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Elissa Nadworny

Elissa Nadworny reports and edits for the NPR Ed Team. She's led the team's multiplatform strategy – incorporating radio, print, comics, and multimedia into the coverage of education. In 2017, she was part of the NPR Ed team that won a Murrow Award for excellence in innovation. As a reporter, she's covered many education topics including new education research, chronic absenteeism, college access for low-income students, and the changing demographics of higher ed.

After the 2016 election she traveled with Melissa Block across the U.S., for the Our Land series. They reported from communities small and large, capturing how people's identity is shaped by where they live.

Prior to coming to NPR, Nadworny worked at Bloomberg News, reporting on the White House. For Bloomberg, she's covered stories on immigration, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's return to the U.S. and the president's health. You can still occasionally catch her reporting from 1600 Penn on the weekends.

A recipient of the McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship, she spent four months reporting a story about U.S. international food aid for USA Today, traveling to Jordan to report on food programs for Syrian refugees. In addition to USA Today, she's written stories for Dow Jones' MarketWatch, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald and McClatchy DC.

A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Nadworny has a bachelor's degree in documentary film from Skidmore College and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

It's not exactly how Deilanis Santana planned to spend her 13th birthday: waking up before dawn, packing up her life – and heading to Connecticut to live with her grandma.

But here she is at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, three weeks after Hurricane Maria, waiting anxiously like many other Puerto Ricans for flights to destinations like Miami, Philadelphia, and other cities. The gates are crowded with children — Deilanis among them — leaving their homes, and sometimes their families, to live in the U.S. mainland and go to school.

When it rains in Puerto Rico, it rains hard and it rains fast. And this week — three weeks after Hurricane Maria — it has rained a lot.

For portions of the island – especially in the mountains and in the valleys – that rain brings a continual trauma of mudslides and flooding. Even in San Juan, highway exits pool with a foot or more of water. In restaurants with cell service, the S.O.S alarms on phones ring out in a cacophony – warning of flash floods. But the capital city has fared comparatively well — it's the rural places that are doing much, much worse.

Every Sunday since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, Ada Reyes and her four children have walked half an hour to church. Down a winding road, dodging fallen trees and debris, they walk past concrete houses still bearing flood marks, and finally cross the Vivi — a small river in Utuado, a city in the central mountain region.

How do you judge how good a school is? Test scores? Culture? Attendance?

In the new federal education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) states are asked to use five measures of student success. The first four are related to academics — like annual tests and graduation rates. The fourth measures proficiency of English language learners.

The fifth is the wild card — aimed at measuring "student success or school quality" — and the law leaves it to states to decide.

When the fourth-graders in Mrs. Marlem Diaz-Brown's class returned to school on Monday, they were tasked with writing their first essay of the year. The topic was familiar: Hurricane Irma.

By Wednesday, they had worked out their introduction and evidence paragraphs and were brainstorming their personal experiences. To help them remember, Mrs. D-B had them draw out a timeline — starting Friday before the storm. Then, based on their drawings, they could start to talk about — and eventually, write about — what they experienced.

For the past nine days, Nancy Schneider has circled the date on her calendar, pinned up on the wall in her kitchen. She's tracking how long she and her husband have been without power since Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

Last Monday, two-thirds of the state — more than 6.5 million customers — were without power. Crews have worked aggressively since then to restore as many homes and businesses as possible but, more than a week after the storm came ashore, around 400,000 people are still without power.

During the last few weeks of August, Torri Hayslett's room at McKinley Technology High School feels more like an accountant's office than a college adviser's.

"Thirty-one thousand dollars minus $4,000, minus $2,500," she says, saying the numbers out loud before punching them into the calculator. She's sitting with one of her students, who recently graduated from McKinley. They're looking over her first college bill.

"Does the $9,000 include the $3,000?" Hayslett asks. "I think that is including," the student responds. "Again, I do not know a lot of logistics right now."

The start of the school year can be rough on some kids. It's a big shift from summer's freedom and lack of structure to the measured routines of school. And sometimes that can build up into tears, losing sleep, outbursts and other classic signs of anxiety.

"Going back to school is a transition for everyone," says Lynn Bufka, a practicing psychologist who also works at the American Psychological Association. "No matter the age of the child, or if they've been to school before."

On Friday night, Fabrice Charles is planning to go to bed early so he can get a good night's sleep. He's got a big day on Saturday, when he'll join hundreds of thousands of other students taking the new summer SAT.

"I get stressed really easily," he says, "so I've just got to relax and think back to my exercises."

For the first time since the 1970s, the College Board is offering an August SAT testing date and the rising high school senior in Boston says he's ready.

This story was reported for radio by Elissa Nadworny and for the web by Jon Marcus of the Hechinger Report.

In her spotless camouflage uniform, Monica Callan stood apart from the dirty and exhausted-looking first-year cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy who had just endured nearly three hours on the obstacle course.

When Anna Neuman was applying to college, there weren't a lot of people around to help her. Students from her high school in Maryland rarely went on to competitive colleges, the school counselor worked at several schools and was hard to pin down for meetings and neither of her parents had been through the application process before.

