April 02, 2013

The Lawyer Bubble

Legal services are increasingly expensive and, in some places in the state, hard to find. This hour on Focus, we talked with John Thies, President of the Illinois State Bar Association, which is calling for change in how the state educates it attorneys, and Steven Harper, author of the new book “The Lawyer Bubble.”

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Drawing of a person with many flags covering his body
January 24, 2013

Bilingual Education

An elementary school in Urbana is piloting a dual language program teaching kindergarten classes almost entirely in Spanish.

Illinois Public Media’s Sean Powers reports that the program has been well received by parents and that students have been outperforming educator expectations. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about bilingualism and how we think children best learn to speak a second language. Host Craig Cohen talks with Eurydice Bauer, an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the UIUC about how we think the brain switches between one language to another and if learning more than one language at the same time negatively affects a child’s proficiency in one or the other. We’ll also talk with Joseph Wiemelt of Urbana High School.

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October 30, 2012

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough, Writer specializing in education, child development, poverty, and politics and contributor to "This American Life."

Host: Craig Cohen

Children's success in school is usually measured by test scores – the SAT, IQ test, standardized exams. But in How Children Succeed, writer and This American Life contributor Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control. As scientists discover more about the longterm effects of early adversity on the developing brain, Tough argues that the ways parents can instill these qualities in children can have ramifications that last a lifetime.

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October 11, 2012

Bullying Intervention and Prevention: What Works, What Doesn't and What You Can Do

Dorothy Espelage, Professor, Educational Psychology, University of Illinois

Debra Chasnoff, Filmmaker, President and Senior Producer of GroundSpark, a film, education and advocacy organization

Host: Kimberlie Kranich

Most of us would agree that bullying and name-calling are harmful behaviors.  And most states have mandatory anti-bullying programs in their schools.  Which programs work?  Which ones don't?  What's the difference between prevention and intervention?  How can I talk to my child or my student about bullying? How can I talk about group-specific bullying, especially anti-gay bullying, at home and at school?

We'll offer some tips and provide you with resources as we talk about efforts to stop and prevent bulling in Illinois and around the nation with two guests:  Dorothy Espelage, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Debra Chasnoff, documentary filmmaker.

Dorothy Espelage has conducted research on bullying, homophobic teasing, sexual harassment, and dating violence for the last 18 years. She leads a team of undergraduates, graduate students and staff in an effort to make schools more safe.

Debra Chasnoff is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has fueled progressive social-change movements in many fields. She is president and senior producer at GroundSpark, a national social justice media, advocacy, and education organization, and co-creator of The Respect for All Project, a program that produces media and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people.

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September 05, 2012

Is School Too Easy?

Dr. Christopher A. Koch, Illinois State Superintendent of Education

Ulrich Boser, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Co-author of CAP study

Host: Craig Cohen

We often wring our hands over failing schools, and worry about drop-out rates, and students who just can't catch up. But public policy does not as often focus on those students who excel, and seek stronger academic engagement. According to a recent report released by the Center for American Progress, student surveys conducted over the last three years by the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Education Progress indicates school may, in fact, be too easy for a lot of students. Among the findings:

•37% of 4th graders say their math work is "often" or "always" too easy;
•57% of 8th graders say their history work is "often" or "always" too easy;
•39% of 12th graders say they rarely write about what they read in class.

Is it possible that, after years of aggressive efforts to push for standardized testing in public schools, we’ve created an environment of “teaching to the test” that has resulted in some students simply not being challenged? How does classwork today compare to 10, 20 or 30 years ago? And what about “grade inflation?” What message do we send to students who can earn GPA greater than 4 on a 4 point scale? In short, is school, for some, truly, just too easy?

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July 02, 2012

Student Loan Debt and Default, a National Crisis?

More than 90 percent of today’s students earning a bachelor’s degree borrow money to pay for school. That can leave them with a huge burden of debt when they graduate. Why have so many students turned to borrowing to pay for college? And what happens to them and to the country if they can’t repay their loans? Our guest will be Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, and we’ll explore the growing problem of student debt.

This is a repeat broadcast from Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 10 am

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