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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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a hit in the paychecks of close to half of U.S. households, the Census Bureau says.

Since March 13, 47% of adults say they — or another adult in their home — have lost employment income, while 39% say they're expecting their households to earn less from work over the next four weeks.

With the first of the month coming in less than two weeks, more than a fifth of adults report they have just slight or no confidence in their ability to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For the class of 2020, college graduation is anything but traditional. For many, it's been downright anticlimactic.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

When schools closed this spring, many classroom pets took up refuge with teachers and students.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the pandemic, families are taking on all kinds of unexpected roles. Here's another one: zookeeper.

When the New York City schools closed in March, my son's teacher, Mary Pfeifer, sent an email to parents, asking who would be willing to invite the classroom pets into their homes — for the duration.

The response was immediate. "It's a very giving community" says Pfeifer, who teaches pre-K through second grade science at PS 58 in Brooklyn.

In a typical summer, more than 14 million campers and staff attend overnight and day camps in the United States. But summer 2020 will be far from typical. To prepare for that, the nation's largest summer camp associations, the American Camp Association and the YMCA of the USA, have released a "field guide" for how summer and day camps can operate more safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

College dorms are closed. Athletic events are canceled. Classes have moved online. Like so many sectors of the U.S. economy, higher education is taking a hit from the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Congress set aside more than $14 billion to help colleges and universities weather the outbreak.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is the time of year when spring semester is coming to an end. And for high school seniors, that usually means prom, preparing for graduation and, most importantly, considering next steps, whether that's college or a training program or a gap year.

It's graduation season. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, ceremonies are likely to be anything but typical for the class of 2020. For seniors at Webster County High School in Dixon, Ky., that meant a no-contact, drive-through ceremony.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Celebrities, activists, artists and students themselves recognized America's 3 million-plus graduating high school seniors in a widely broadcast ceremony on Saturday night, after the coronavirus crisis robbed the class of 2020 of a crucial milestone.

The virtual event, called Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, carried a resounding message of community at a time when COVID-19 rules out the possibility of large gatherings.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SHADES OF YALE SONG, "AMEN/WE SHALL OVERCOME")

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

May is the month for college commencements. It also marks the end of spring a capella season.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMEN/WE SHALL OVERCOME")

IBHE

Colleges and universities in Illinois want their campuses to be open to students in the fall, after classes were forced online in March due to COVID-19.    A state panel is going to recommend the best approach for the fall semester.

It's our job to report on the big changes happening as millions of students are out of school and learning at home or online. We know for every child, that experience is different:

Summer camp is canceled. The school year ended weeks early. No one knows what fall is going to be like. "Virtual" graduation ... zoom classes. A lot of the things that were "normal" have changed. Face it, your kids are dealing with a lot these days.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

U.S. officials are publicly debating whether and how to open schools this fall. The testimony of Dr. Anthony Fauci is to be careful. Conditions around September will be far from ideal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE HEARING)

School hasn't ended yet in most places around the country. But educators are already grappling with what the next academic year will look like, as the future spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. remains unclear.

This week, California State University — the largest four-year public college system in the country — announced it plans to suspend in-person classes for its roughly 480,000 students for the semester beginning in August and move most instruction online.

The university system consists of 23 campuses, covering an 800-mile swath of the state.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Nightmares. Tantrums. Regressions. Grief. Violent outbursts. Exaggerated fear of strangers. Even suicidal thoughts. In response to a call on social media, parents across the country shared with NPR that the mental health of their young children appears to be suffering as the weeks of lockdown drag on.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

This is a confusing, stressful time for kids. And kids, you know what I'm talking about. So Anya Kamenetz and Cory Turner from our podcast Life Kit got together with a special guest who wants to help make you a little less nervous. Here they are.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

What happens when the quad is in your living room? Well, that is something students in the California State University system are going to find out this fall. The nation's largest four-year college system is moving almost entirely online for the semester starting in August. Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White talked to member station KPCC earlier today about how he made the decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF KPCC BROADCAST)

For millions of college students around the country, coronavirus lockdowns effectively canceled their hobbies and extracurriculars. But that's not the case for Madison Cragle, a graphic design major at the State University of New York at Canton. She's co-captain of her school's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team — an esports team. That's right, varsity video games.

South Korea has delayed reopening schools another week as dozens of new coronavirus cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul continue to emerge daily. Since a clubgoer tested positive last Wednesday, 102 infection cases from the cluster have been confirmed.

The country had prepared to start on-site classes this Wednesday in what would be another milestone in South Korea's steady recovery. New daily infections had stayed close to zero for days as the country eased social distancing restrictions last week and opened public museums and libraries for the first time in over 70 days.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Updated at 7:25 p.m.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority signaled Wednesday that it is on the verge of carving out a giant exception to the nation's fair employment laws.

Before the court were two cases, both involving fifth grade teachers at parochial schools in California. One, a veteran of 16 years teaching at her school, contends her firing was a case of age discrimination. The other said she was fired after she told her superior that she had breast cancer and would need some time off.

Starting Monday, Advanced Placement exams, which test high schoolers' knowledge of college material, will take an unusual form. The high-anxiety, college credit tests normally last three hours and are taken in person. But this year, in response to disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, the College Board, which administers AP exams, shortened the tests to 45 minutes and moved them online.

For the second time in as many weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a major religion case. This time the question is whether lay teachers at parochial schools are exempt from the nation's fair employment laws.

But the court's eventual decision could reach beyond teachers, affecting the lives of millions of other employees who work for religiously affiliated institutions.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How safe is it for Americans to return to work, whether it's to auto factories in Michigan or tattoo parlors in Georgia?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican of Louisiana and also a medical doctor, is thinking a lot about what it will take for schools to reopen.

Cassidy sits on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will hear from public health officials this week about how to safely reopen U.S. businesses and schools.

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