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.

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.

It's one of the oldest issues in school improvement: Getting kids to show up. If students miss 10 percent of the school year — that's just two days a month --research shows they are way more likely to fall behind — even drop out.

Today, the U.S. Education Department is releasing a report on the first national data set on chronic absence — defined as missing 15 or more days of school a year. The numbers come from the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection survey — an on-the-ground look from 95,000 schools.

Mel Atkins has spent most of his life with Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan. He graduated from Ottawa Hills High, where he played baseball. But his real love was bowling. He says he's bowled 22 perfect games.

He's been a teacher and principal in the city's public schools. And now he works for the district, overseeing just about everything related to students.

One more thing you need to know about him: Mel Atkins is a number-cruncher.

Three years ago, the superintendent came to him with a question: Does Grand Rapids have an issue with chronic absenteeism?

The commencement speech season is underway and grads are soaking up advice and wisdom all over the country.

And since it's an election year, it's hard for speakers to resist stepping onto the soapbox.

Last weekend, President Obama spoke at Rutgers University in New Jersey, one of the nation's oldest higher ed institutions. He appeared to take a jab at Donald Trump — though he didn't call him out by name.

Public schools in the U.S. now have a majority of nonwhite students.

That's been the case since 2014, and yet children of color — especially boys — still lag behind their white peers.

This story has been all over the media. It's topic No. 1 at education conferences on university campuses. Even the White House is all over it.

But what Ron Ferguson wants to know is why. And he says there's a big group of experts out there who never get asked about it: boys and young men of color.

When you enter Marissa McGee's classroom, the first thing you notice is her connection with her students. They're delighted by her enthusiasm, they pick up on her sarcasm, and they often double over with giggles when she makes a joke.

And this is kindergarten. So McGee's students — her audience — are 5-year-olds.

"They're easy to please," she says, laughing. "I'm not that funny. I wouldn't even consider myself funny at all."

This rapport is how Marissa McGee works to shape these kindergartners into thoughtful, educated adults.

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