Education

Education and learning

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.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The severance package for former Northern Illinois University president Doug Baker is now null and void, according to a court ruling Wednesday.

A DeKalb County judge ruled that the NIU Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act. Judge Bradley Waller said in his decision that the board did not adequately notify the public of the terms of Baker’s more than $600,000 severance package.

GETGREDIT.COM / FLICKR-CREATIVE COMMONS

A recent report shows Illinois is facing a teacher shortage. But changes to teachers’ pensions — including cutbacks on the state’s share of contributions — spells uncertainty for anyone going into the profession.

  

When the Illinois General Assembly approved a budget last summer, they also agreed to cut back on about $500 million to the state's pension system. This might sound like a good idea if the money is allocated to pay for other needs in the immediate future. For teachers, however, it means the state might not be able to cover their pensions. 

Legislature Approves Teaching Cursive Writing In Schools

Nov 9, 2017
pxhere.com

Penmanship disappeared from the curriculum in many schools because teachers are devoting more time to preparing students for standardized tests. A new state law approved Wednesday will bring it back to ensure elementary students get instruction in cursive writing.

State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, filed the measure the same day lawmakers approved his resolution on zombie apocalypse preparedness. At the time, Welch wasn't sure anybody would care about cursive.

Free Webinar Offers Information On Opioid Crisis

Nov 8, 2017

How serious is the opioid crisis in Illinois? Last year, 1,900 people died of opioid overdose in our state -- twice as many as those who died in car crashes. 

To help provide more knowledge about addiction to pain killers, the University of Illinois Extension is hosting a free webinar at noon Thursday about what local groups -- including police and social service agencies --- can do to reduce opioid addiction.

Heidi Clark, Division Chief of Health and Data Policy for the Illinois Department of Public Health, will present the webinar.

The release of the Illinois school report card brought new details on school gains and losses. State Superintendent Tony Smith says there was some good news. 

“It’s pretty exciting that the four-year high-school graduation rate increased from 85.5 percent to 87 percent, so just over 2,000 more kids graduating in four years than last year,” he said. “The percentage of students enrolled in college 12 months after graduating also increased.”

Guy Stephens/WNIJ

A 3-percent pay increase for Northern Illinois University faculty and staff was approved this morning by the NIU Board of Trustees, which then voted to extend the raise to employees in union bargaining units that still are negotiating contracts but have signed off on the increase.

NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman recommended the increase in her State of the University address last month for all NIU employees hired before Jan. 1, 2017.

Katie Finlon/WNIJ

Sycamore High School is aiming to distribute a student survey on possible staggered start times before Thanksgiving.

Principal Tim Carlson says a committee has discussed the proposed schedule change several times, but large-scale student surveys have not been completed. He says committee members are still gathering information about what specific start times could be part of the staggered schedule and evaluating the individual needs of students.

rock.uwc.edu

The University of Wisconsin System would merge each of its 13 two-year campuses with a four year institution under a plan unveiled Wednesday by UW System President Ray Cross.

The UW-Rock County two-year campus in Janesville, for example, would become part of the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater under the restructuring plan.

The plan also would put the state’s public broadcasting networks under the auspices of the UW System administration.

Jenna Dooley

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has been taking a victory lap for the new school funding formula at schools across the state. Such visits can be a low-stakes way for the state’s top politicians to interact with their youngest constituents.

Last month, Rauner took questions from several inquisitive students at Galapagos Charter School in Rockford.

Rauner: So do you have any questions for me?

Student: How much do you get paid?

WalletHub

School funding problems, including disparities between districts, have grabbed the headlines in Illinois the last couple of years.  But a website recently ranked Illinois schools among the best in the country for teachers.

Personal finance website WalletHub said it looked at two broad areas when ranking the states:

One -- Opportunity and Competition -- included average starting salaries, income growth potential, pensions and tenure protections.

Guy Stephens/ WNIJ

The Illinois legislature passed a new school funding formula this summer. The state’s public schools chief says there’s a lot left to be done to make it work.  

State Superintendent Tony Smith said the new law is a tremendous opportunity.

“[It’s] a model that really moves resources to the kids that need it the most,” he said. “So there’s a fundamental shift toward equity.”     

University of Illinois Police

An October 11 arraignment date has been set for Brendt Christensen, after a federal grand jury returned a new indictment accusing the alleged kidnapper of Yingying Zhang of murdering her as well.

New NIU Stevens Building May Be Open By Next Summer

Oct 4, 2017
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University’s new theater and anthropology building may be ready for students and faculty by next summer.

NIU spokesman Joe King says he walked through the NIU Stevens Building project site recently. He says the difference between the old and new buildings already is astounding, with a large anthropology lecture hall, brighter labs, bigger theater performance spaces and better classrooms all the way around.

