Education Desk Blog

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The Education Desk is the education blog for our Illinois Issues initiative.  The initiative focuses on key areas of news coverage important to the state and its improvement.  Evidence of performance of public policies and their impact will be reported, analyzed, and delivered to you through digital, broadcast, and print media.  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.

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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.
Credit isbe.state.il.us

Illinois students are scheduled to take the new Common Core test this spring, despite a growing chorus of parents and educators opposing it. 

To get some idea of how controversial the 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 -- just 11. Of those 11, only eight 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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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
4:33 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Illinois Provides Data On Schools Via Award-Winning Report Card

The website gives data by school, by district and for the state as a whole.

When you think of a report card, you think of a basic form that provides average test scores and little more. But the new online report cards for each Illinois public school offer more granular data, such as teacher retention and principal turnover rates, the percentage of high school freshmen deemed "on track" for graduation, and even survey results for how safe students feel at school.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
6:28 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Task Force Hopes To Help Turn Students Into Good Citizens

Illinois is one of only 10 states where students are not required to take a civics course. A task force of legislators and educators now recommends that students learn not just the history of government, but how to participate in it. 

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
6:10 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Are Computer Keyboards Killing Cursive?

Teens we showed this letter to had trouble reading because it was written in cursive.
Credit 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?”

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
5:09 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Springfield Faculty Takes Stand on Academic Freedom

Steven Salaita held a press conference at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on Sept. 9.
Credit WILL

The University of Illinois Springfield Campus Senate today/Friday passed a measure aimed at protecting academic freedom.

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Illinois Issues - Education Desk
3:57 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

UIS Faculty Tackles Resolution On Academic Freedom

Steven Salaita speaks at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the summer.
Credit WILL

On Friday, the Campus Senate of the University of Illinois at Springfield will take up a strongly-worded resolution written in the aftermath of the Board of Trustees' controversial dismissal of Steven Salaita. 

He's the professor whose job offer at the university's main campus was rescinded after his critical and sometimes profane tweets about the Israeli conflict with Gaza.

UIS Senate chair Jorge Villegas said the resolution is in response to the Board's position that tenure comes with a requirement of civility.

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Education
3:34 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Quinn Lays Out Ed. Initiatives But Doubts Arise

Governor Quinn spent much of his State of the State address on Wednesday addressing education. He says investing in education is a sure way to grow jobs as well as the economy. It's a sentiment that's hard to argue with. His focus on early education was an echo of President Obama's own emphasis on the subject in his last two State of the Union addresses, and Quinn has also previously pushed the idea of making pre-K more widely available. New this year though, Quinn says he wants to double the amount of MAP scholarships offered, which help low-income students attend state universities.

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Pensions
11:48 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Unions Sue Over Pension Law

Credit wuis

Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.  

The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.  
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.  

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UIS
9:52 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Decision Made: UIS Will Remain 'Prairie Stars'

uis.edu

The UIS team name will remain the same, after over a year of discussions on whether or not to change it. A consultant group hired by the university came up with suggestions like  the Springers, Sabers, and Mammoths. The consultant group cost the university nearly $20,000. After putting together a task force and soliciting the opinions of students, alumni, and faculty, a decision has been made. UIS Chancellor Susan Koch told WUIS, "Prairie Stars may not be the perfect name, but it's our name. And it's been our name since the 1970s ...

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Higher Education
9:46 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Interview: Lincoln Land Community College President Charlotte Warren

LLCC President Dr. Charlotte Warren
Credit LLCC

When the Crown III coal mine south of Springfield recently closed, Lincoln Land Community College stepped in. The school's truck driver training has offered special classes to displaced workers.  President Charlotte Warren says the classes are full, although more could be held.  

It's one example of services offered at Lincoln Land.   Warren says the college provides academic offerings for students who plan to go on for a baccalaureate degree, dual credit classes for some high schoolers and specialized programs to serve the community.

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School Choice
7:00 am
Tue January 28, 2014

School Choice Movement Pushes Agenda

Credit http://schoolchoiceweek.com

 Ask any teacher, superintendent, or government official about it and many would say education funding is in need of some serious change. Local districts are struggling to make ends meet as state and federal appropriations drop - and that means layoffs, school closures, and even shortening the school day in some cases. Some education reform activists say the answer to fixing this problem and others within the system is something called "school choice."

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Regional
7:55 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

Another Round Of School Closings Monday

Some Amtrak trains are not running today in downstate Illinois.

  School Closings for Monday Jan. 27

A-C Central

Athens

Auburn

Ball Chatham

Bradley University

Calvary Academy

Decatur

Edinburg

Greenview

Illinois State University

Jacksonville

Jacksonville Routt

Lincoln public schools

Lincoln College

New Berlin

Pawnee

Pleasant Plains

PORTA

Riverton

Rochester

Robert Morris University

Sangamon Valley

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NPR Story
3:40 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

As North Carolina Grows, Public Education Shifts

A student holds a sign in support of teachers outside a demonstration at Durham's EK Powe Elementary School in November 2013. (Dave DeWitt/WUNC)

Major changes are happening in public education in North Carolina.

Last year, the legislature passed laws that did away with teacher tenure, ended extra pay for teachers who earn master’s degrees and created a voucher system for low-income students.

Analysts who watch education policy say no other state made more changes that affect schools in 2013 than North Carolina did.

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Education Desk
3:36 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Education Proposals From Sangamon Co. Efficiency Panel

Credit wikimedia commons

Education shows up in recommendations from the Sangamon County Citizens' Efficiency Commission.  A focus is on transportation, a costly part of school budgets.  

The commission recommends increased collaboration between District 186 and the Springfield Mass Transit District. From the report:

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Education
3:26 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

IL Supreme Court Says Collapsed School Suit Is Too Late

Credit http://www.state.il.us/court/

 The Illinois Supreme Court says a southern Illinois school district can't sue an architectural firm for building a school over an underground coal mine that later collapsed, causing the school to be torn down. In a unanimous decision, justices ruled Friday that Gillespie Community School District's "fraudulent representation'' claims against Wight & Company came after a statute of limitations passed.

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Election 2014
8:23 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

GOP Governor Candidates Discuss School Funding

Credit flickr/skakerman

The question of assuring equitable school funding across the state is being debated at a forum for Republican candidates for governor.
 
The four bidders are squaring off at a forum hosted by Illinois Public Broadcasters and the League of Women Voters.  

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