The only thing her parents told her was that she would have to pay for it herself.

Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor's degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. We've reported on the factors that make this particular job even more vulnerable to a ton of debt, including chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master's degree and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.

The new animated movie, Boss Baby, was No. 1 at the box office last weekend. But before it was a full-length film, starring the voice of Alec Baldwin, it was a 32-page picture book written by award-winning author and illustrator Marla Frazee.

Frazee is a big name for young readers and their parents — the imagination behind Seven Silly Eaters and All the World. Her illustrations have earned two Caldecott Honors.

NPR Ed spoke with Frazee about the book and the new animated hit it inspired. The story of the Boss Baby is simple, she says:

Counselors play a big role in helping students succeed: They help with scheduling, college applications and with issues like mental health.

Since 2015, first lady Michelle Obama has honored a school counselor of the year in a ceremony at the White House. Friday, the honor goes to Terri Tchorzynski of the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Mich., where she works with 11th- and 12th-graders drawn from 20 public high schools in Calhoun County.

There are more than 80,000 educational apps in Apple's app store. It seems like a great way to encourage brain development and make your little one the smartest baby genius. But just sticking a tablet in your kid's hands might not be as helpful.

Sure, use the app. But it's not a babysitter — you've got to help them use it, too.

The 24 juniors and seniors in the astronomy class at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., sink into plush red theater seats. They're in a big half-circle around what looks like a giant telescope with a globe on the end. Their teacher, Lee Ann Hennig, stands at a wooden control panel that has enough buttons and dials to launch a rocket.

We live in a world of screens. And in this digital age — with so many devices and distraction — it's one of the things parents worry about most: How much time should their kids spend staring at their phones and computers? What's the right balance between privacy and self-discovery?

So you're trying to find some information about the schools in your community. Did students perform well on tests? How many students in a school are from low-income families? What's the demographic breakdown? Most folks would start to look for this by searching the web. But, depending on the state you live in, finding that information can be a real challenge.

There's a lot of attention right now on improving attendance in schools — making sure kids don't miss too many days. But what about the littlest students — those 3 and 4 years old? New research shows that if kids miss a lot of preschool, they're way more likely to have problems in kindergarten or later on.

Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.

At 8 a.m. sharp, just hours after Donald Trump was declared president-elect, the hallways at Harrisburg High's SciTech campus were buzzing. There were tears, but also a few subtle nods in approval of the results. But mostly the students expressed their deep desire for Americans here in Pennsylvania and around the country to come together.

There's a perception that children don't kill themselves, but that's just not true. A new report shows that, for the first time, suicide rates for U.S. middle school students have surpassed the rate of death by car crashes.

The suicide rate among youngsters ages 10 to 14 has been steadily rising, and doubled in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, 425 young people 10 to 14 years of age died by suicide.

How do you judge how good a school is? Test scores? Culture? Attendance?

In the new federal education law, states are asked to use five measures of student success. The first four are dictated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Three are related to academics — like annual tests and graduation rates. The fourth measures proficiency of English language learners.

A class of fifth-graders from Green Acres Elementary in Lebanon, Ore., asked us to find out how pencil lead is made. That quest took us all the way back to the dawn of the universe and then all the way up to a factory in Jersey City, N.J.

In the process, we learned that pencil lead (actually not lead at all but a mineral called graphite) has a storied past.

Visiting a museum full of airplanes and rocket ships is a pretty awesome field trip. Now imagine camping out for a whole night in Smithsonian's huge hangar outside Washington D.C. You're there with a few other lucky kids, some grownups, and aviation treasures like the space shuttle Discovery.

Like many schools, Gibson Elementary in St. Louis had big problems with attendance — many students were missing nearly a month of school a year.

So Melody Gunn, who was the principal at Gibson last year, set out to visit homes and figure out why kids weren't showing up. Her biggest discovery? They didn't have clean uniforms to wear to school.

Many families, she found, didn't have washing machines in the home, and kids were embarrassed to show up to school in dirty clothes. The result was that often, they didn't come.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and in The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

I can remember the weeks before starting school at Skidmore College, furiously trying to finish Gregory Howard Williams' memoir, Life on the Color Line. The book had been assigned as our freshman reading assignment — part of the First-Year Experience at the liberal arts school in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Four years later, Williams spoke at our graduation.

When Lily Shum was little, she dreaded speaking up in class. It wasn't because she didn't have anything interesting to say, or because she wasn't paying attention or didn't know the answer. She was just quiet.

"Every single report card that I ever had says, 'Lily needs to talk more. She is too quiet,' " recalls Shum, now an assistant director at Trevor Day School in Manhattan.

She doesn't want her students to feel the pressure to speak up that she felt.

Why would she teach preschool when she could make a heck of a lot more money teaching kindergarten? It's a question I've heard over and over again reporting on education. In some places, we pay early childhood teachers less than fast-food workers, less than tree trimmers. As a country, we've acknowledged the importance of early learning and yet, when you look at what we pay those educators, it doesn't add up.

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