King says the renovation project is scheduled for completion by next spring, but not necessarily in time to house classes for either department.

"Teachers Pet" by Flickr User Matthew / (CC X 2.0)

Illinois education officials say the elimination of some requirements for teacher licenses has streamlined the licensing process and hasn't sacrificed the state's high standards.

The Chicago Tribune reports the changes to the licensing laws began in 2011. Some allow aspiring teachers to bypass certain coursework and exams.

Some administrators say those changes have helped fill jobs in areas with teacher shortages.

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

The promise of a new public-school funding formula for Illinois was that no districts would lose money. So many said they were blindsided when the state announced a big cut in another revenue source tapped by schools. For some, it’s a significant part of their budget. This week’s Friday Forum looks at what’s going on.

niu.edu / afscme.org

State-employee union officials say they’re concerned about the recent news of planned wage increases for some Northern Illinois University employees. 

The three-percent wage hike would apply only to NIU employees who are not in an open contract with a bargaining unit. There are about a dozen such contracts including faculty, civil service employees and food service workers. 

Rockford Public Schools

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he's filing a measure designed to launch major changes in higher education.

Citing the high out-migration of students to other states, Rose wants to make it easier for Illinois students to enter state universities.

He aims to create a common application form for all 12 public university campuses and guarantee acceptance for any student who finished high school with a B average.

NIU Researchers Will Test Health App Effectiveness

Sep 27, 2017
Flickr user Leonardo Angelini / "#fitness" (CC V 2.0)

Northern Illinois University health and computer science researchers want to test how a fitness app they developed works.

Researchers say they hope to have 100 people participate in the test. The eight-week study looks at how fitness apps and health behavior may be connected.

Participants would download the app to their phones, use it when they work out, and see how effective it is. The features would be adjusted continually by researchers.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Nearly 13 percent of Illinoisans do not have a high school diploma. Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law Friday aimed at changing that. The new law will allow community colleges and non-profit organizations to set up “adult high school” programs where people over 21 can earn diplomas.

Currently, their only option is a GED. Rauner said this program will offer much more, including “more job opportunities, to better careers and higher wages, higher salaries for the people of Illinois who now have access to a high school diploma that they didn’t have access to before.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It’s been 24 years since a federal magistrate proclaimed the Rockford Public Schools had “raised discrimination to an art form” and ordered the schools to desegregate.

The court remedy set up a system of school choice, which led to racially balanced schools. In 2010, the order was lifted and the district chose to return to “zoned schools.” Students now attend schools close to their homes -- but that has led to re-segregation.

Northern Illinois University

Pay raises may be on the way for some Northern Illinois University employees.

In her State of the University address Wednesday, Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman touched on subjects like the delayed presidential search, the school’s fiscal future and university building projects.

Freeman also mentioned this in her speech:

Susan Stephens

Northern Illinois University won't begin a formal search for its next president until next year.  The Board of Trustees said the timing is in the best interest of the university.

In a letter released Monday to the NIU community, Board Chairman Wheeler Coleman and Vice Chair Dennis Barsema said feedback from faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders led to the determination to start the search in fall of 2018.

The two said there was a strong push for an open and inclusive process, however long that would take.  

niu.edu / afscme.org

Northern Illinois University was ordered to stop changing parking fees for union members without bargaining and refund the fee changes. 

That’s according to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. They ruled Thursday that NIU raised parking pass prices in 2016 without bargaining with AFSCME-member employees.

More than 600 clerical, paraprofessional and administrative employees should be reimbursed $38 each plus interest, the board ruled. 

A federal indictment alleges Larry Wyllie misused taxpayer money to build a dog-training school and to give himself a retirement bonus. It also says that, as superintendent, he lied about the finances of Lincoln-Way High School District 210, using money borrowed for construction to pay for regular expenses.

District 210 mainly serves Frankfort, Mokena and New Lenox, southwest of Chicago. Household income and property values are well above the state average; yet, among hundreds of Illinois school systems, Lincoln-Way’s finances are ranked third from the bottom.

U Of I Flagship Campus Sets 10-Day Enrollment Record

Sep 14, 2017
Julie McMahon/University of Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set an enrollment record for a seventh consecutive year. 

Even with a slight drop in the number of freshman, total enrollment at the Urbana campus is up 3% over last year to more than 47,800 students. Including the Chicago and Springfield campuses brings total U of I enrollment to more than 83,000.

The U of I takes enrollment snapshots on the tenth day of each fall semester.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Students at Kishwaukee College will get a financial reward if they earn a C or better in their credit courses this academic year.

Kishwaukee College board members announced the Student Success Scholarship, which will cover half of the ten-dollar-per-credit hour tuition hike they approved in March. The scholarships will be credited to qualified students' accounts after final grades are posted.

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