Education

Illinois college students will march for higher education funding and MAP grants in Springfield next week.

At least 60 students plan to take part in the march. That’s according to the march’s Facebook event.

The “March for MAP” was created by a University of Illinois Springfield student. The event was inspired by the legislature's failure to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto to a bill to fund MAP grants.

YouTube user Ford Scholars / "Jefferson Fitness Trail" Screen Shot

Two northern Illinois high schools have students competing for a $10,000 prize in a national STEM competition. The money would go to help implement the winning group’s project proposals that could benefit their schools and the community.

There are ten finalists in the Ford STEM Community Challenge. They include students from Jefferson and East High Schools in Rockford.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A lack of funding for the Monetary Award Program -- or MAP grants -- have cost Illinois public universities more than $72 million overall.

That's according to data provided by each of the state universities and their campuses.

The Illinois House passed a bill earlier this month that would help fund the MAP grants. That's in light of the state's budget impasse.

The legislation was introduced to the state Senate this week, but public universities that temporarily covered those costs still haven’t been reimbursed.

Higher Education Leaders Discuss Budget Fears In Springfield

Mar 10, 2016
State of Illinois

Illinois lawmakers heard Thursday from an assortment of higher education leaders asking for funding.

They used terms like “starving,” “dismantling” and “economic suicide” as they tried to persuade state senators to find some way to heal the budget impasse. 

One of the last witnesses was Eric Zarnikow, director of the state agency that runs the Monetary Award Program. MAP grants help needy college kids with tuition.

Zarnikow quoted his mother, who he says always warned him not to eat the seed corn.

Chicago State University had a visit from the Higher Learning Commission this week regarding its accreditation status. That came after the school declared financial crisis about a month ago due to the Illinois state budget impasse.

But how does state funding affect university accreditation?

Higher education officials say taking away accreditation is generally treated as a last resort. But if a school loses its state funding, it could put its status at risk.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A program designed to educate -- and keep -- engineers in Rockford officially kicked off its six-million dollar fundraising campaign Tuesday. The joint project between Rock Valley College and Northern Illinois University is already halfway to its goal.

Chicago State University won’t have funds to operate by March 1 if  state money is not released, officials there have said.

A Chicago area transgender student whose fight to use a girls' locker room sparked a national debate will be allowed access on Friday.

The move follows a long battle with federal authorities and public meetings.

Palatine-based Township High School District 211 entered an agreement with federal officials last month after the student filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

State of Illinois

Most school districts in Illinois would get an increase in state aid if a budget request approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education is adopted.

Only the wealthiest districts would see a decrease, and it would be less than 1 percent. 

State funding for public schools has remained stagnant or decreased for the past five years. Districts with low property values have no way to supplement that aid, leaving Illinois with one of the most inequitable funding scenarios in the nation.

Many Illinois colleges and universities fronted the money for income-based Monetary Award Program grants to students in the fall semester. That's despite the lack of a state budget and no assurance that they'd be reimbursed. 

Major schools will continue covering them for the spring, although others are telling students they can't cover the debt for the coming semester. 

The list below shows a sampling of schools, their enrollment, the number of students receiving MAP grants in the fall, and the total amount covered.

ACT

Illinois will stop giving the ACT college entrance exam. Instead, the state will start giving high school juniors the rival SAT. 

The company that offers the ACT filed a protest with the state seeking to cancel Illinois's contract with the College Board, which offers the SAT. State records show the three-year contract is worth $14.3 million.

Illinois has given the ACT for free to 11th graders for 15 years. A state budget impasse in Illinois complicated the situation because dozens of districts earlier this school year signed up for ACT testing.

Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University students will soon receive an e-mail to name a mental health emergency contact person. That’s because the school will soon be required by law to provide that paperwork.

The Student Optional Disclosure of Private Mental Health Act says colleges and universities have to provide incoming students a form that would allow the school to disclose mental health information about the student to a designated person. That’s if the school thinks the student is a threat to others or him-or-herself. 

Rockford Public Schools / RPS205.com

Plans to build two new elementary schools in Rockford are back on track.

The Rockford School Board voted last night to proceed with its ten-year facilities plan -- particularly the construction of the two schools that will replace five outdated buildings on the city’s southeast side, at a cost of $42 million.

The board had delayed a vote so members could determine if the district really could afford the schools on top of major renovations and everyday expenses.

Illinois Ranks 20th In High School Graduation Rates

Dec 15, 2015
"Graduation Cake Guy" by flickr user / David Goehring (CC BY 2.0) / http://bit.ly/1RQsA2o

New data from the U.S. Department of Education show that 86 percent of Illinois students graduate from high school. That's the 20th-highest graduation rate in the country. 

The department said Tuesday that the 82.3 percent national graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year was the highest recorded since it started using a new, uniform measure in 2010.  

That still means nearly one in five students leaves high school without a diploma.  

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the improvement but said too many students still drop out.  

understandthescore.org

Only five high schools in the WNIJ listening area have more than half of their students ready for college.

