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 3:26 p.m. ET

Two of the most prominent figures in the college admissions scheme that the Justice Department uncovered last year are headed to prison.

Lori Loughlin, the actress best known as Aunt Becky on Full House, will serve two months in prison. Her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was sentenced on Friday to five months.

"I am truly and profoundly and deeply sorry," Loughlin said, choking up as she apologized to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton, Reuters reported.

For Sarah McLaren, who lives in a suburb of Minneapolis, talking about the spring is painful. Her daughter, a rising fourth-grader, struggles with auditory processing and receives special education services. But McLaren says her daughter had trouble keeping up with teachers on an iPad because the instruction was almost all talk.

"They'd tell her, 'Look at this problem, look at that problem. No, show me your worksheet,' " McLaren remembers. "The teachers were doing the best they could, but all those rapid verbal directions just overwhelmed her."

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Students in Los Angeles went back to school this week online. The Los Angeles Unified School District is planning for in-person classes to resume at some point during the 2020-21 school year, which will mean school nurses and licensed vocational nurses will be key to ensuring COVID-19 doesn't spread.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

From tantrums to eye rolls, many kids are fed up with virtual learning, but two high school cheerleading coaches - their kids call them Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Evans in Albany, Ga. - had an idea to get kids back in the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

Across America, buildings are opening back up — offices, schools, theaters, stores, restaurants — even as evidence mounts that the coronavirus can circulate through the air in a closed indoor space.

That means a lot of business owners and facility managers are calling up people like Dennis Knight, the founder of Whole Buildings Systems in Charleston, S.C., asking what they can do to make sure their building doesn't spread the virus.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In a back-to-school season unusually fraught with uncertainty, two high school teachers in Albany, Ga., are going viral for their creative approach to raising students' morale.

Callie Evans and Audri Williams, teachers and cheerleading coaches at Monroe Comprehensive High School, rapped about virtual learning and the COVID-19 pandemic in a music video that has garnered thousands of likes and comments in two days.

The excitement in the air at the University of Georgia is palpable, with move-in days for the fall semester finally here. There are packed cars, overstuffed suitcases, a white shag rug, an old grey futon and a potted succulent named Susie.

But nestled between the familiar college accessories were stark reminders of the coronavirus pandemic: Boxes of cleaning supplies. Masks. Hand sanitizer.

New York City, the largest school district in the country with 1.1 million students, is also the only big-city school district planning to open its doors to students — albeit on a hybrid schedule with virtual learning — on time this fall. But at a press conference Wednesday, the president of the city's largest teachers union said the mayor needs to make major changes to meet the union's criteria for safe reopening.

Two Midwestern universities announced on Tuesday that they will be modifying their fall plans because of the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Notre Dame is moving all undergraduate instruction online for two weeks, and Michigan State University is going fully remote for the semester.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made it one week into the fall semester before scrapping plans for in-person instruction.

It's an experience that other large campuses should learn from, Mimi Chapman, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, told NPR's All Things Considered on Tuesday.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

This was the message on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

Copyright 2020 CPR News. To see more, visit CPR News.

NOEL KING, HOST:

How are kids feeling at the start of an extraordinary new school year? Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio went out and asked some of them.

ERIC PETERSEN: Online learning stank. I hated it.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Copyright 2020 KPCC. To see more, visit KPCC.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield is requiring weekly screening of COVID-19 for students, faculty and staff who regularly go to campus. The university is offering a saliva test developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, named SHIELD Testing.

At the Bruneau-Grandview School District in rural southern Idaho, a couple of dozen teachers are crowded into the small library.

They're doing a refresher training for online teaching. In person-classes are scheduled to begin Monday, but with coronavirus cases continuing to rise in Idaho and other states, it's an open question for how long.

Updated 4:10 p.m. ET

As students return to the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month, they will be tested for COVID-19. And, then they'll be tested, again.

"We are requiring testing two times per week for access to campus facilities. This is for students, faculty, and staff," explains Rebecca Lee Smith, an associate professor of epidemiology.

When the pandemic hit the state of Washington, it took Patricia Lopez's job as a medical assistant with it. Not having a college degree made it especially hard to find a new job, as so many employers were making cuts and tightening budgets.

Lopez applied for unemployment benefits — she'd need money to support her two kids and her mother, who lives with her — and signed up for classes at the local community college.

There's a lot riding on a kickoff set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

The Sterling College Warriors are scheduled to take on the McPherson College Bulldogs at home. If that familiar thud of shoe against football and cheer from the stands doesn't happen, the college that keeps the central Kansas town's economy humming, that gives it cultural vitality, and that separates Sterling from the hollowing out that defines so many other small Midwestern towns, might not survive.

The Springfield School District 186 board reconsidered Thursday night its decision of how to start the school year. In an emergency meeting, the board voted 5-2 for nearly all students to begin online just over a week after they voted to move forward with a plan that offered both in-person and online options.

The Department of Justice accused Yale University of violating federal civil rights law by illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.

Those are the findings of a two-year investigation conducted in response to a complaint by a coalition of Asian American groups. The Justice Department notified university officials in a letter on Thursday.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Pages