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

A new study conducted by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, finds that in 99 percent of neighborhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. This undermines the widely-held belief that class, not race, is the most fundamental predictor of economic outcomes for children in the U.S.

The Reality Of School Shooting Drills

Mar 18, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


More and more schools are using drills to prepare students and staff for the possibility of an active shooter. Today, we go inside one classroom's code red drill. It's in the same Florida district as the Parkland shooting took place. Rowan Moore Gerety has the story.

Transgender Teachers: In Their Own Voices

Mar 18, 2018

NPR Ed has been reporting this month on the lives of transgender educators around the country. We surveyed 79 educators from the U.S. and Canada, and they had a lot to say – about their teaching, their identities and their roles in the lives of young people.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Hello and welcome to another edition of the weekly roundup. The nation's eyes have been on students this week, so let's check in.

National student walkout

The teachers strike in West Virginia may have ended last week when Gov. Jim Justice signed a law giving educators a 5 percent pay increase, but the fight in other states is just warming up.

"You can make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more by driving 15 minutes across the state line," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. "We're having trouble keeping and attracting young teachers."

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Consequences of Racism.

About Dena Simmons's TED Talk

When Bronx-native Dena Simmons received a scholarship to attend a majority white boarding school, she felt like an imposter. Simmons suggests ways students of color can be made to feel more accepted.

About Dena Simmons

I think it's fair to say that many parents focus a lot of energy — and worry! — on protecting their small kids from risky situations.

But it turns out that integrating limited risk into our kids' playtime may be taking a step toward healthier child development.

Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas is no stranger to protest. Sixty years ago, following the Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Central drew national attention as nine black students attempted to integrate the previously all-white school.

Copyright 2018 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


"Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status." That's one of the many quotes that has made Sir Ken Robinson's 2006 lecture on rethinking the nation's schools become one of the most popular TED talks — with more than 50 million views.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Walk the bustling halls of Aztec High School in northwest New Mexico and at first glance you might think nothing is wrong.

Banners promote the Aztec Tigers girls' softball schedule. Students roughhouse out on the basketball courts.

But talk to kids for just a few minutes and it's clear all of that is on the surface. They're hurting.

"I feel like my security has been taken away from me," says Sarah Gifford.

Wednesday morning, at 10 o'clock, students at schools across the country will walk out of their classrooms. The plan is for them to leave school — or at least gather in the hallway — for 17 minutes. That's one minute for each of the victims in last month's school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The walkout has galvanized teens nationwide and raised big questions for schools about how to handle protests.

"Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?" Lesley Stahl asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a 60 Minutes interview that is drawing lots of attention.

"I'm not so sure how exactly that happened," DeVos responded in the interview, which aired Sunday night on CBS.

On Dec. 28, 2014, Leelah Alcorn died after walking into traffic on a highway near her hometown of Kings Mills, Ohio. The 17-year-old identified as transgender, and in a suicide note published online, which became national news, Alcorn wrote:

"The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something."

In his first formal policy response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month, President Trump is setting up a federal commission to explore school safety. He's also endorsing legislation to improve background checks, and urging states to pass laws temporarily keeping guns out of the hands of people judged to be dangerous to themselves or others.

A policy proposal unveiled Sunday evening has Trump renewing his support for arming teachers and other school employees on a volunteer basis. He stopped short of endorsing a higher age limit for would-be gun buyers.

Student Activist On Guns In Schools

Mar 11, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Just after the shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., senior Demetri Hoth was among the students there who took action. Here he is on CNN.


Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting tens of millions of people in the United States. But getting help for children who have it in public school can be a nightmare.

"They wouldn't acknowledge that he had a problem," says Christine Beattie about her son Neil. "They wouldn't say the word 'dyslexia.' "

Other parents, she says, in the Upper Arlington, Ohio, schools were having the same problem. The district in a suburb of Columbus wasn't identifying their children's dyslexia or giving them appropriate help.

West Virginia Teachers Win; DeVos Gets Pushback

Mar 10, 2018

Welcome to our weekly roundup of education news! Let's get going.

Betsy DeVos' busy week

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tweeted a black-and-white photo of a classroom taken decades ago next to a modern stock photo of a classroom. "Does this look familiar?" the tweet began. In both pictures, desks were lined up in straight rows, facing a teacher standing at the front of the classroom.

Oklahoma Teachers Consider Strike

Mar 10, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


The workforce is changing dramatically, and there's a widespread recognition that new skills — and new ways of teaching adults those skills — are needed and needed fast. In California, the state's 114 community colleges are facing the challenge of offering the credentials, classes and training that will help workers choose a career or adapt to a new one.

The system right now can't serve all of these workers. But there's a new idea that could come to the rescue: Create a new, online community college for people in the workforce who've been shut out of higher education.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Students Of Color And Armed School Staff

Mar 9, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


University of Illinois Springfield

The University of Illinois Springfield trained students and staff on how to respond in an active shooter situation at an hour-long training session this month.

During the session, UIS police showed a video by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety that demonstrated the many responses to an active shooter situation on campus.


While colleges are all about learning, it’s a sign of the times that this subject is being taught.  

More than half of transgender teachers face harassment or discrimination in the workplace, according to an NPR Ed survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming educators.

The survey of 79 trans and gender-nonconforming teachers from the U.S. and Canada found that the harassment they face ranges widely: from 20 percent who reported verbal harassment, to 17 percent who said they'd been asked to change how the present themselves, such as their clothing, to two teachers who said they'd been fired.