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180 Days: American high school, Black education

Robyn H. Jimenez | 3/31/2013, 5:26 p.m. | Updated on 3/31/2013, 5:26 p.m.
Since President Barack Obama has been in office, he has pushed to reform education, noting that America has fallen from ...
Tanishia Williams Minor Breht Gardner

Since President Barack Obama has been in office, he has pushed to reform education, noting that America has fallen from No. 1 to No. 9 in the world in regard to college graduates.

"Unfortunately, the reality is too many students are not prepared across our country. Too many leave school without the skills they need to get a job that pays. Today, as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school ... a quarter. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations," he stated during his speech on Winning the Future in Education.

In an effort to document the crisis in American schools that affect so many children who are continually left behind or fall between the cracks of the educational gap, a documentary focusing on one high school will give America a revealing and honest glimpse into a high school for students who are at-risk for dropping out.

180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School is a documentary about students in a school that offers redirection and second chances. The students are very similar to those in areas such as South Dallas, Oak Cliff and Pleasant Grove. However, the film documents 180 days at Washington Metropolitan High School - known as D.C. Met - in the District of Columbia.

At the beginning of the film, D.C. Met Principal Tanishia Williams Minor uses raw eggs to present a powerful demonstration of what happens to children with and without a good support system. But the film also showed areas where they were still making improvements.

"A few people asked why on earth we would decide to allow cameras to follow us," Minor revealed. "I look good in some shots and not so great in others. But I would say that none of us wanted to be movie stars. That was not our endeavor. And we knew that sometimes we said or did things that we did not necessarily want on camera, but all of us were invested in the population that we served. So we made a conscious decision to do everything that was within our power to help further the mission and quality of education."

The city is only one of many in which African Americans see graduating high school and college as more of a dream than reality. In the last few years, D.C. has made its way to the top of the list of major cities in the United States with a conspicuous achievement gap. White graduating students outnumber Black graduates 4 to 1. Michelle Rhee, the district's school chancellor for the past five years, has shut down 21 of the district's 143 schools and dismissed 270 teachers, taking a stand that D.C. would become the highest performing urban school district.

There have been several changes at D.C. Met to implement reforms that would affect students, teachers and administration.

"People just need to remind themselves that it's really about the kids. Sometimes what's good for kids isn't always good for adults. But we're the adults and we're the ones who can handle it and we do what's best for the kids," Minor stated.