Angelo Drummond wears a pressed white shirt and a red power tie for his two-hour presentation to his harshest critics -- a panel of fellow students at Camden's MetEast High School.
The stocky 17-year-old lays out his intention to study through the summer to bring up his scores on the SAT and New Jersey's high school graduation exam. He also explains his senior-year project to plan a lounge where teenagers can hang out, study and avoid the trouble that snags so many in his city.
The response from his peers: he needs to consider scaling back the project's ambitions -- and learn more about how to get a nonprofit grant.
It's an extraordinary display of wisdom for students in a city where dropout rates are consistently among New Jersey's highest and test scores are among the lowest. But there were no dropouts at MetEast, and every member of its graduating class has been accepted into at least one college.
The school opened in 2005 as a laboratory for education in a city where the schools are part of an entanglement of problems. And unlike charter schools that have sprung up in Camden during the last decade, MetEast is run by the city's school district.
It's one of about 60 schools nationwide established with the help of Big Picture Learning, a nonprofit with offices in San Diego and Providence, R.I. Three Big Picture schools are scheduled to open in Newark this fall.
The schools are small and very different from traditional schools. MetEast has just over 100 students -- less than one-tenth the enrollment at each of the city's comprehensive high schools. The educators are called ''advisers,'' not teachers, and they advise the same group of students all four years.
Classes are built around the idea that students will learn by following their passions. Students do internships. Graduation requirements include a senior project with the aim of doing some good for the community.
And four times a year, every student makes a presentation to a panel that includes students and adults from outside the school.
That's what put a confident Angelo Drummond put behind a lectern, explaining how he's come to know himself better by studying daily for the SAT. ''This is something I'm very proud of because I've never stuck with something,'' he says...
Thursday, July 02, 2009
This from the New York Times: