Elissa Nadworny

Elissa Nadworny covers higher education and college access for NPR. She's led the NPR Ed team's multiplatform storytelling – incorporating radio, print, comics, photojournalism, and video into the coverage of education. In 2017, that work won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation. As an education reporter for NPR, she's covered many education topics, including new education research, chronic absenteeism, and some fun deep-dives into the most popular high school plays and musicals and the history behind a classroom skeleton.

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

Prior to coming to NPR, Nadworny worked at Bloomberg News, reporting from the White House. A recipient of the McCormick National Security Journalism Scholarship, she spent four months reporting on U.S. international food aid for USA Today, traveling to Jordan to talk with Syrian refugees about food programs there. 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.

The U.S. Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes more than $30 billion for education, with more than $14 billion for colleges and universities and at least $13.5 billion for the nation's K-12 schools.

This spring was supposed to be an exciting time for Xander Christou. He's a senior in high school in Austin, Texas, and was looking forward to all the fun: prom, senior skip day and of course, graduation.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education announced new K-12 and higher education policies in response to disruptions caused by the coronavirus.

This fall, there were nearly 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than a year ago, according to new numbers out Monday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment by student.

"That's a lot of students that we're losing," says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the Clearinghouse.

Fatima Martinez knows there's a lot riding on her SAT score.

"My future is at stake," says the Los Angeles high school senior. "The score I will receive will determine which UC schools I get into."

But that may not always be the case.

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When Rhonda Gonzales was in college in the early '90s, the term "first-generation" wasn't part of her vocabulary. Sure, she was the first in her family to go to college and she did have a sense of discomfort on campus — not quite fitting in. But it wasn't something she advertised, or even identified with, and no one else on campus seemed to care much, either.

OK, teachers, you asked for it: It's time once again to turn your classrooms into studios and your lessons into podcasts. That's right, the NPR Student Podcast Challenge is back.

It's a chance for your students to compete with young people all over the country for our grand prize: your students' story appearing on NPR's Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

Last school year, we received nearly 6,000 entries from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 25,000 students participating.

Raymond Tillman spent most of his adolescence and early adulthood behind bars. His last release — after three stints inside — was in 2011. When he got out, he had a lot to catch up on — like, the digital age.

"When I first came home I was illiterate to technology," he explains. "Didn't know how to turn on a computer, let alone what an email was." But he needed a job, and to get one, he'd need to be able to apply online.

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Right now, students across the country are in the process of choosing where to go to college. For many, that decision is closely tied to a school's financial aid offer. But with no current standardization of these offers, letters look vastly different from one college to the next. They're often filled with confusing terms and jargon, and not all colleges define and calculate these terms the same way.

This time last year, McKenna Hensley had a big question on her mind: Where would she go to college? The answer — sort of — was somewhere in her pile of 10 financial aid offers. Each school she'd been admitted to had its own individualized letter, terms and calculations.

"It was very confusing," the now college freshman remembers.

Go to college, we tell students. It's a ticket out of poverty; a place to grow and expand; a gateway to a good job. Or perhaps a better job. But just going to college doesn't mean you'll finish. To unlock those benefits — you'll need a degree.

And yet for millions of Americans, that's not happening. On average, just 58 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2012 had earned any degree six years later, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they're not there in the first place?

A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class.

Updated Monday at 10:16 a.m.ET.

Los Angeles public school teachers went on strike Monday morning, a result of failed negotiations between the teachers union and the school district.

The strike has looked inevitable since Friday, when United Teachers Los Angeles rejected another offer from district leaders.

"We are more convinced than ever that the district won't move without a strike," declared union President Alex Caputo-Pearl at a Sunday press conference.

Teachers in Los Angeles are set to strike tomorrow after the teachers' union and the district failed to negotiate a new contract. The strike would impact about half a million students in the nation's second-largest school district. It would be the city's first teachers' strike in nearly 30 years.

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You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Education is a top issue in the midterms

From the 36 gubernatorial races to some key state congressional races, education will be a major issue on Election Day. We've reported previously on a record number of educators who are themselves running. There were teacher walkouts in six states this year. That issue alone has gotten people mobilized.

There's something else that's bringing education to the midterms: Betsy DeVos, the polarizing education secretary.

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world, and people solving them, through the lens of a single number.

Ron Ferguson, an economist at Harvard, has made a career out of studying the achievement gap — the well-documented learning gap that exists between kids of different races and socioeconomic statuses.

But even he was surprised to discover that gap visible with "stark differences" by just age 2, meaning "kids aren't halfway to kindergarten and they're already well behind their peers."

Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living "paycheck to paycheck."

After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.

On one camping trip, Acevedo's troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.

NPR Ed published the first-ever database of the most popular high school plays and musicals in the U.S. in July 2015. Today, the 2019 numbers are out, so we've updated our original story.

"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.

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.

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.

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.