Education

Education and learning

NIU May Soon Install More Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Apr 13, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University is in the early stages of a proposal that would implement gender-neutral bathrooms.

NIU’s chief diversity officer Vernese Edghill Walden says the proposal is still in the planning stage, but a draft should be completed sometime during the summer or fall semesters.

Kristen Myers directs the Gender and Woman Studies department at NIU. She says the school has ranked as one of the most LGBT-friendly schools in the past … but the only thing that would help is gender-neutral bathrooms.

Northern Illinois University

The student senate at Northern Illinois University appointed its first female speaker last week.

NIU student association senator Christine Wang begins her tenure as speaker this summer. She says she’s happy with the progress of the student association senate in selecting its first woman speaker. 

“It’s a huge move for NIU,” Wang said. “It showcases a lot of our diversity and how much we emphasize on it. I think it means that we’re moving forward with the changing dynamic that is our society today.”

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.

NIU Art Museum Ranks In Country's Top 50

Mar 28, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University Art Museum has been ranked among the 50 best college art museums in the country on a CollegeRank.net list written by a museum director in northern Illinois.

NIU’s Art Museum was listed as No. 34 in the article. The University of Illinois art museum was listed as No. 48.

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.

Northern Illinois University

A three-year-old FBI probe of Northern Illinois University is over, according to the school. But the FBI won’t confirm that. 

In March 2013, FBI agents searched NIU’s public safety building, removing boxes of records, but not revealing what they were looking for. It was believed to be focused on former police chief Don Grady and head of finance Eddie Williams.

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.

GED Testing Service

The minimum score requirement for the General Educational Development test – or GED – changed for those who took it in the last couple of years.

The new minimum passing score for the GED is 145; it used to be 150. That means that, if you scored higher than the new minimum and took the test after Jan. 1, 2014, you now are considered to have passed and might have earned your high school equivalency.  

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Rock Valley College’s president will step down next January. Mike Mastroianni says the time is right to retire, and he’ll still be able to wrap up a number of the school’s projects. He has been with RVC for 18 years and was named president in 2014.

Mastroianni counts an engineering partnership with Northern Illinois University and the expansion of the aviation technology program among his accomplishments.

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.

Senator Challenges Rauner's Math On School Funding

Feb 19, 2016
ilga.gov

Public schools were singled out in Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address yesterday as one of the rare state services he’s happy to fund. In fact, he said increasing education funding is the one thing that he will not back down on.

Illinois public schools receive state aid through a complicated formula. It’s meant to ensure that every school can spend at least $6,119 per student every year. But, for the past few years, state government hasn’t met that obligation.

Rauner said he wants to fund 100 percent of the state aid formula for the first time in seven years.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University’s president responded this week to complaints about his travel expenses.

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

All Rockford Public Schools are closed today, according to an announcement on the school district website. All district after-school activities also are canceled, the announcement said.

The district reports that "a large percentage" of the district-owned school buses would not start because of the extreme cold.

The Administration Building, Student Assignment Center/Sterling Holley and Operations Support Center are open.

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.

Students Offered Incentive To Consider Kishwaukee

Jan 5, 2016
Jenna Dooley

Students returning from winter break are getting an offer they can't refuse. One lucky student will have his or her tuition paid for the spring semester, up to 12 credit hours. Marshall Hayes is the Director of Foundation Development of Kishwaukee College.  Hayes says, "it's a tuition reimbursement we're offering for the spring semester. It's an encouragement for students to consider taking classes at Kish. 

The tuition reimbusement was approved after discussion with other department heads.

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.

CFNIL

The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois on Thursday announced matching endowments to Rockford University and Highland Community College.  The money will be used to create scholarship endowments totaling $5 million for students at the two schools. 

Highland Community College is receiving $1 million from the Foundation, toward a total scholarship endowment of $2 million.  Rockford University is receiving $1.5 million, toward a fund totaling $3 million.

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.

Flickr User Brent Hoard/ "ECU School of Education Class Room" (cc by 2.0)

President Barack Obama today signed the Every Student Succeeds Act --- a rewrite of No Child Left Behind.

The new law, referred to as ESSA, passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

It replaces the wildly unpopular law that's been referred to as No Child Left Untested. Educators are so enthusiastic about this rewrite, the heads of two Illinois teachers unions flew to Washington to witness its signing.

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.

NIU Students Santa's Helpers

Dec 9, 2015

Northern Illinois University professor David Henningsen incorporated a project into his Group Communications course that will benefit area teenagers through The Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois. He says the agency expressed the need to collect Christmas items for teens, and that people have been generous with gifts for small children. But the older children have limited items to choose from. "Often the older kids were overlooked, so that was a challenge they were facing."

Pages