Education Desk

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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

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After a steady rise in coronavirus cases, Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania has restricted students to their dormitories and moved all classes online in a sweeping quarantine that began Tuesday and will last at least through the end of the week.

Gettysburg, which has more than 2,000 students enrolled, is believed to be the first U.S. college to enact such a measure.

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The coronavirus knows no borders. And that means people living half a world apart face some of the same upended routines, daily challenges and new normals, including teachers. Ira Onkar is an English teacher in Mumbai, India.

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Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Finding Another Way

After nine years and the birth of their son, Ebony Roberts and Shaka Senghor ultimately separated. But they made a vow: despite the conflict that led to their split, they'd still co-parent as a team.

About Ebony Roberts

There's a LOT of education news these days. Here's an overview of the stories from this week that you might have missed, plus some valuable links we've gleaned from around the web.

First let's turn to the world of higher education.

Donnie Nunley / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A researcher at the University of Illinois recently showed how child care providers have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elizabeth Powers is an economist at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. She says measures put in place to slow COVID-19 reduced revenues for childcare centers and  restricted the number of slots that were available to families.

Christine Herman/Illinois Newsroom

URBANA – About a thousand students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have tested positive for COVID-19 since twice-a-week coronavirus testing became mandatory for all students on Aug. 16.

A university that many researchers have touted as a potential model for reopening campuses to in-person classes is hitting some bumps in the road. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had implemented a mass coronavirus testing program for staff and students in an effort to keep virus spread on campus under control.

If this were a normal school year, Denison University senior Matt Nowling and his fellow College Democrats would be "dorm storming" around their campus, near Columbus, Ohio.

"We ran to people's dorms, knocked their doors and got them registered to vote," he said. "Sometimes we got kicked out of dorms," he added.

West Cook 40

Illinois had about 4,000 unfilled school jobs open last fall, and that shortage is expected to be greater this year because of the pandemic. 

The information comes from a survey of school superintendents conducted in 2019. School staff in that count include teachers and paraprofessionals, such as aides,  and administrators. Data for a new survey will be collected in September said Mark Klaisner, the President of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents.

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New York City will delay its start of in-person classes at public schools until Sept. 21 as part of a deal with the United Federation of Teachers, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials announced Tuesday.

The union, which represents most of the city's educators, had been on the brink of voting whether to authorize a strike over safety precautions related to the coronavirus. The new agreement is aimed at addressing health concerns for educators and their students.

At Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School in Algiers, a low-slung brick building across the river from downtown New Orleans, school leaders greet students as they make their way into the building. All are masked.

In the cafeteria, a movable wall cuts the space in half, separating the students into socially distanced groups of nine. Strips of tape mark separate pathways for students and staff. Big pumps of hand sanitizer sit on each desk, and everyone, teachers and students, is wearing a mask.

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We travel next to England, where millions of students try to return to classrooms this week, months after the pandemic shut schools down. Shifting messages from the British government has left many confused. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.

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President Trump is traveling to Kenosha, Wis., today, ignoring the governor's letter asking him not to come.

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COVID-19 forced Keriann Wilmot's son to trade his classroom for a computer. It was a tough transition for a 10-year-old with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"It was a different environment for him," Wilmot says. "He wasn't used to this kind of work from school coming in the format of an email in his Chromebook every single day."

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As the fall semester gets underway, college students are reuniting with their friends, getting (re)acquainted with campus and doing what college students often do: partying. But in the time of the coronavirus, as more parties surface university administrators have been quick to condemn — and even berate — the behavior of students.

"Be better. Be adults. Think of someone other than yourself," pleaded a letter to students at Syracuse University following a large gathering on campus.

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Across the country, colleges and universities are struggling to decide how to teach students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools have turned to remote learning; some have attempted to reopen campus with various precautions in place. Others are trying a mix of both.

For the municipalities that are host to colleges and universities, these decisions can be costly. Whether it's curtailing the spread of the virus in their communities, or losing the typical influx of student spending that arrives each fall, these cities and towns are bracing for a challenge.

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Classes online or in person but socially distanced, pods, hybrids - education in the U.S. looks different from town to town, grade to grade, family to family. Throughout this school year, we'll hear about it with a series called Learning Curve.

Freshman Taylor Vibbert has always wanted to be in a sorority. When she signed up to rush this fall at Western Kentucky University, she was looking forward to the fanfair, house tours and meet-and-greets.

Then she got some bad news: Greek recruitment would be mostly virtual this year.

"That was a bummer," the 18-year-old from Louisville, Ky., said in early August. "Honestly, if I would have known, I probably wouldn't have signed up."

Vibbert was concerned she would be more outgoing in-person than over the computer, but she was willing to see how it goes.

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Looking for a snapshot of coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. schools? The National Education Association has just launched a tracker of cases in public K-12 schools.

The tracker is broken down by state and shows schools and counties with known cases and suspected cases and deaths, as well as whether those infected were students or staff. It also includes links to the local news reports so users know where the virus data comes from.

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