School is out but you can visit a struggling Baltimore high school in HBO’s Hard Times at Douglass High, subtitled “a No Child Left Behind Report Card.” At Thurgood Marshall’s alma mater, ninth graders come in four or five years below grade level; half drop out by the end of the first year. In this clip, a college counselor says only one student in the whole school broke 1000 on the SATs (with 1600 maximum); the low score was 440.
Eventually, Douglass fails to make the adequate yearly progress required by the No Child Left Behind Act and the city and state wrestle for control of the school.
These kids were failing in elementary school, before NCLB was passed. The solutions have to start long before high school.
The Urban Debate League is hot right now. (Despite its woes, Douglass High has a successful debate squad.) I recommend Joe Miller’s Cross X on great debaters at a failing school. My book, Our School, features Downtown College Prep’s Mock Trial team, which lost with pride.
Update: Liam Julian concludes that Douglass High’s principal and teachers are kindly, devoted and not up to the challenges of teaching very difficult students. The New York Times review of Hard Times is here.