The top school among them is Geneva Community High School, where 66 percent of its students met or exceeded expectations during the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, according to test results released Friday.

PARCC Test Results Released In Illinois

Dec 14, 2015
WUIS

Illinois schools got results for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers -- or PARCC -- test late last week. That’s the standardized test aligned with the Common Core. Scores were low across the state.

Tony Smith is the state superintendent of schools. He says that’s because it’s not comparing students to each other, but to what they should know.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Public Radio

As college students wrap up the fall semester, there is still a lot of uncertainty for the coming months. Low-income student who rely on the Monetary Award Program to pay for tuition have no guarantee the money will arrive. 

Most colleges and universities have been fronting the money for their students – like Northern Illinois University – but even the University of Illinois has warned MAP recipients they may have to repay their grants if the budget impasse drags on through the spring semester.

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

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner passed a measure four months ago that created a pilot program for virtual learning days in schools. The idea was to keep snow or emergency days to a minimum during the school year.

Now, the Illinois State Board of Education has announced the participating districts.

Lucinda Avenue Now Open

Nov 19, 2015
N'Jema McIntyre

The Lucinda Avenue extension is now open.  The opening ceremony Wednesday was held at the rain location at Stevenson Tower South without the official ribbon cutting due to the weather. The street west of Stadium Drive is ready for cars and buses to use. The gates blocking access will be taken down some time before the end of the week.

Does It Pay To Pay Teachers $100,000?

Nov 19, 2015

We're brought up to believe our teachers are modern-day saints.

Just look at how we portray them in the movies and on TV. From Dead Poets Society's iconic Mr. Keating to resourceful LouAnne Johnson in Dangerous Minds, we reinforce time and again that teaching is a noble calling.

These teachers are heroes, we're told. It's hard to imagine them even thinking about money.

U of I Trustees Sign Off On Settlement With Salaita

Nov 12, 2015
Jim Meadows

On an 9 to 1 vote,  University of Illinois Trustees have agreed on an $875,000 settlement with Steven Salaita.

Progress Made On Lucinda Avenue Extension

Nov 12, 2015
N'Jema McIntyre

The opening of the Lucinda Avenue expansion is nearing. Workers are completing the final touches to the area.

The board of trustees of Northern Illinois University approved the extension of Lucinda Avenue west, to better facilitate access for students, faculty, staff, and visitors on campus. The move, which required dismantling Douglas Hall, is the first significant step in re-envisioning the NIU campus.

The March 27 board meeting made the Lucinda project expansion a high priority project for the university. The goal was for the process to be completed by mid-November.

Susan Stephens

University of Illinois trustees are scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution urging state lawmakers to agree on a budget. The impasse has been weighing on the minds of many public university leaders.

Illinois has been without a budget since July, putting pressure on the state's universities to dip into cash reserves. It also worries students who rely on MAP grants.

Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker says he has made several trips to Springfield, and joins other university leaders in keeping a close eye on lawmakers and the governor.

understandthescore.org

It’s been about six months since students took the PARCC exam. Despite officials saying the tests will be graded by the end of the school year, results are not yet posted.

Illinois high schools are expected to receive test results in the next couple of weeks, and schools should receive test results from 3rd through 8th grades by the beginning of next month. That’s according to an Illinois State Board of Education memo.

Carl Nelson / WNIJ

Illinois released its report card for public schools last week. There are still no results from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam – known at the “PARCC” test – on the website.

WNIJ News took a look at how standard high schools rank against others in our listening area.

Carroll County has the highest average secondary-school graduation rate of 93 percent, while Winnebago County has the lowest with 76 percent.

Higher Ed Focus Of Illinois Legislative Meeting

Nov 9, 2015
State of Illinois

Illinois legislators will return to Springfield Tuesday ... with no prospect of finalizing a budget for the state. 

So what will they do during the one-day session?

Steve Brown, state House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman, says the plight of Illinois universities and community colleges will be in the spotlight during that meeting.

WUIS

VICE News published an investigation of American universities with ties to the military, police, and intelligence communities.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale ranked number 23, due to the number of alums who work in “top secret” jobs. The amount of funding SIU receives from national security and defense agencies was another factor.

NIU Anthropology Museum Gets A New Name

Nov 4, 2015

The Anthropology museum at Northern Illinois University has been renamed to honor the contributors of a major gift.

Founded in 1964, the NIU museum will now be known as the James B. and Rosalyn L. Pick Museum of Anthropology. James B. Pick is an alumnus of NIU with a master's degree in education.

WUIS

The Illinois State Board of Education released loads of data on Friday, when the latest statewide report card debuted. But it doesn't include other information school officials say they'd really like to get ahold of.

The school report card shows student demographic trends, class size, graduation rates and how well teachers at any given district are paid compared with the state average.

But a key indicator of academic progress? That's not posted.

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

The diversity makeup of Illinois schools is changing. That’s according to information released by the state.

If you moved every desk, from every Illinois school, into one giant classroom, more than half of the kids in those seats would be students of color.

That's on par with national figures. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education signaled that minorities would outnumber whites at the nation's public schools.

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