180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School
Series Description: This series takes viewers on a uniquely intimate journey through a year in the lives of students, teachers and school leaders in one Washington, DC public high school. The series is framed by volatile national and local politics aimed at reforming this most fundamental of public institutions, but the lives at the center of "180 Days," most especially those of the five students whose stories take the viewer from the day 1 to day 180, seem at once deeply impacted by and yet profoundly separate from the "Race to the Top."
180 Days follows the day-to-day stories of students, parents, teachers and staff at the Washington Metropolitan High School (also known as DC Met). At the center of 180 Days is a charismatic and outspoken young principal, Tanishia Williams Minor, who is in her second year as head of the school. 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 school board, her optimism that the students can succeed seems indefatigable. Students featured in this film include Raven Coston, a 17-year-old who left New Orleans with her mother following Katrina and is trying to get through school while raising a baby and working part-time; Delauntte Bennet, an 18-year-old sophomore who has been kicked out of numerous schools for getting into fights; Raven Quattlebaum, an 18-year-old who used to spend her days robbing and assaulting people, but is now determined to turn her life around and go to college; Rufus McDowney, 16, who has been in and out of the juvenile justice system since the age of 13; and Tiara Parker, 17, who has good grades but may not be able to afford college. An issue that plagues DC Met, and is a leading indicator for dropping out, is chronic absenteeism. In 2010, nearly 50% of students from DC Met missed 15 or more days of school. Throughout the film, faculty members scour roll call reports to see who is showing up for homeroom. The basketball coach reminds his team that if they do not show up to school they cannot stay on the team, to which one of the players responds by walking out of the gym as cameras roll. Adding urgency to the problem, an audit two months into the school year gauges how many of the registered students are actually in school, in order to determine the budget for the following year. [116 minutes]
A surprising and dramatic end to the school year sheds light on both the extraordinary challenges and opportunities today's public schools face. [116 minutes]