Education Desk

Credit Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

See the latest reports from NPR Illinois Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes. 

The NPR Illinois Education Desk is a community funded initiative to report on stories that impact you.  Stories on the state of education from K-12 to higher education written by Illinois and national journalists.

Funders include:

  • Anonymous Individual Donors
  • Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln
  • Hope Institute for Children and Families
  • Horace Mann Company
  • HSHS St. John's Hospital
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

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The new school year is rapidly approaching, but many parents and educators still don't know exactly what the semester will look like.

As President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos call for schools to open in-person, districts across the country are formulating a range of plans. Doctors have their own recommendations for what systems should do.

As Zuleika Yusuf Daffala walks across Kibera, one of the big informal settlements in Kenya's capital, she greets dozens of kids on the streets. Some are jumping rope, others chasing each other through the alley and another group is trying to make a tiny cooking pan out of an aluminum can.

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Across the country, students of color have been demanding change from their schools. At one Denver school, the push for a more inclusive and diverse curriculum came last year, from a group of African American high school students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College.

Around the world, countries are debating what to do about schools during a pandemic.

In many places, they've been shut. In some they've reopened.

Hong Kong offers a cautionary tale of how difficult these decisions can be.

Schoolchildren were sent home at the end of January as the first wave of the outbreak began, originating from visitors from mainland China. Schools stayed closed through a second wave, sparked largely by European and North American travelers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics once again plunged into the growing debate over school reopening with a strong new statement Friday, making clear that while in-person school provides crucial benefits to children, "Public health agencies must make recommendations based on evidence, not politics." The statement also said that "science and community circumstances must guide decision-making."

The U.S. Department of Education moved this week to make it easier for colleges to reconsider and potentially increase financial aid for students who have lost jobs or family income in the economic crisis.

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That drumbeat sound you are hearing getting louder and louder this week as the days have passed, it's the drumbeat from the Trump administration to reopen American schools.

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Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Making Amends

Are overdue library book fines necessary? Librarian Dawn Wacek wants all libraries to do away with overdue fines to make library services more inclusive and welcoming to all readers.

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As Florida schools plan to reopen in just weeks, some educators fear the state is ill prepared to keep teachers and students safe.

"Our teachers here in Florida have high angst," Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association, told NPR. "They are scared and frankly they're angry because they see a very irresponsible thought process in which to open our schools."

Pirette McKamey is fighting for anti-racist education.

Over her more than 30 years as an educator, the principal at Mission High School in San Francisco spent a decade leading an anti-racism committee.

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More now on this week's announcement from the Trump administration that international students won't be allowed to stay in the U.S. unless they take classes in person this fall.

Jeanne Norris is a teacher, the wife of a teacher and the mother of an 8-year-old in St. Louis. She'd love to send her son back to school in August. But, she says, "I feel like my government and my fellow citizens have put me in a position where it's not really in the best interests of our family."

Norris has a long list of reasons why. She says she has taught in buildings where ventilation systems are outdated and malfunctioning, and even soap for hand-washing is in short supply.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said on Wednesday that the city's schools will open in the fall, but with a mix of in-person and remote learning options.

In the wake of ongoing protests for racial justice, young people in America are demanding change from their schools.

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The University of California Board of Regents has made by history naming Dr. Michael Drake as the 21st president of the UC system. He was unanimously approved by the board and will be the first person of color to hold the position in the system's 152-year history.

He recently stepped down as president of The Ohio State University, a position he's held since 2014.

Simge Topaloğlu was using group chats to commiserate with friends about the uncertainty of being an international student in America long before almost all of college life went remote in the spring.

As travel bans were made and modified under the Trump administration, the online rumor mill churned.

"Someone hears something through the grapevine, like: 'a friend of mine said this,' 'maybe this is going to happen,' " said Topaloğlu, who is entering her third year seeking her doctorate in psychology at Harvard University.

Updated at 6:44 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court has carved out a major exception to the nation's fair employment laws. In a 7-2 vote, the court ruled on Wednesday that the country's civil rights laws barring discrimination on the job do not apply to most lay teachers at religious elementary schools.

Just two days after federal officials barred international students from attending U.S. colleges that go online-only this fall, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made their objections clear. They sued the U.S. government in federal court Wednesday, seeking to have the U.S. Immigration Customs And Enforcement policy reversed and declared unlawful.

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President Trump issued a forceful call this week for America's K-12 schools to reopen full time for all children in the fall, suggesting that Democrats want to keep schools closed ahead of the November election and even threatening to cut off federal funding to schools if they don't fully reopen (something he cannot do). In this push, the administration has a powerful ally: the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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