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.

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world through the lens of a single number.

Some high school students think of applying to colleges as a full-time job. There are essays and tests, loads of financial documents to assemble and calculations to make. After all that comes a big decision — one of the biggest of their young lives.

For top students who come from low-income families, the challenge is particularly difficult.

When La Guardia Cross first heard his wife was having a child, "it completely caught me off guard. I didn't feel ready."

By the time his daughter Amalah was born in 2014 — although still freaking out — he got out his camera and started recording. The hospital room — him holding his little baby in his arms. Amalah sleeping. Amalah crying. Lots of stuff about diapers and poop.

There's been a lot of attention lately on low-income students on campus — mostly on how to recruit them and how to make them feel welcome.

For good reason: Pell Grant recipients make up about a third of the undergraduate student population in the U.S., according to the College Board. And often, their experiences in college are very different than their wealthy classmates.

A teenage brain is a fascinating, still-changing place. There's a lot going on: social awareness, risk-taking, peer pressure; all are heightened during this period.

Until relatively recently, it was thought that the brain was only actively developing during childhood, but in the last two decades, researchers have confirmed that the brain continues to develop during adolescence — a period of time that can stretch from the middle school years into early adulthood.

May 1 is an exciting day for many high school seniors. It's decision day, when students commit to college — and send in those deposits — to hold their spot on campus.
Across the country, schools celebrate the achievement in different ways. Some hold assemblies where students get up and announce their decisions. In other places, students wear their college gear — a T-shirt or ball cap or sweatshirt.

College access and affordability: It's a common topic in higher education — because college is the one place that can really be a catapult when it comes to moving up the economic ladder.

And yet, research has shown that low-income students make up just 3 percent of the students that attend America's most selective colleges.

"Does being waitlisted count as half an acceptance??"

"Literally got waitlisted everywhere"

"Being waitlisted from your top choice is the worst feeling"

"What should one do when waitlisted at their top choice school? Asking for a friend."

"All these waitlisted got me feelin like Ladybird."

If you've ever gone down the rabbit hole that is OK Go's YouTube channel, then you know how insanely cool the band's music videos are.

Remember that skeleton hanging in the front of your biology — or art — classroom?

It's possible those bones are not plastic, but actual human remains. A lot of classroom skeletons, in high schools, universities and medical schools, are real.

"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.

Our series Take A Number is exploring problems around the world — and the people who are trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

Here's a number: 90. That's how many days most refugees arriving in this country have before the basic resettlement money they get from the government runs out.

But once that three months is over, there are still so many things recent arrivals need. That's what Kari Miller saw over and over as a teacher in the public schools in Charlottesville, Va.

The plots of dystopian novels can be amazing. A group of teens in Holland, Mich., tells me about some of their favorites:

In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Love is considered a disease. Characters get a vaccine for it. In Marissa Meyer's Renegades, the collapse of society has left only a small group of humans with extraordinary abilities. They work to establish justice and peace in their new world.

It's no secret that we've had a rough fall and winter with natural disasters. Even as we write this, fires burn in Southern California, adding to the previous wildfires in the northern part of the state that burned over 245,000 acres in October.

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated communities across Florida and Texas, while touching communities in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Louisiana.

Yerianne Roldán wants to be a graphic designer, or maybe a writer, or maybe both. Her good friend and classmate, Zuleyka Avila, has already made up her mind. She's going to be a pediatrician.

Those plans hit a bump in the road this fall, though, when Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, where both girls lived with their families. Forced to leave the island — much of which is still without power — they've both relocated to Orlando.

Antonio Santini was willing to do anything — as long he got to Puerto Rico. He'd be a perfect asset for the U.S. Army's Hurricane Maria mission: He spoke Spanish and he knew the terrain. The sergeant first class had been all over the world with the military — Germany, Peru, Qatar, Afghanistan — but this mission, to an island devastated by a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, was "deeply personal."

*****

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.

Pages