Education

As public universities in Illinois have seen enrollment declines in recent years, one state lawmaker has an idea aimed at keeping high school graduates from leaving.

Peter Medlin

Students are taping drywall they hung a few weeks ago. The sound of hammers and saws echo from another room. 

 

“This house here was built last year at Guilford. You were in that class, right?” said Jack Turner. He’s the construction manager at Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. “Yeah, so they built the house last year.”

  

The student he just spoke to is in a construction class at Guilford High School. The class works both semesters and builds one house per year. 

 

We'll find out why tearing down old structures doesn't have to mean sending a lot of material to the landfill.  Deconstruction is a process of salvage and re-use.  Hear how one city is embracing that approach.  

We'll talk with some Springfield area artists who put a face on the issue of homelessness. And we have a conversation about an effort to teach and celebrate statesmanship.

Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

NIU No Longer Looking At SAT & ACT Scores

Jan 30, 2020
Susan Stephens

Students applying to Northern Illinois University with a 3.0 grade point average or higher will soon be automatically admitted.

Other universities, including Western Illinois University, have already adopted test-optional policies.

NIU is the first public university in the state to go completely test blind starting fall 2021.

The university will no longer look at SAT and ACT scores for admission as well as merit scholarships.

Wikipedia Commons

A recently proposed plan would add sexting to the list of topics covered in Illinois sex education courses.

Middle and high schools in the state would be required to discuss with students the social, academic and legal consequences of sending or receiving sexually explicit images.

It was introduced by State Representative Maurice West of Rockford. He says a constituent reached out with the idea to expand a law passed last year about teaching consent.

Erik Czerwin

Erik Czerwin, language arts & literature teacher at Rockford's Guilford High School, sits down with host Peter Medlin for a wide-ranging discussion of the top education issues of 2019 and what they'll be looking at in 2020. 

They talk about everything from local stories like:

Peter Medlin

A group of teachers hold their phone in front of their faces. Using the camera they’re looking at the classroom they’re standing in...when suddenly a zombie appears. It warns they need to reach a safe house or they’ll be eaten alive.

 

 

 With that they face a series of locked doors. To open them and escape the undead’s grasp, they need to answer a series of vocabulary questions. Wait, what?

 

Guy Stephens

A Northern Illinois University professor is looking at ways to reduce incarceration rates for those dealing with mental illness. Professor of Sociology Fred Markowitz will continue his research in Finland thanks to a Fulbright research grant.

Markowitz said both Finland and the U.S have seen an increase in the number of mentally ill in jail as they cut back local treatment programs. He said in the U.S., it’s difficult to get good information on the impact of those cuts, or programs that might prevent jail time for those grappling with mental illness.

Peter Medlin

Rockford's West Middle School principal Maurice Davis sits down with host Peter Medlin on a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge!

Maurice is from Rockford. In fact, his parents still live literally a few blocks from his school. He’s taught at pretty much every level of education except maybe preschool. Peter and Maurice talked about coming back to his hometown to teach, making history class relevant, how to improve teaching into 2020 and beyond and so much more.

Peter Medlin

 

Every year, the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project makes 50 bookcases for 50 children, each case complete with a metal plate engraved with the child’s name. 

 

 

The project is now in its ninth year. Former DeKalb Mayor John Rey started the effort. And if you ask him where he got the idea? He says he read about it. 

 

 

On our final episode of the year, we remember some of the top reports and conversations from 2019.   

On this show we tried to give an example of the type of journalism we bring you each week: coverage of public affairs, examining problems and solutions, inspirational stories and the voices that make up the state we call home.  

 

Our lineup:

Spencer Tritt

 

Illinois is struggling to attract and hire new teachers. A new program hopes to borrow a few tricks from the medical field to address the issue.

Victims of domestic violence are told to seek help.  But what happens when a child is violent toward parents?  A central Illinois couple says there's not enough support available.  We'll have a report.

We also hear about special education students being shipped out of state.  There are questions about the schools where they are kept at taxpayer expense.

And we hear how some people handle a holiday tradition: the political argument among family members. 

That and more on this week's Statewide.

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said the Illinois State Board of Education made a political, knee jerk reaction when it banned isolated seclusion for disruptive students.

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University officials continue to look for ways to attract new students.

Fall enrollment hit its lowest level in 50 years. Officials recently announced they will freeze tuition rates for the sixth year in a row.  Room and board rates will also remain flat next year. The university will cap tuition at  $4,732.80 per semester for students taking 12 or more credit hours. That’s to encourage students to finish their degree on time. University President Lisa Freeman said NIU will also lower student fees.

