Education

Education and learning

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Members of a state employee union picketed on Northern Illinois University’s DeKalb campus on Monday. That’s after recent negotiations between union members and NIU officials still have not yielded an initial contract.

AFSCME Local 1890 members and allies marched near the student center in support of an initial contract for the bargaining unit, which is comprised of NIU clerical, administrative and paraprofessional employees.

"Am I Next? Student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws" by Flickr user Lorie Shaull / (CC x 2.0) /

Students from several high schools in northern Illinois are preparing for the national school walk-out on Wednesday.

In Rockford, Jefferson High School senior Roberto Vargas says he is one of several students who are organizing a walk-out at the school to protest gun violence and to call for gun-law reform in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 14 students and three school staff members.

Vargas says he hopes all 1,700 students at Jefferson walk out in solidarity Wednesday. He and his friends planned this so students can make their voices heard.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees has signed on to a bill that would guarantee stable funding for the school while imposing several performance standards.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

UPDATED MARCH 9 AT 4:45 P.M.:

A union representative for a newer Northern Illinois University bargaining unit says negotiations did not go well Friday.

AFSCME spokeswoman Sara Dorner says NIU’s negotiator Jesse Perez promised to bring a thorough wage matrix to contract negotiations Friday, but she says all that was given was information of other peoples’ current wages.

“So, basically, they gave us some information that we already had and no proposals and we’ve made no progress,” Dorner said.

Sue Scherer / Facebook

recent report shows Illinois is in the midst of a severe teacher shortage, particularly in the central part of the state. 

In the first of a series of hearings, a committee took testimony from the agency responsible for licensing teachers, and from various teacher unions. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Several Illinois universities are reassuring future students that disciplinary action resulting from recent protest activity will not affect their admission to those schools.

Northern Illinois University officials said in a statement this week that the admissions status of prospective students will not be affected due to any detentions or suspensions imposed for protests after the Parkland, Fla., shooting.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

A panel of state senators heard budget requests from agencies representing colleges and universities, and lawmakers took the opportunity to ask why neighboring states are able to lure so many Illinois students away.

The answer is pretty simple: Other Big 10 schools offer financial considerations that the Illinois flagship campus can't match.

Last week, the Illinois governor’s budget address outlined several proposals to reduce state spending. One focuses on K-12 schools.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants public school districts to begin “cost sharing” their employees’ state pensions over the next few years. Districts would be responsible for 25 percent of their pension cost during the first year, then an additional 25 percent each of the following three years. He said this overhaul is a fiscal necessity.

Chase Cavanaugh/WNIJ

It’s often challenging for rural public schools to raise money. When funds do come through, it can be a struggle spreading money among programs, personnel, and maintenance. A series of grants aims to improve STEM education at these schools.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These topics are emphasized increasingly in educational standards and the current jobs market. But STEM programs often require specialized equipment and training, which can get expensive.

Episode 6: Speaking Up Without Talking Down with Ruth Spiro and Paul Kassel

This week’s episode starts with a reflection on the widespread accusations of sexual misconduct in the children’s publishing industry. Gillian (@gkingcargile) shares her thoughts on The Maze Runner and discusses what STEM Read is doing in response to revelations about author James Dashner. We’re putting together a full episode on the collision of the #MeToo Movement and Children’s Literature in the coming weeks.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) is urging minority students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate teaching program to apply for available scholarship money.

The scholarship funding comes from the state's Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program. Eligible minority students pursuing a degree with the intent to teach at the pre-K through 12 level can apply for up to $5,000 in scholarship funding toward tuition, school fees, room and board or computer costs.

MILO SKALICKY / FOR NPR ILLINOIS

The controversial standardized tests known as PARCC could be on their way out after this spring. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to request sealed proposals for a new statewide exam next week. That’s in response to concerns from teachers and parents about the hours-long reading and math assessment that most third- and eighth-graders failed.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It was ten years ago this Wednesday that five students were shot and killed in a Northern Illinois University classroom. Retired NIU President John Peters returned to the school this weekend to take part in a number of observances.

Peters was the public face of NIU in the difficult days after the shooting. Behind the scenes, he took on the role of comforter-in-chief for the families of the five who were murdered. He says this weekend gave him the opportunity to reconnect with the families, the students who were injured, and the community.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The Champaign News-Gazette reports that the board approved the $3.47 billion budget request Tuesday. That amount includes money for public universities, community colleges, grants and other programs for 2018-2019. The Illinois Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner will now consider it. 

Public universities would get about $1.1 billion. That's up $24.1 million from this year. But Illinois public university presidents had asked the board for another $100 million to restore funding to levels before the two-year state budget impasse. 

