Education

Education and learning

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

10 school districts across the state are participating in a pilot project with the Illinois Board of Education.

Chicago is participating, along with areas such as Round Lake, Kankakee, and Peoria.  State Superintendent Tony Smith says the pilot initiative could have implications for districts across Illinois

“We think that there’s a lot of folks out there that have been doing work like this for a while and we want to build more of a community of practice for it. And we do think that it will have a big impact on the direction the state goes in understanding this.”

Western Illinois University is developing contingency plans in case the ongoing shortfall of state funding continues.  But the administration is not yet ready to reveal details of these plans. 

The state has gone nearly two years without a budget.  Public colleges and universities received some state funding through a stop-gap spending plan approved in late June of last year, but they have not received any state money this calendar year.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Faculty members at  Northern Illinois University may be more involved in future evaluations of the school’s president.

 

NIU President Doug Baker faced a grilling from the Faculty Senate Wednesday: they considered taking  a “vote of no confidence” in the fourth year president. Instead, faculty members approved an invitation from NIU’s Board of Trustees to be part of future annual evaluations of the president.

 

Flickr user JayMase / "Physical Education" (CC V 2.0)

Yet another plan to address the state’s lopsided school funding structure has been filed. This measure would freeze funding at current levels for all districts, including Chicago Public Schools.

When new revenue becomes available, it would be handed out based on each district’s demographics and needs, giving more to districts struggling financially. Republicans proposed the first draft of this plan, and now Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, is sponsoring a compromise version.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Update, 3/16/17 12:30 pm: This morning, the district released Wednesday's student attendance totals for all grade levels.  The official average attendance across the district was 77%. That's down from 92% the previous Wednesday. 

School attendance was down in Rockford on the first day of a three-day strike by school support workers.

Elementary school attendance in Rockford Public Schools was at 81%. That's down 12% from last Wednesday. Some parents had a hard time getting their children to class without school bus service.

rps205.com

Hundreds of Rockford School District employees are picketing at schools throughout the city as a three-day strike gets underway.

"Handwriting Tag Game" by Flickr User RomitaGirl67 / (CC X 2.0)

Parents alarmed by the realization that their teenagers cannot decipher cursive handwriting have inspired one Illinois lawmaker to propose requiring schools to offer a course on the art of the flowing font.

Kids use computer keyboards for most communication these days, but what if they need to sign a legal document or read a letter from grandma?

State Representative Chris Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, says they’re going to need cursive for that. He’s sponsoring a measure that would ensure students receive at least one class in old-school slanted script. 

Guy Stephens / WNIJ News

The Rock Valley College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to lay off 28 full-time faculty in an effort to reduce a projected multi-million dollar deficit. 

The trustees voted 3-1 in favor of the faculty cut in front of the sometimes fractious crowd of about 200 packing the school’s Performing Art Room.  Judging by the comments and reaction, the vote was not a popular one. Nor was talk of a tuition hike in the offing.  But RVC President Doug Jensen says the college already had made other cuts, and there was nowhere else to go.

A program designed to get more minority teachers into Illinois classrooms is turning directly to the public for support. 

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is forming a panel to pick up where a recent commission left off revamping the state's outdated public school funding formula.

The Chicago Democrat announced the panel Thursday. He says the group will address questions left unanswered by a funding reform commission convened by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner last year.

That commission reported its findings earlier this month. It concluded Illinois must change how it funds schools to ensure all students are properly educated. But it produced no legislative proposals.

pritchardstaterep.org

Today on WNIJ’s Friday Forum, we take on education in Illinois. 

State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) is a member of the bipartisan bicameral commission tasked with reforming school funding in Illinois. The commission's recent report set a goal of increasing state funding for education from 26% to 50%. Pritchard says they also came up with 27 factors to help identify, then close, funding gaps between the wealthiest and poorest districts. 

Flickr user JayMase / "Physical Education" (CC V 2.0)

Illinois Democrats are calling on Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to propose legislation based on an education funding reform plan that a commission he convened released last week.

But Education Secretary Beth Purvis indicated such proposals should come from legislators.

Purvis testified Thursday before the Senate Education Committee about the panel's recommendations on how to fund Illinois schools more equitably. Lawmakers called it a step forward but suggested the governor use it as a framework for legislation to keep proposals from receiving a partisan label.

NIU

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.  DeVos’s nomination was controversial, and it took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm her in the post.  But despite that, one education expert says her appointment may not have all that much effect – at least at first.

Laurie Elish-Piper, Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University, says DeVos may have strong views, but she’s circumscribed in her actions by current law -- especially the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015.  

What is the relationship of balance, coordination, language and quality of life to the symptoms of autism?

Two Northern Illinois University faculty members in the Allied Health and Communicative Disorders division are hoping to answer that question and others in a new research study they are conducting, and they are seeking children with autism to help them.

NIU Asst. Prof. Allison Gladfelter, a speech/language pathologist, and Asst. Prof. Christina Odeh, a physical therapist, are recruiting speaking children between the ages of 3 and 12 with autism.

Update: (2/2/17)

Detectives from the Beloit Police Department have been investigating three incidents of potential hate crimes involving two students. Detectives have arrested Michael Kee, 20 years old, for Obstructing, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Damage regarding the incident reported on Jan. 30.

