It’s a new school year in Illinois. What education story needs to be told?

Three young children are playing together in a school playground during a sunny day.
The 2023-24 school year is starting up in Illinois. Chalkbeat Chicago wants to know what education stories we should report throughout the year. (Christian K. Lee / for Chalkbeat)

As Illinois’ almost 2 million students head back to school, Chalkbeat Chicago is looking for input from parents, students, and educators on topics to write about this school year. 

Three years ago, school looked very different as students weren’t able to sit in classrooms, enjoy lunch, or in some cases participate in coming-of-age activities such as homecoming, prom, or graduation because the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered school buildings. In the years since, schools have undergone some significant changes.

To help students return safely to classrooms and recover academically from the pandemic, the federal government gave Illinois a total of almost $8 billion as part of a COVID relief package. Local school districts were allowed to use the funding for face masks, after-school tutoring programs, mental health programs, existing staff salaries, and technology

Throughout the last school year, Chalkbeat Chicago covered a range of topics, including student mental health, academic recovery, how reading is taught, Chicago’s looming shift to an elected school board, and how federal COVID recovery money is being spent.

This year, Chalkbeat Chicago is keeping an eye on student learning, the deadline to use federal COVID money, and new Chicago leadership with a new mayor and school board. The stakes are high as federal COVID relief money is set to expire in 2024, which could mean the end of vital programs for students still recovering from the pandemic’s disruption. 

The Illinois State Board of Education reported last fall that students from third to eighth grade who took the Illinois Assessment of Readiness lagged in reading and in math when compared to scores from 2019. 

We want to hear from you before the school year takes off. What topics do you want to learn more about? What questions do you have about your local school? 

Fill out the survey below to let us know what you think we should report on this year. 

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education, and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at ssmylie@chalkbeat.org.

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