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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Coming To America: Our Best Student Podcasts About Immigration

Aug 3, 2019

When Fahmo Abdi and her family immigrated to the United States from Kenya, they lost contact with all of their loved ones. While living in a refugee camp, Abdi's mother decided to move her family to the United States in search of a better life. "She knew she had to work hard to provide for us and [for] her family back home," Abdi recalls.

But once they arrived, it was difficult to stay in touch. After eight years of attempting to contact relatives in Kenya, Abdi's mother learned that her brother — Abdi's uncle — was still alive.

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Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman is sitting in a rocking chair on a farmhouse porch in the hills of rural east Tennessee. She's granting a rare interview on the farm she bought 25 years ago to use as a retreat to train a new generation of activists.

A sudden knock at one's door. An unexpected call to meet off campus. Surreptitious visits to family members.

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"The Addams Family" musical made its debut on Broadway in 2010. The story of a weird, ghoulish family that loves all things death, in song and dance.

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Public school students in South Dakota will notice something different on their first day back to school — the national motto, "In God We Trust," prominently inscribed on walls in stencil or paint.

A new state law that took effect this month requires the message to be displayed in an area where students are "most likely" to see it, such as a cafeteria or entryway.

Roughly 9 million children — nearly 1 in 5 public school students in the U.S. — attend schools that are racially isolated and receive far less money than schools just a few miles away. That's according to a sweeping new review of the nation's most divisive school district borders from EdBuild, a nonprofit that investigates school funding inequities.

A public school district in Pennsylvania that faced a national outcry after threatening to place children in foster care over unpaid cafeteria debt has received several offers to pay off the entire tab, but school officials do not seem interested.

Midstate College President Meredith Bunch says low and declining enrollment has forced the sudden closure of the 131-year-old private institution in Peoria. 

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Dozens of families in Pennsylvania received an alarming letter from their public school district this month informing parents that if their kid's lunch debt was not settled, their child could be removed from their home and placed in foster care.

Wyoming Valley West School District, one of the poorest districts in the state as measured by per-pupil spending, is located in a former coal mining community in Northeastern Pennsylvania, known affectionately by locals as "The Valley."

Anya Kamenetz is an NPR education correspondent, a host of Life Kit and author of The Art Of Screen Time. This story draws from the book and recent reporting for Life Kit's guide, Parenting: Screen Time And Your Family.

Elise Potts picked up her 17-month-old daughter, Eliza, from daycare recently. When they got home they were greeted by a strange scene.

More than 58,000 children were sexually abused in the U.S. in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Many states are trying to curb those numbers — 20 now require sexual abuse prevention education by law. In 2009, Vermont became one of the first.

Most days, 25-year-old Chavonne can push her student loan debt to the back of her mind.

Between short-term office jobs in the Washington, D.C., area, she drives for Uber. But once in awhile, a debt collector will get hold of her cellphone number — the one she keeps changing to avoid them — and it all comes back fresh. "I'll be like, 'Oh no!' " she says. "It's a sad reminder that I owe somebody money!"

In April, she got another reminder when the government seized her tax refund.

All this for a degree she never finished.

The Defense Department wants more Americans to speak Chinese, and it provides millions of dollars to train students at U.S. universities.

China's government, through language centers known as Confucius Institutes, has been doing the same thing, for the same reasons, and at some of the same U.S. universities.

But a new law has forced these American universities to choose: They can take money from the Pentagon or from the Confucius Institute — but not both.

Twin brothers Erin and Evan Addison had never heard a podcast before joining the podcasting club at their school. And they managed to convince their best friend, Andrew Arevalo, to join as well.

"We were just looking for a hobby and Erin was like, 'Hey, you know we could do podcasting — it will be fun,' " Arevalo says.

Courtesy of Anne Stava-Murray

If you've got kids, you may have gotten the call to come to the school immediately because your child forgot to wear a belt, or lost his asthma inhaler, or argued with his teacher. For some hourly employees, making a quick trip to their kid's school could cost them their job.

But a bill awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature would provide protection for workers who need to attend a parent-teacher conference or any other important meeting at their child’s school.

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Changes in education policy often emanate from the federal government. But one policy that has spread across the country came not from Washington, D.C., but from Florida. "Mandatory retention" requires that third-graders who do not show sufficient proficiency in reading repeat the grade. It was part of a broader packet of reforms proposed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.

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Automation is already here. Robots helped build your car and pack your latest online shopping order. A chatbot might help you figure out your credit card balance. A computer program might scan and process your résumé when you apply for work.

What will work in America look like a decade from now? A team of economists at the McKinsey Global Institute set out to figure it out in a new report out Thursday.

Amazon employees who are filling boxes in warehouses may be the industry's next engineers.

The company announced Thursday that it will spend more than $700 million to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled jobs over the next six years.

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Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta is defending a plea deal that he oversaw nearly a dozen years ago as a U.S. attorney in Florida.

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Updated at 1:09 p.m. ET

Debbie Baker thought she qualified for a federal program that helps teachers such as her, as well as nurses, police officers, librarians and others. The Department of Education program forgives their federal student loans if they make their payments for 10 years and work in public service.

For 10 years, Baker, who was a public school teacher in Tulsa, Okla., checked in with loan servicing companies and was told she was on track.

Four year colleges and universities have difficulty recruiting talented students from the lower end of the economic spectrum who can't afford to attend such institutions without taking on massive debt. To remedy that — at least in part — the University of Texas-Austin announced it is offering full tuition scholarships to in-state undergraduates whose families make $65,000 or less per year.

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