WVIK

An Illinois legislator is calling for free tuition at state universities.

With the pile of unpaid Illinois bills topping $10 billion, Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, acknowledges it’s not a short-term goal.

“But, I want that to be the guide star. I want that to be the objective that we work toward,” he said. “And this year, I want us to pass something that’s going to make college a little more affordable and reduce the burden of debt on working families.”

He declined to give any specifics on what that “something” might be.

"IMG_4491" by Flickr User alkruse24 / (CC X 2.0)

A survey of Illinois public school districts finds administrators are scrambling to find substitute teachers for as many as 600 classrooms a day.

The review of 400 districts that the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools released Tuesday reveals that teachers call in absences more than 16,000 times per week. Administrators have trouble finding enough people to fill in for nearly 20 percent of them.

Jeff Vose is association president. The regional superintendent for Sangamon and Menard counties says stricter licensing requirements are to blame.

mhec.org

Illinois Board of Higher Education Director James Applegate has announced he will be stepping down from his post next month.

Applegate announced his resignation in IBHE's bi-weekly report Friday. He says he will be leaving to ``pursue other opportunities to serve American higher education.''

The 65-year-old began working with the state in February 2014. He made $200,000 per year in his position as executive director.

In the newsletter, Applegate noted achievements during his tenure, which he says include raising grant funds to support college readiness and access.

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

A bipartisan group of state legislators has been meeting since August, trying to come up with a new plan to fund public schools.

 

This isn't the first such commission; Illinois has a notoriously inequitable school funding formula, and lawmakers have been trying to adjust it for years.

 

But State Senator Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from St. Charles, says senate leaders hoping to end the overall budget stalemate have inspired lawmakers to find common ground.

 

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

A new law designed to relieve the statewide shortage of teachers and substitute teachers was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner today.

State Senator Dave Luechtefeld, a Republican, taught history and government at Okawville High School for more than 30 years, so it’s hard to argue with him about what it takes to be an educator.

That’s probably why the bill he sponsored passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois legislature. It lowers the fee for a substitute teaching license, and smooths the way for retired teachers to work as subs.

Nearly 150 Illinois public school districts gave bonuses to teachers and administrators last school year.

The Chicago Tribune says the 144 districts represent 20 percent of all districts. Citing state data, the newspaper reports about 3,100 people received a total of $5.5 million. The average was $1,750.

Bonuses have become a common way to inspire educators to improve student achievement. But researchers say results are varied, and critics wonder whether it's a good use of tax dollars.

Scott Desavouret / WNIJ

Another round of college graduates is heading into the world. We asked winter graduates at Kishwaukee College how they feel about their futures.

Despite a standstill over the Illinois budget, a group of bipartisan lawmakers has been meeting more often in recent weeks to devise a plan to overhaul state funding for public schools.

Although Illinois' top leaders aren't meeting to discuss the state budget, members of Gov. Bruce Rauner's education funding reform commission tell the Springfield Bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers they're optimistic that the group will be able to come up with at least outlines of a new school funding formula.

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

A preliminary report on college enrollment in Illinois shows a decline at all sectors of higher education.

All three categories -- public universities, community colleges and private colleges — showed an overall drop in enrollment, according to a report from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Illinois State University and the three University of Illinois campuses showed slight increases; all other public schools declined by an average of almost 3 percent compared to last year.   

First E-Learning Day Used In Illinois Pilot Program

Dec 20, 2016
Early Morning Chill by Bryan Alexander/CC BY 2.0

One of three school districts participating in an Illinois e-learning day pilot program got to test it out on Monday.

The e-learning day pilot program was meant to provide schools an alternative to snow days and a way for districts to prevent adding days to the end of the school year because of those snow days. West Chicago High School District 94 used its first e-learning day instead of a school cancellation on Monday due to extreme low temperatures.

NIU Today

Northern Illinois University and the College of DuPage recently signed a guaranteed admission agreement.  

It allows students at the College of DuPage with at least a 2.0 grade point average guaranteed admission to NIU so they can pursue 4-year degrees.  High achievers (at least a 3.5 GPA) can also gain admission to the Honors Program.  

NIU Provost Lisa Freeman believes aspects of community colleges and four-year universities can blend together. She says the agreement is a recognition of this fact.  

A survey by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission found Illinois colleges and universities are handling MAP Grant funding in different ways as state funding runs out.  

Flickr User Matt Long/CC 2.0

Wisconsin Representative Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, is drafting legislation that would require random drug screening for high school students taking part in extracurricular activities.  

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

Every two years, the advocacy group Advance Illinois takes a hard look at how the state measures up to its task of educating children. Their latest report offers little good news.

Ginger Ostro, executive director of Advance Illinois, says low-income children need more resources to succeed in school. And with the ongoing state budget impasse, Ostro is focused on changing the formula for how education dollars are distributed.​

Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

University of Illinois President Tim Killeen says the school’s three campuses can’t serve as sanctuaries for undocumented students. 

He cited the need to uphold state and federal laws, but said leaders will do all they can within the law to protect students, including the undocumented. 

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