If you are interested in seeing up close what a troubled school looks like, you might want to tune into “180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School,” scheduled to air on PBS on March 25 and 26 at 9 p.m. The film is part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s ‘American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen’ initiative addressing the nation’s high school dropout crisis, according to a statement.
Officials said the film “takes an unprecedented look at a learning institution at the epicenter of the nation’s school reform movement and the lives that hang in the balance.”
The film’s backdrop is D.C. schools under the control of Michelle Rhee, who came into the school district with the title chancellor in 2007 with a mandate to turn poor performance around. Test scores improved, then plummeted, leaving an achievement gap that is among the most glaring in the nation: White students fare better academically as whole over Black students by a margin of four to one.
“School reform has brought numerous changes and has emphasized standardized testing, partially promoted by the Obama administration’s ‘Race to the Top’ initiative, in which school funding and personnel decisions are based largely on the results of high-stakes standardized tests,” the statement said.
“Tests, however, don’t take into account the troubled population of the school at the center of the documentary, Washington Metropolitan High School—or DC Met, as it is called—a school for children at risk of dropping out. It doesn’t measure the effect that a parent dying or a baby coming or a displacement by Hurricane Katrina or drug-addicted parents or the foster care system have on a student’s ability to succeed—or even to show up for school. And it doesn’t measure the desperate efforts of the school faculty working to reach these children.”
The film features five students: Raven Coston, 17; Raven Quattlebaum, 18; Rufus McDowney, 16; Tiara Parker, 18; and Delaunte Bennett, 18. Each of the students is facing crises that affect their academic performance. It captures the daily struggle of DC Met Principal Tanishia Williams Minor and the faculty, who work in an environment where only seven percent of students are deemed “proficient” in math and only 19 percent are proficient in reading.
“We have policy on education and we have reality,” said Jacquie Jones, executive producer of the film, “and 180 Days provides a snapshot into the reality of the on-the-ground troops in the fight to claim the lives and destinies of our children, many of whom are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges in their quest for an education.”
‘180 Days’ was produced by the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC), which brings programming about the Black experience to public television.