Aired Monday March 25th, 2013 at 8:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School is an two-part intimate portrait of life for the first graduating class of Washington Metropolitan High School (DC Met), a public school in Washington, D.C, where only seven percent of students are deemed “proficient” in math and only 19 percent in reading.
180 Days airs Monday, March 25 at 8:00 p.m. on KUED. At the center of the film is a charismatic and outspoken young principal, Tanishia Williams Minor, who is in her second year as head of the school. Despite low test scores and numerous other issues, Principal Minor remains optimistic that her students can succeed despite the personal and academic obstacles they face and the scrutiny that she and the school are under from the administration at DC Public Schools. Her optimism that the students can succeed seems indefatigable, but even she admits, “I believe we can move mountains, but the students have to be here for us to do it.”
“Each year, one out of every four students makes the life altering decision to drop out of school, resulting in severe consequences for their future and our country,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB.
Like many other high-poverty schools, truancy, or chronic absenteeism, is an issue that plagues DC Met and is a leading indicator for dropping out. In 2011, nearly 50 percent of students from DC Met could be classified as truant. Throughout 180 Days, faculty members scour roll call reports to see who’s showing up for homeroom and who’s not and drive through the streets of the nation’s capital evangelizing kids, parents and sometimes grandparents about the importance of their high-school diplomas. In one powerful scene, the basketball coach reminds his team that if they do not show up for school, they cannot stay on the team — to which one of the players responds by walking out of the gym as cameras roll.
Framed by complex and layered national and local politics, 180 Days is a uniquely intimate journey through a year in the lives of students, teachers and school leaders in one Washington, DC, public high school; part one will air Monday, March 25 at 8:00 p.m. followed by part two's airing on Tuesday, March 26 at 8:00 p.m. The real lives at the center of 180 Days, especially those of the five students whose stories take the viewer from the day one to day 180, gives viewers rare insight beyond statistics, test scores and policies into the human price that is paid when schools “fail.”
The second in a series of education specials from Tavis Smiley Reports: Education Under Arrest looks at the connection between the juvenile justice system and the dropout rate among American teens. The program, which airs Tuesday, March 26 at 7:00 p.m., also looks at efforts by educators, law enforcement professionals, judges, youth advocates and the at-risk teens themselves to end this link. Tavis takes his cameras to Washington State, Louisiana, Missouri and California to present a narrative of what is working on the frontlines of reform.
Schools throughout the country have become key entry points into the juvenile justice system. In fact, one in three of every teen arrested is arrested in school. Today, according to experts and advocates working on behalf of at-risk teens, too often disciplinary problems that in prior generations were handled within the school, such as disruptive behavior, foul language and truancy, are dealt with through suspension, expulsion and arrests.
Too many schools, both public and charter, still operate under the so-called “Zero Tolerance” mandate, which came about after the horrifying Columbine tragedy. This has resulted in kids being removed from school as a first response rather than a last resort. And once kids are suspended or expelled from school, it’s very difficult to get them back on track.
Smiley looks at efforts by those on the frontlines of reform to examine what is working to break the school-to-prison pipeline and keep teens from incarceration and in school.
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