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

University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois is canceling commencement ceremonies at all campuses this spring due to concerns over COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lee Myers is a senior at Berea College in Kentucky. Up until March 14, he was living in a dorm called Deep Green, majoring in philosophy with a minor in economics, and looking forward to a future career in social justice. Now that the campus has closed and graduation is canceled due to coronavirus, he and his classmates have bigger things to worry about.

"Some people are panicking, rightly so," he says, "because they don't know what they're going to do. It's sort of like a bombshell that dropped on campus."

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

The United States has now begun its first week of widespread school closures and restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses, with the COVID-19 pandemic remaking daily life for millions of Americans. And the White House added new recommendations Monday, calling for millions of people to work from home and to home-school their children if that's possible.

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After his award-winning book came out in 2016, Ibram X. Kendi heard from people everywhere, telling him it opened their eyes to a new way of looking at history.

"They were coming up to me and saying, 'It feels too late now. I wish I had read this in middle school,' " he says.

Updated on March 16 at 1 p.m. ET to reflect new guidance on play dates during school closures. This is an evolving story and guidance from health authorities is evolving quickly.

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Reinvention.

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Michael Tubbs has been saying "reinvent Stockton" since he ran for city council. Having grown up in Stockton himself, Tubbs takes a community-oriented approach to creating positive change in the city.

About Michael Tubb

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Reinvention.

About Valorie Kondos Field's TED Talk

Former gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field led her team to victory by creating a supportive environment, instead of a cutthroat one. The impact of that decision, she says, echoes far beyond the gym.

About Valorie Kondos Field

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Reinvention.

About Damian Kulash's TED Talk

Imagine surrounding yourself with images and sounds, in order to set old ideas in a new context. OK Go's Damian Kulash describes the process that has inspired the band's hits and viral videos.

About Damian Kulash

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Every day for the past week, colleges and universities around the country have made the announcement: in-person classes are cancelled due to fears over the spreading coronavirus.

Ohio State. Harvard. University of Virginia. University of Michigan. Duke. These are just some of the more than 100 universities across the country that are moving classes online.

Lecture halls will be empty. Labs closed. Concerts cancelled. Sports practices called off. Some universities are asking students to go home early for spring break, and if on break now, not to return to campus at all.

Updated at 12:41 p.m. ET Friday

Officials in Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and the District of Columbia have announced that schools in their states will be closed for several weeks amid concerns about the coronavirus. The statewide closures come after many school districts and dozens of colleges and universities have temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 disease.

Updated 3/23/20

It's become clear that our initial deadline extension won't be enough, so we're extending the deadline for entering the NPR Student Podcast Challenge to May 1, 2020.

We've heard from many teachers about the challenges their students are facing to finish up their student podcasts. We've also heard from lots of other teachers, saying that with so many students working at home the NPR Student Podcast Challenge offers a great opportunity for students to stay busy and engaged remotely.

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Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois

UPDATE 3/15: In a message to the campus community, Chancellor Susan Koch called on departments to prepare to have employees work remotely, if possible.  "I am directing all deans, directors and division heads to begin working with employees to create alternative work arrangements to allow the option to work from a remote location, if appropriate; adopt a flexible or compressed work schedule; and/or establish rotation among staff for on-site work," Koch wrote. "These measures will support continued campus operations while at the same time allow for the flexibility employees will need to ensure the well-being of themselves and their families."

Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois

University of Illinois Springfield students are scheduled to return from spring break next week.  But the university is still considering whether or not to hold classroom instruction.  

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The spread of coronavirus has compelled hundreds of K-12 schools in the U.S. to close, affecting more than 850,000 students, according to an analysis by Education Week. And those numbers are certain to increase in the coming days, as concerned parents call for more school closures.

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One of the more difficult things to talk with students about is race. A new book from a historian and a children's book author tries to tackle racist ideas in a relatable way for young adults. NPR's Elissa Nadworny has the story.

Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET Tuesday

A growing number of U.S. colleges have canceled in-person classes because of the coronavirus. The closures began in Washington state, and now include Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, Rice University, Stanford University, Hofstra University, University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington, among others. As of midday Tuesday, more than half a million students are affected by the cancellations.

So far just a few U.S. higher education students have confirmed exposure to COVID-19, mainly through contact with patients in hospitals.

Copyright 2020 KAZU. To see more, visit KAZU.

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Students at all 10 University of California campuses are rallying today in support of higher pay for graduate student workers.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) UCSC, UCSB...

Updated at 4:54 p.m. ET

As cases of coronavirus disease continue to be identified in countries around the world, the effort to stem its spread has kept some 290 million students home from school.

According to the United Nations, as of Tuesday, 22 countries on three continents have closed schools because of the virus.

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Peter Medlin / Northern Public Radio

Illinois’ population dropped for the sixth year in a row. And Illinois students leave the state for school at higher rates than almost anywhere else. Rockford is trying to leverage its engineering and manufacturing industry to get people to stay.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether sex education teachers should have to warn students about the consequences of “sexting” — sharing or forwarding sexually explicit videos, pictures, and text messages.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Updated at 9:44 a.m. EST.

The U.S. Department of Education must act to help thousands of student loan borrowers who have severe disabilities; that's the message of two letters sent Tuesday to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Because of their disabilities, these borrowers qualify to have their federal student loans erased. But one letter, signed by more than 30 advocacy groups, says the department has made the application process so burdensome that most borrowers never get the help they're entitled to.

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