriculum. The chief complaint about the test, implemented this year, was that it took 10 hours. Schools had to suspend their normal schedules for up to a month at a time, as they shuttled classes into and out of computer labs. One section was given in March, and another in May, making a double dose of disruption.

Students at statehouse.
Joanna Klonsky / VOYCE

A measure that would limit the way schools hand out discipline has made its way through the Illinois legislature and is awaiting Governor Bruce Rauner's signature.

David Wilson / davidwilson1949 via

Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent cut in Amtrak funding drew objections from 16 university and municipal officials on Tuesday morning. 

 Schools as small as Spoon River College and as large as the University of Illinois flagship in Urbana-Champaign rely on Amtrak trains to bring their students to campus. They say the cut would reduce services and negatively affect enrollment at all downstate schools.  

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS-Illinois Issues

These days, it seems like every agency in Illinois is complaining about cutbacks. Public school officials, however, are seasoned veterans, having seen the state slash their funding repeatedly over the past few years. Now, they argue how the pain is distributed.

WUIS Education Desk logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

All signs point to more charter schools in our future. So I got a crash course from Christopher Lubienski. Click below to listen.

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.