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees deadlocked on appointing Dr. Martin Abraham as the university's 12th president. The vote came after the board held a five hour executive session Thursday night and met behind closed doors for more than an hour Friday morning. 

Peter Medlin

This week, we’ve got a retired physical education teacher and girls’ basketball coach.

His name is Paul Williams, he taught and coached at Prairie Hills Junior High in Markham, Illinois for decades.

Paul talked to host Peter Medlin about the greatest lessons he’s learned about teaching, coaching and traveling across the country with his basketball teams and much more.

This episode looks ahead to the new recreational marijuana law that will take effect the first of the year.  You might have questions and we will try to provide answers.  We'll also hear how marijuana growers are working to meet the expected demand.

A new biography tells the story of Lane Evans, the late Illinois congressman from the Quad Cities.  Evans died in 2014 from complications related to Parkinson's Disease.

And racism in a suburban school district has led to a concerted effort to rebuild trust.

That and more on the latest Statewide.

What To Know About Recreational Cannabis On Campus

Dec 11, 2019
Andrew Heiserman

On a recent Thursday, a small group of Northern Illinois University students took their seats at an open forum to discuss recreational cannabis. It will be legal in Illinois soon.

Administrators wanted to make one thing clear: marijuana will still be banned on NIU’s campus.

That’s mostly because of the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.    

On this episode of Statewide, we learn why some colleges say there is too much emphasis on standardized tests in the admissions process.  There is a growing movement to drop the requirement or place less of a priority on scores. 

Is an historic home a good fit for you?  Many are bypassing newly built houses for ones that have more character.  But they can be a lot of work.  We'll find out more. 

And a new proposal threatens to end minor league baseball in some Midwest communities.   These stories and more on Statewide.   

Spencer Tritt

In response to mass shootings, schools across the country are spending millions on school safety projects.

School districts across Illinois will be able to submit grant requests through the Illinois State Board of Education. The law takes effect in January.

The Illinois State Board of Education today amended emergency rules that had banned the use of certain physical restraints in schools. Those rules had been enacted two weeks ago in response to an investigation published by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of incidents where children with special needs were put into seclusion rooms at school.

 

The board had reacted to that report by banning not only seclusion rooms, but also the use of prone and supine physical restraints, which can make it difficult for children to breathe or communicate normally. 

 

Kevin Rubenstein, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, says those new rules had ripple effects.

Paul Morigi for the National Park Foundation

Art students from Harlem Middle School in Loves Park were chosen to create ornaments representing Illinois for the annual National Christmas Tree celebration in Washington D.C.

They had been working on the ornaments in secret since September. Their teacher, Ruth Meissen, said she chose 24 students for the 24 ornaments.

And she says it was up to them to decide what the design of the ornaments was going to be.

SIU's Board of Trustees will vote Thursday on the appointment of a new system president.


Last month, Northern Illinois University police investigated a potential threat circulating on social media.

The university sent a late-night “community awareness message” telling students and staff the threat wasn’t credible. But many NIU students had already seen the rumors online and were not satisfied with the university’s short response.

That morning, November 18, Kaitlyn Frisby woke up to Facebook and Twitter reactions about the situation from her classmates -- questions like: How long did they talk to the person? Are they in police custody?

Monmouth College is going to help its students pay "one of the hidden costs of college." Starting next fall, the cost of textbooks will be included in the college's tuition.

Peter Medlin

This week, a really special episode we've been excited about for a while. It’s a conversation with Dick Hart. He’s an 89-year-old retired choral teacher at Downers Grove North High School. He also played trombone in the Army band when he served during Korean War. Dick talked to Peter about all of that, his motto "music is life" and so much more.

Also on the show, a trip to the STEAM Academy at Haskell Elementary in Rockford to see how they jumped from being a lowest-performing school to a "commendable" one in just a year.

Spencer Tritt

DeKalb is a university town. But even growing up in the shadow of Northern Illinois University, that doesn’t mean every student sees themselves as a potential college student.

Advanced Placement classes are one way to make a student feel college-ready. They can also earn actual college credit from them.

The Illinois State Board of Education is encouraging anyone with information about abusive time-out rooms or restraints in any school setting to share that information directly with the agency. The request comes in the wake of a report earlier this week by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of instances of children, usually with special needs, placed in seclusion in their schools.

Kevin Rubenstein, president of a statewide group of special education administrators, told the board to expect to hear even more stories.

Peter Medlin

The Partnership for College Completion held an event at Northern Illinois University discussing their new reports on the cost of college, specifically for black students.

Along with university officials and local lawmakers, several black NIU students came to the event to talk about their own challenges paying for school.

Gabrielle Sims is a junior at NIU.

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