Veto Override Removes One School Funding Hurdle

Feb 1, 2018
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Less than an hour before Gov. Bruce Rauner was scheduled to deliver his State of the State address, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to override his veto of a small, technical school funding bill necessary to implement the massive school funding reform that Rauner has listed as his main accomplishment.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

The agency overseeing what’s been dubbed the nation’s worst-funded public-school system plans to hire “storytellers” to relay tales of successes in Illinois classrooms.

The post on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website seeks applicants for storytellers at a minimum salary of $47,400. Spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews said Tuesday that three will be hired.

At the state Capitol, lawmakers are stymied by technical glitches in a landmark school-funding overhaul they approved last spring to help bring fairness to the country’s most inequitable financial system.

Jennifer Bertino-Tarrany

Gov. Bruce Rauner has claimed his top accomplishment of last year was transforming the way Illinois funds public schools. But the dollars pledged by that new law haven’t been distributed. Instead, Rauner and state agencies have been focused on implementing and expanding a tax credit program for private schools, added to the bill at the last minute to get the governor signature.

CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS

Private school scholarships for low-income students will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, and the application process is set to open at the end of this month.

At least one private school official says he wishes that launch date were delayed to give schools more time to educate staff and the parent community about the process.  

Jenna Sterner/NPR

The checklist that follows is a reminder of things we all know we should do. It’s meant to be particularly useful to correspondents and producers. They collect the information we put on the air and online and they are expected to do all they can to make sure that what we report is accurate.

Episode 6: Doodlers and Daydreamers with Dr. Rhonda Robinson and Tom Lichtenheld

CARTER STALEY / NPR ILLINOIS

The Illinois State Board of Education voted unanimously to ask the General Assembly to practically double state funding for public schools.

Last summer, the legislature voted to change the way Illinois funds schools by adopting what's called an “evidence-based model.” That model weighs what each district needs against its local resources. As it turns out, some districts can't achieve even 50 percent of adequate funding, while others have almost three times what they need.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

If you’ve seen Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign commercials, you might think the school funding issue was settled last summer. But as often happens with complex legislation, it was followed by a “trailer” bill cleaning up some technical language.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner has boasted that fixing the woefully inequitable Illinois school-funding formula was his top accomplishment of the past year.

Illinois Officials Seek Input On Adult Education Plan

Jan 8, 2018
Flickr user Dave Herholz/CC 2.0

The Illinois Community College Board is calling on residents to give feedback on its draft five-year strategic plan to improve adult education.

The plan includes ways to remove financial barriers for adults wanting to pursue post-secondary education. Matt Berry is with the Illinois Community College Board. He said having a college degree is becoming more essential in the workforce.

Flickr User Brent Hoard/ "ECU School of Education Class Room" (cc by 2.0)

For the past several years, Illinois has been losing more college students than any state except New Jersey. Last year, as higher education was starved by the state budget impasse, that trend continued.

Overall, undergraduate enrollment decreased by 2 percent, with even steeper drops at public universities and community colleges. 

Schools defying this trend include those focused on medical professions, such as City Colleges of Chicago's Malcolm X campus. Mark Potter, the provost, said its home in the medical district makes it more attractive.

Katie Finlon/WNIJ

Sycamore High School students have spoken: The majority are in favor of a flexible schedule during school days.

More than 80 percent of all Sycamore High School students, families and teachers say they would be in favor of a flexible schedule during school days. That’s according to survey data collected by administration recently.

Tim Carlson, principal of Sycamore High School, says he is all for anything that could better prepare students for the modern workforce, especially when it comes to teaching kids how to better manage their free time.

The STEM Read Podcast: The Rise of F%@k

Dec 22, 2017

 Episode 5: The Rise of F%@k with Melissa Wright and M.C. Atwood

This episode of the STEM Read podcast contains strong language and a strong message. Join hosts Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile) and Kristin Brynteson (@kbrynteson) as we chat with linguistic Melissa Wright (www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-wright1316) and The Devil’s You Know author M.C. Atwood. We’ll explore the history, culture, and linguistics of swearing and examine the use of swearing as a tool to reveal character and breed empathy in YA literature.  

Rockford Public Schools

Illinois public schools face a teacher shortage, and officials increasingly are turning to substitutes when full-time educators are unavailable. But what effects does this have on education, particularly when substitutes themselves are becoming harder to find? In this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh looks for some of the answers.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

A new report from Advance Illinois shows the statewide teacher shortage is felt most acutely in districts with many low-income students. But it's also hitting rural and wealthier districts.
 

Williamsfield is a village halfway between Peoria and Galesburg, with fewer than 300 students. Superintendent Tim Farquer said he can't find teachers who meet state licensing requirements for every subject. Instead, he's filing paperwork seeking waivers.

 

Rockford Public Schools

A Rockford school has the highest composite score in Illinois on this year’s state standardized tests.

Rockford school officials say students at Thurgood Marshall School had the highest composite score of all Illinois public schools compared with other fifth- through eighth-graders in the state.

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