Elissa Nadworny

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.

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.

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.

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.

It's one of the most basic things in education: seeing the board. Research has shown, over and over again, that if you can't see, you're going to have an awfully hard time in school. And yet too often this simple issue gets overlooked.

On any given weekend, the Washington, D.C., public library system offers nearly a dozen classes. You can try Matt McEntee's class, where he'll teach you how to fix anything from a clock to a broken heart. Maybe you're interested in creating a photo book, or you'd like to get better at Microsoft Word?

When I first read Originals I couldn't help but take notes. What I jotted down was essentially a to-do list for how I could be more creative, how I could think up and then communicate new ideas.

But the book — written by Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — is not just a guide for adults.

Its pages are littered with interesting advice on how teachers and parents can encourage and cultivate their kids to be original, too.

When Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking in 2012, it was a big success. The book made the cover of Time magazine, spent weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list and was the subject of one of the most-watched TED Talks, with more than 13 million views.

"What are some of the things that the monsters like to eat in this story?" teacher Marisa McGee asks a trio of girls sitting at her table.

McGee teaches kindergarten at Walker Jones Elementary in Washington, D.C. Today's lesson: a close reading of the book What Do Monsters Eat?

"They like to eat cake," says one girl.

"I noticed you answered in a complete sentence," McGee says. "Can you tell me something else?"

"Stinky socks!"

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