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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Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET Sunday

The showdown between the city of Chicago and its teachers may be near an end.

Chicago Public Schools announced a tentative agreement Sunday with the teachers union for in-person learning to resume starting as early as Thursday on a phased-in schedule and promises to vaccinate 1,500 school staff each week.

Ever since the pandemic closed the nation's schools in March 2020, there has been no official national source for understanding where schools have reopened, how many hours of live instruction students are getting online and just how unequal the access to learning has been over the past 11 months.

The federal government plans to release new guidance next week about how to safely reopen schools in the midst of the pandemic — guidelines that could add new grist to a debate over whether schools should wait until teachers are vaccinated before requiring their return to the classroom.

As the United States has struggled to get the spread of the coronavirus under control, many schools have turned to virtual learning. President Biden has pledged to get most students back to in-person learning by the end of April, but there are questions about how to do so safely.

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President Biden wants most K-8 schools to be ready to go back to in-person learning by the end of April. The problem is teachers and administrators don't agree on how to do it.

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The Constitution contains a particular provision about Congress. The people choose the lawmakers, of course, but each House makes its own rules and may punish its own members, quote, "for disorderly behavior."

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The city of San Francisco sued its school district on Wednesday in a drastic attempt to get students back into the classroom. The city argued it's safe enough and the district has dragged its feet on preparing for the students' return.

The U.S. Department of Justice is dropping its controversial lawsuit brought by the Trump administration against Yale University, in which it accused the school of illegally discriminating against white and Asian American applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.

"We're here today, in the midst of one of the most challenging school years in American history," Miguel Cardona said in opening remarks to the Senate education committee on Wednesday. "For far too many of our students, this year has piled on crisis after crisis. As a parent, and as an educator, I have lived those challenges alongside millions of families."

Last week, Ayiana Davis Polen finally set foot on the campus of Spelman College — a historically Black liberal arts school for women in Atlanta. She's a freshman there but had started her college experience last fall taking classes from her bedroom in Puerto Rico.

Back then, she wasn't sure if it felt like college — but then again, she had nothing to compare it with.

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In November, I reported for NPR on a scientific paper that estimated millions of years of life could be lost due to prolonged school closures in the U.S. — far more, in fact, than might be lost by keeping schools open. The paper has since been corrected and critiqued. The central question it tried to answer remains.

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San Francisco is pushing ahead with a plan to rename dozens of public schools, committing to potentially remove names of public figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

A "blue ribbon panel of community leaders" recommended 44 school names be changed, joining many other renamed institutions across the country, as the U.S. reckons with its history of racial injustice. But the move has also sparked debate in San Francisco about its timing and whether the list is overly broad.

Diana Muhammad, who teaches PE and dance in Chicago Public Schools, was "unsure," "uncertain" and "reluctant" about her district's plan for in-person classes starting Monday. At a Chicago Teachers Union press conference earlier this month, she said the plan felt "rushed." And then things got really scary.

"Over the winter break, my life was devastated when my daughter, who was sick with various symptoms all over the place for an entire week, woke up one morning and could not see."

Updated at 10:58 a.m. ET Wednesday

Data from K-12 schools that reopened for in-person instruction in the fall show little evidence that schools contributed meaningfully to the spread of COVID-19, according to a new article published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

Updated at 4:33 p.m. ET

Teachers at Chicago Public Schools were slated to return to the classroom on Monday, in preparation for the return of students to the district's K-8 schools next week.

But on Sunday, a majority of the Chicago Teachers Union's membership voted in favor of a resolution to continue to work remotely. The union said 71% of its voting members had voted to conduct remote work only, with 86% voter participation.

With many U.S. schools still shuttered or operating on a limited basis, and millions of children learning remotely (or trying to), the stakes are high for Miguel Cardona. He is President Biden's pick to run the U.S.

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