On May 3, 2011 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting launched the “American Graduate” public media initiative to improve US high school graduation rates. Since then they have supported some exciting programming on both radio and television including StoryCorps’ National Teachers Initiative, Latino Public Broadcasting’s production of MARIACHI HIGH, and Tavis Smiley’s “Too Important To Fail” and “Education Under Arrest,” a two part series exploring some of the underlying causes of and community responses to the dropout crisis.
On March 25 and 26 the National Black Programming Consortium unveils their own “American Graduate” project: “180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School.” The two-part series on PBS follows staff and five students from Metropolitan High School (DC Met), a public school in Washington D.C. where only seven percent of the students are deemed “proficient” in math and only 19 percent in reading. Despite that sobering statistic, the screening I saw last night at NYU’s Kimmel Center told a story that is equal parts saddening, hopeful, and, at times, hilarious. Check out this sneak peek of the documentary before it airs next Monday and Tuesday.