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

Updated at 9:09 p.m ET

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is firing its head football coach, two assistant coaches and seven other team staffers after an outside investigation found "serious violations of NCAA rules."

A bag of Doritos, that's all Princess wanted.

Her mom calls her Princess, but her real name is Lindsey. She's 17 and lives with her mom, Sandra, a nurse, outside of Atlanta. On May 17, 2020, a Sunday, Lindsey decided she didn't want breakfast; she wanted Doritos. So she left home and walked to Family Dollar, taking her pants off on the way, while her mom followed on the phone with police.

Last spring, the pandemic stole Maddie Harvey's job on campus in the Dean of Students office. She was finishing up her senior year at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn., and without the income from her job, she wasn't going to have enough money to pay her upcoming tuition bill.

"It was definitely a very vulnerable situation that I was in," says Harvey, "it's not easy to talk about when you're struggling, especially knowing that so many people were struggling at one time."

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When schools shut down in the spring, that raised immediate worries about the nearly 30 million children who depend on school food. Those worries were essentially borne out, with researchers reporting a large rise in child hunger.

Don Brown has been driving a school bus for more than 20 years in the Chicago area. And for all that time, he's noticed one odd student habit.

As they climb aboard his bus, "when they get to the top step, they always cough," he says. "This was even before the pandemic! Or, when they get ready to get off, they say 'Bye, bus driver!' and they cough."

Because of this, Brown says, he hopes he'll be getting the vaccine, "as soon as I can."

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Lehigh University has revoked an honorary degree that President Trump held for more than 30 years. The Pennsylvania school's board of trustees held a special vote this week after Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"The decision came after a special session of the Executive Committee on Thursday and was fully affirmed earlier today," student newspaper The Brown and White reported.

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sent a letter to President Trump on Thursday announcing her resignation. She is the latest administration official to quit in protest of Wednesday's violence at the U.S. Capitol. The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Music teacher Martin Urbach was up most of Wednesday night working with colleagues on lesson plans to help his students make sense of the day's events. "I only got like two hours of sleep."

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Since the beginning of this pandemic, experts and educators have feared that open schools would spread the coronavirus further, which is why so many classrooms remain closed. But a new, nationwide study suggests reopening schools may be safer than previously thought, at least in communities where the virus is not already spreading out of control.

An education advocacy group says Illinois schools should plan to make up time lost to the Coronavirus pandemic, perhaps by extending the school day or year.

That’s one recommendation in a recent report from Advance Illinois. Another way to help fill in the gaps could be offering extensive tutoring, according to the report.

The organization in the fall conducted focus groups with 120 students, parents and caregivers to learn about their experiences during the pandemic.

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It's that time of year! New semester, new assignments, new Student Podcast Challenge. Yep, NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is back for its third year, and it opens today, Jan 1.

For American families and their children, school is more than just a building. It's a social life and a community, an athletic center and a place to get meals that aren't available at home. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted — and continues to disrupt — the lives of U.S. students in profound ways.

With millions of kids still learning remotely, the learning losses are piling up.

A Michigan teenager shares what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder.

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So 2020 was a year of racial unrest and racial change, and as Black organizers are working to ensure those transformations last, Black students are doing the same.

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A yellow school bus with snow on the roof chugs up to the front door of Bucksport High School in Maine, where Principal Josh Tripp greets the handful of late-arriving students as they drag themselves inside.

Tripp is just glad they've shown up in a year when school is half online, sports and clubs have been curtailed, and the world can seem as cold and gray as a winter morning in this sparsely populated coastal town.

In a speech praising educators, President-elect Joe Biden announced Miguel Cardona was a "real easy" choice to be the next secretary of education.

On Wednesday, Biden reiterated his focus on getting schools open amid the pandemic and touted Cardona's experience this fall balancing online and in-person learning in Connecticut, and getting students connected and outfitted with a device for learning. "That's the vision, resolve and initiative, that's all gonna help us contain this pandemic and reopen our schools safely," Biden said.

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Updated at 7:43 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, the head of Connecticut's public schools, to be his secretary of education.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Biden called Cardona a "lifelong champion of public education."

Cardona makes true on an early Biden promise to pick an education secretary who was a teacher: "A teacher. Promise," Biden told the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, back in July 2019.

Updated at 9:33 p.m., Dec. 28, 2020

Seventy-three suspected cheaters, one critical mistake.

Dozens of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were caught cheating on a calculus final exam in May after they all made the same errors on the test, according to officials.

At a time when the pandemic has exposed a growing shortage of nurses, it should have been good news that there were more than 1,200 applicants to enter the associate degree program in nursing at Long Beach City College.

But the California community college took only 32 of them.

North of here, California State University, East Bay isn't enrolling any nursing students at all until at least next fall.

Higher education was struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing demand for nurses even before the COVID-19 crisis. Now it's falling further behind.

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