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

A lanky, long-haired kid stands in front of a stack of shelves lined with more than a dozen varieties of canned beans. He's 10, and his name is Wiley. He's got a shopping list in his hand and a mask on his face. This is the first time he's been in a grocery store in over five months. His cart is loaded with onions, limes, yogurt, bell peppers, feta cheese. Now he needs chickpeas, and although he's peering at a can with a picture of chickpeas on the label, his brow is furrowed.

"It just says garbanzo beans," he says. "What are garbanzo beans?"

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Mississippi currently has no state flag. The former flag was retired earlier this summer after nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd. Mississippi was the only state left that still had the Confederate battle flag emblem. To find a new flag for the state, Mississippi asked people to submit designs. Nearly 3,000 submissions were turned in, and now a state commission will review the designs and pick one for voters to approve in November. Reuben Anderson is the chair of the commission to redesign the Mississippi state flag. He joins us now.

As the school year starts in many districts across the country, a new national poll of teachers from NPR/Ipsos finds overwhelming trepidation about returning to the physical classroom.

As schools across the country grapple with bringing kids back into the classroom, parents — and teachers — are worried about safety. We asked pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and education experts for help evaluating school district plans.

What we learned: There's no such thing as zero risk, but certain practices can lower the risk of an outbreak at school and keep kids, teachers and families safer.

Colorado State is investigating its football department, the university announced in a press release, following reports that coaches in the program had attempted to coerce players out of reporting possible symptoms of the coronavirus and warned the team against submitting themselves to self quarantine.

It was supposed to be a great year for Golden Daka. He would be the first member of his family to graduate from college. He had a big commencement speech planned for his graduation from Morehouse College, where he was a valedictorian.

"I wanted to give that huge speech onstage with my family, friends and loved ones there, who made it very possible for me to go to Morehouse," says Daka.

But in March, campus emptied and classes went online. And then the moment he'd been waiting for — commencement — was postponed.

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Mississippi is heading for a title that no state would want. According to researchers at Harvard, it is about to become the No. 1 state for new coronavirus infections per capita. Dr. LouAnn Woodward is the top executive at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and she joins us now.

Thank you for taking the time today.

LOUANN WOODWARD: Absolutely. I'm glad to speak with you this evening.

SHAPIRO: Well, first just tell us what things look like from where you sit right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic could swipe roughly $200 billion from state coffers by June of next year, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute's State and Local Finance Initiative.

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This story is part of an NPR nationwide analysis of states' revenue and budgets during the pandemic.

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As colleges prepare to reopen, many are leaving the decision to students - that is, whether they feel safe enough to return to campus despite the pandemic.

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In any ordinary school year, school nurses are busy. This year, that's an understatement.

"Our role has expanded tenfold," says Eileen Gavin, who co-leads a team of nurses for Middletown Township Public Schools in New Jersey.

Kirk Gallegos is a single father of four. He works construction in Barstow, Calif. Prudence Carter is a single mother of one. She's the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley.

Both share the same problem with tens of millions of other parents around the country: Their public schools aren't operating full time in-person this fall. And the rest of the child care system, which had been stretched even before the pandemic, is itself under pressure.

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Just a few months ago, college seniors could reasonably expect to graduate into one of the best job markets in history. Now, because of the pandemic, they've graduated into one of the worst in generations. When members of the class of 2020 have landed jobs, the experience is odd. NPR's Uri Berliner reports.

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Historically Black colleges and universities have an extra factor to consider as they plan on how to operate this next school year: Black communities are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

According to the COVID Racial Data Tracker, Black people are dying from the coronavirus at two and a half times the rate of white people.

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Catholic schools in urban neighborhoods, often seen as an attractive option by low income parents and families of color, are facing an unprecedented crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country, at least 100 urban Catholic schools will close in the fall as a result of declining tuition revenue, and school administrators say the number could double in the next two months.

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At least 100 Catholic schools - at least 100 - will close permanently because of financial stress from the pandemic. As with so much in this emergency, the impact falls most heavily on low-income parents and families of color. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.

The largest public university system in the country — California State University — is requiring all students to take an ethnic studies or social justice course in order to graduate, a move that will go into effect at the beginning of the 2023-2024 academic school year.

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The head of a powerful national teachers union told members Tuesday that its leadership would support "safety strikes" if health precautions are not met amid calls for schools to reopen as coronavirus cases surge.

Randi Weingarten, who leads the American Federation of Teachers, is leaving the final decision to local unions on whether to strike. The AFT — the nation's second-largest teachers union, with 1.7 million members — also unveiled several benchmarks that it said should be met before schools can fully welcome back students and staff.

Texas Allows High School Sports In The Fall

Jul 28, 2020

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