Education

"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.

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.

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.  

Lydia Urban Academy

The Lydia Urban Academy is in danger of closing its doors before the end of the school year.    

The nontraditional Christian high school serves about 20 students with social, behavioral, and learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to succeed in a traditional setting.  Some are escaping from bullying, while others are referred by Rosecrance Health Network or the state juvenile detention system. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Imagine an object that could help some students improve their attendance. Other students will learn leadership skills. Still others will discover how to become valuable employees some day. And everyone smells better.

That object? A basket of laundry. A humble chore is changing lives in one high school.

Beloit Memorial High School looks a lot like the old factories that sprawl across this city just north of  the Illinois/Wisconsin border. It’s huge.

"Money" By Flickr User Pictures of Money / (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has authorized $17 million in emergency funding to help three financially strapped state universities through the end of the year.

The Chicago Tribune reports the board approved the measure unanimously on Wednesday. Under the agreement, Western Illinois University gets $8.4 million, Eastern Illinois University receives about $5.6 million, and Chicago State University gets around $3 million.

The funding can be used only to pay down costs incurred this year.

Flickr user Adikos / "Female Typing" (CC BY 2.0)

Three school districts are going into their second year for a three-year state e-learning day trial program. But they ran into an obstacle in monitoring the progress of the program.

All three districts participating in the trial program have not been able to use any e-learning days. That’s because superintendents from Gurnee School District 56, Community High School District 94 in West Chicago, and Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park say they didn’t use any snow days last school year.

State Report Card Shows Students Fall Short Of Academic Benchmarks

Oct 31, 2016
State of Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education releases its 2016 report cards today. They analyze how well the state’s public schools are educating Illinois students. 

More than 60 percent of students failed to meet state benchmarks in math and English. That’s according to results from the second year using the standardized test known as PARCC.

Board of Education analyst John Barker says PARCC gives Illinois a clearer picture of the state’s challenges.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is replacing the federal No Child Left Behind laws for K-through-12 schools.

The State Board of Education is drafting a plan to implement next fall; it includes alternatives to measuring accountability and academic success.

DeKalb-area State Representative Bob Pritchard helped organize the listening session. He says developing the education plan is a complex issue for everyone.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform recently compared enrollment data of Illinois public colleges and universities against similar schools in six neighboring states. 

Enrollment at the state's three largest public universities increased -- but just barely. The biggest gain was at the University of Illinois flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, at 1.8%.  

NIU Hosts First-Ever Safety Awareness Day Next Week

Sep 27, 2016
NIU Police

The Northern Illinois University police department will host its first-ever Safety Awareness Day next week.

NIU officer Weyni Langdon says the fair’s purpose is for new members of the community – like college freshmen who haven’t been away from home before – to familiarize themselves with police departments in the surrounding area and get necessary safety resource information all in one place.

“At the beginning of the year, we have a lot of questions about which agency is which – you know, ‘Are you NIU police? Are you DeKalb police? Are you county?’” Langdon said.

Flickr user Forsaken Fotos / "Itt Tech tv" (CC V 2.0)

Nearly 1,000 Illinois students may have to continue their studies elsewhere after ITT Technical Institute announced its closure last week.

Jeff Bossert

  Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and Senator Dick Durbin went to Parkland College to discuss education costs.   

Both Democrats  are sponsoring the “In The Red Act.”  This legislation would provide federal funding for two years’ free tuition at community colleges.  Durbin says if passed, the Act would help students, but only if they put in the work.

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

Nearly 15 percent of northern Illinois school districts still have not complied with the state mandate for public school physical education class five days a week.

Thirty public school districts in the WNIJ listening area still do not have physical education classes five days a week. They all received waivers which have now expired – some as long ago as 2002. 

Wisconsin has Illinois beat when it comes to some state school rankings, according to one report.

When it comes to variables like drop-out rate, school safety and test scores, Wisconsin ranked 5th overall in the country – whereas Illinois ranked 13th. That’s according to a WalletHub report, which uses data from national collection agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

IBHE

During the recent state budget impasse, Illinois colleges and universities have been forced to scrape by without state funding, except for stop gap money designed to keep them open through the fall semester. But that may not satisfy accreditation agencies. James Applegate, director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, says the Higher Learning Commission may just home in on the fact that Illinois schools are missing what schools in other states have: a solid budget.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University Anthropology and Theatre & Dance departments will be without a designated academic building for at least one more year.

The renovated NIU Stevens Building was supposed to be finished by this fall, but the state budget impasse delayed the project.

NIU spokesman Joe King says that, if the school gets funding by next month, the “best case scenario” would be that the construction will be done by fall 2017. But he says the longer it takes to pass a state budget, the longer those students don’t get those “first-rate facilities.”

The Streator Elementary District board is considering applying with the state for a waiver to pursue the shortened week.

Officials say it could result in more than $300,000 in savings.

The district faces declining enrollment and financial difficulties.

In fact, the district faces state intervention if it doesn’t resolve its budget issues.

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

Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis is pushing Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to make sure schools open on time this fall.

The Republican has called for sending an extra 100 million dollars to schools — the one area of the budget he has not held up in order to pass his legislative agenda.

In a conference call with reporters today, Purvis deflected questions about Rauner’s remarks this week, in which he described some Chicago Public Schools as “crumbling prisons.”

As the deadline for a state budget draws near, public school systems are watching closely.  

School administrators are concerned about changes to the state funding formula, which determines how money is distributed among the state’s many districts.  In the legislature, the debate has been over how money could be shifted to provide more equal levels of funding.  However, two superintendents in Northern Illinois think there’s more to the issue.  Retired Riverdale Elementary School Superintendent Sarah Willy says it’s impossible to evaluate the formula without full funding. 

NIU Spring Graduates Recognized For Achievements

May 14, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

More than 2,500 students were honored during the Saturday undergraduate commencement ceremonies at Northern Illinois University.

Friends, family, and relatives filled the stands of the Convocation Center for graduate activities. 

NIU President Doug Baker acknowledged three students for what he calls notable achievements. ROTC graduate Maria Colompos was one of those students recognized for their accomplishments while attending NIU. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

63 years ago, the Korean War came between a Northern Illinois University graduate and his cap and gown. Now, he’s back on campus to make the long-delayed march with his fellow grads. 

In May of 1953, Gus Trantham’s parents took a train from Chicago to DeKalb to accept his diploma in a ceremony he couldn’t attend.  Trantham was in the Navy by then, behind enemy lines in Korea.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University administrators approved parking permit price increases for the coming year. 

The last time NIU increased parking permit prices was in 2011. NIU officials say the hike is to help raise additional revenue for the $5 million backlog of necessary parking lot repairs. 

The change affects students and faculty who wish to purchase parking permits. 

Reserved parking prices were increased more than other permits; remote parking passes will now be free.

skillsusa.org

Several students at Kishwaukee College will get to show off their technical skills in a national contest next month.

Skills USA is an organization for students enrolled in technical programs including welding or nursing. Every year, the group holds competitions that give those students an opportunity to showcase their talents in events like mock crime scenes or repairing a dent in a car.

Vicki Snyder Chura / Rochelle High School

A tradition continues at Rochelle High School this morning: it’s “Ag Day,” a showcase for the area’s farming heritage.

Non-farmers will get the chance to climb on tractors, check out the school’s greenhouse, and learn which animals you can pet -- and which ones you shouldn’t.

U.S. News & World Report

A few high schools in the WNIJ listening area ranked in the state’s top 50. That’s according to two national lists released yesterday.

Those schools include ones in Saint Charles, Cary, Barrington, Aurora and Naperville.

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