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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President Trump waded into the classroom today. He says he thinks American students need to be taught what he calls patriotic education, and he accused his political opponents of trying to brainwash children about racism.

As colleges around the U.S. are facing COVID-19 outbreaks and crackdowns on students engaged in coronavirus-risky behavior, campuses are also facing a new threat: legal challenges from the students they're punishing.

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I catch Patricia Stamper with a Zoom meeting going in the background and a child at her knee asking for attention. Stamper works as a teacher's assistant for special education students in the Washington, D.C., public schools.

These days, her virtual classroom is at home — and so is her toddler, who has a genetic disorder called Noonan syndrome, and her kindergartner, who receives speech therapy. Her husband works outside the home at a golf course.

As the fall semester kicks into gear, college campuses have become the pandemic's newest hot spots. The New York Times reports there are more than 88,000 coronavirus cases at the nation's colleges and universities.

Scott Carlson, a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, isn't surprised by those numbers.

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College towns are in a dilemma. They need students for their businesses to survive, but bringing students back could mean increasing the risk of COVID-19, and that could mean shutting back down again. NPR's Elissa Nadworny spent some time near the University of Michigan.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: If you're looking for some Wolverine or Go Blue gear and you're in Ann Arbor, you're probably heading to The M Den.

Early this month, parents and students across the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia streamed back to school campuses, not to attend classes, but instead to protest.

They gathered by the hundreds outside dozens of schools in rare acts of civil disobedience, protesting a new policy that sharply reduces their hours of Mongolian-language instruction. For several days, schools across Inner Mongolia stood empty as parents pulled their children out of class, the largest demonstrations in Inner Mongolia in more than three decades.

NPR Illinois

Amid growing calls to allow contact sports to resume this fall, Illinois’ governor Tuesday appeared to double down on postponement of the seasons.

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A high school senior kneels in the forest duff, grasping a handmade bow. He moves his arm back and forth, and a high-pitched squeaking sound ricochets through the woods.

Eight-year-old Asher Wool stands a few feet away. He explains what this teenager is up to.

"So, he's rubbing the string against the spindle to make a coal that can make a fire," Asher says.

No matches. No crumpled newspaper. The teenager has worked for years to develop the skill of building a friction fire here at Earthwork, a wilderness school located in western Massachusetts.

Illinois State Board of Education

The COVID-19 crisis has placed many school districts and families on the wrong side of the digital divide. State Superintendent Carmen Ayala says creativity is  helping to bridge the gap.

Ayala says the state board has allocated $80 million toward purchase of computer devices and connectivity hotspots to help with remote learning. Forty two percent of schools have both remote and in-person learning and a third are remote only.

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Now for our regular segment exploring the new school year and a New Normal. This week, what happens when student leaders are at odds with their employers, the university. Today's story comes from Soneida Rodriguez.

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A controversial rule backed by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and meant to reroute millions of dollars in coronavirus aid to K-12 private school students, has been shut down, at least temporarily.

The U.S. Education Department announced Wednesday that the rule is no longer in effect after a federal judge determined that the department had not only "acted beyond its authority" but misinterpreted the will of Congress.

Coming back to school this fall has presented new challenges for students, their families and educators. But for Cathy Cluck, it has presented an opportunity.

George Washington University says associate professor Jessica A. Krug has resigned, after a blog post published under her name last week said she had invented several Black identities.

The blog post stated that Krug is actually a white, Jewish woman from the Midwest, who for years has "assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness."

Teen and youth anxiety and depression are getting worse since COVID lockdowns began in March, early studies suggest, and many experts say they fear a corresponding increase in youth suicide.

At the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed Americans on their mental health. They found symptoms of anxiety and depression were up sharply across the board between March and June, compared with the same time the previous year. And young people seemed to be the hardest-hit of any group.

Sean Crawford/NPR Illinois

Despite a global health threat and concerns of students taking a gap year, enrollment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus saw only a slight decline.  That gives hope the school might be able to weather the disruption brought on by the pandemic.

As millions of students return to virtual classes at their dining room tables, some parents who are also trying to work from home have decided to ship their kids off to camp.

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Six months into schools' pandemic-driven experiment in distance learning, much has been said (and debated) about whether children are learning. But the more urgent question, for the more than 30 million kids who depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals, is this:

Are they eating?

The answer, based on recent data and interviews with school nutrition leaders and anti-hunger advocates across the country, is alarming.

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