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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Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode School of Life

When Ash Beckham was misgendered in front of her niece, she wasn't sure how to respond. Her eventual choice taught her a lesson about handling uncomfortable moments — and finding a middle ground.

About Ash Beckham

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode School of Life

Even though kids learn to read in school, many hate it. Educator Alvin Irby shares insights on inspiring children—especially Black boys—to discover books they enjoy and begin identifying as readers.

About Alvin Irby

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode School of Life

When Tracy Edwards was expelled from school, she wound up working on boats. That led her to form a record-breaking all-female sailing crew, which circumnavigated the world in 1989.

About Tracy Edwards

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode School of Life

Stacey Abrams' journey in politics has taught her a lot about life. Her greatest lessons, she says, have come from the setbacks she has experienced along the way.

About Stacey Abrams

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New York City, with its 1.1 million students, became the first big city school district in the country to return to in-person classes this week. After the start of the school year was delayed twice, students came back in phases: pre-K and students with significant disabilities last week, followed by elementary students Tuesday, and middle and high school students today. Just over half of the city's students will be attending school on a hybrid schedule, attending one or two days a week in person, in order to preserve social distancing. The remainder are 100% remote.

Joseph Castro is going to start his new job as the chancellor of California State University at a tumultuous time.

Many people with student loans aren't carrying the burden of their debt alone. The mountain of debt weighs down their families, too.

"Student loan repayment is really a family affair," says Fiona Greig, director of consumer research at the JPMorgan Chase Institute.

The college admissions process has long been sold as a system of merit: Do well in school, write a killer essay, score well on the SAT, and you'll get in. Yet the recent nationwide scandal, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, laid bare just how much money, instead of aptitude, often drives admissions at elite colleges.

Back in early spring, Khristan Yates worked as a quality assurance analyst at a marketing company and loved her job. "I had one of the best jobs of my career," recalls Yates, 31, a resident of Chicago.

Yates, who's a mother of two children, had moved into a bigger apartment just before the pandemic hit because she wanted to give her kids more space. At the time, she felt like she was "at the top of her world."

But as the economic effects of the pandemic hit the marketing industry among others, she lost her job in May.

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Updated at 10:39 a.m. ET Friday

Youli Lee is proud of the years she worked for the U.S. government, prosecuting cybercrime in some of the world's darkest places. These days, she's the one hiding out — mostly from her three children, ages 8, 11, and 13.

"I just actually locked my door so that nobody could come here," she says, from her bedroom.

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In Little Rock, Ark., more than a hundred teachers didn't show up for class on Monday.

Instead, at least 166 instructors represented by Little Rock Education Association say they are concerned about COVID-19 and only willing to teach remotely. Until the district allows for remote-only instruction or increases school safety, they say they will stay home, according to a union statement.

The past seven months have been a big strain on families like Mandi Boren's.

The Borens are cattle ranchers on a remote slice of land near Idaho's Owyhee Mountains. They have four kids — ranging from a first grader to a sophomore in high school. When the lockdown first hit, Boren first thought it might be a good thing. Home schooling temporarily could be more efficient, plus there'd be more family time and help with the chores.

The executive board of the union representing more than 6,400 of New York City's school leaders passed a unanimous vote of no confidence against Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Sunday for what it called officials' "failure to lead New York City through the safe and successful reopening of schools."

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators is calling on the mayor to cede control of the city's education department for the duration of the public health crisis, and for both officials to seek swift intervention from New York state.

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Now to Oakland, Calif., to meet Juan Vaca. He is the principal at Global Family Elementary School, where all of the 453 students receive free or reduced lunch.

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After a suicide bomber struck a Kabul academy that prepares students for university entrance exams, one promising student briefly dropped out.

That was in 2018. Shamsia Alizada, the daughter of a coal miner, returned to school and now has topped Afghanistan's nation-wide university entrance exams, according to local media reports. According to Khaama news, which cites Abdul Qadir Khamoosh, the head of the National Examination Authority, more than 200,000 students sat for the exam this year.

From shiny red pencils reading "My Attendance Rocks!" to countless plaques and ribbons and trophies and certificates and gold stars: For as long as anyone can remember, taking attendance — and rewarding kids for simply showing up — is a time-honored school ritual.

For good reason: Just being there, day in, day out, happens to be one of the most important factors that determines a child's success in school. And average daily head count forms the basis of school funding decisions at the federal, state and local level.

Enrollment at U.S. community colleges has dropped nearly 8% this fall, newly released figures show, part of an overall decline in undergraduate enrollment as students face a global pandemic and the worst economic recession in decades.

Often, enrollment in higher education spikes in times of high unemployment and recession as students seek additional job skills and postpone entering the workforce. But the pandemic has overturned those traditional calculations, according to preliminary data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment.

The University of California was found to have admitted at least 64 students over more qualified applicants because of the students' connections to university staff or donors, according to a California state audit released Tuesday.

The audit investigated four campuses — UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara — from academic years 2013-14 through 2018-19 and found that the campuses failed to evaluate students fairly and to develop adequate and standardized admissions processes.

A new national effort asks K-12 schools to voluntarily — and anonymously — report their confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases, along with the safety strategies they're using.

Police have charged a Massachusetts high school student and the youth's parents with allegedly hosting a house party with underage drinking, a gathering that led the town's high school to delay in-person classes by two weeks amid coronavirus concerns.

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