Federal File

HBO Film Examines School in NCLB Era

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Is the No Child Left Behind Act the right vehicle for improving education, particularly in the high-poverty urban schools that seem to be struggling the most? A new documentary, scheduled to air on the cable channel HBO beginning June 23, tries to answer that question.

Filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond spent the 2004-05 academic year capturing life at Frederick Douglass High School in the 82,000-student Baltimore school system. At that time, the school had failed to meet the goals of the NCLB law and faced possible sanctions from the state of Maryland.

The documentary, “Hard Times at Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card,” outlines the challenges facing the high school. Few students come from two-parent homes, and just a handful of parents show up on back-to-school night. Many students don’t come to school for weeks on end, forcing the principal, Isabelle Grant, to track them down at home, in part because of the attendance requirements of the federal law.

The documentary also highlights the dropout problem, because schools must report dropout data under NCLB. Douglass High has about 500 students in 9th grade, but only about 200 seniors. One 12th grade English teacher says it takes a “special” kind of student to make it to senior year at Douglass because so few are able to meet that milestone.


Still, the film presents a balanced picture of the school, showing its award-winning debate team, a choral concert, and a vibrant discussion of “Macbeth” in an English class.

The film notes that in Maryland, end-of-year high school tests will not count as a graduation requirement until 2009. So many students choose to put only their names on their test papers.

But the stakes are very high, viewers are reminded. The school could close if it fails to make sufficient progress.

The documentary focuses more, though, on the societal challenges facing some schools that fail to meet the goals of the NCLB law than on the law itself. And it offers few solutions to those problems.

“We feel strongly that offering simple solutions to complex problems is inherently misleading in documentary filmmaking,” Mr. Raymond said in press materials distributed by HBO.

Vol. 27, Issue 42, Page 23

Published in Print: June 18, 2008, as HBO Film Examines School in NCLB Era
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories

Viewed

Emailed

Recommended

Commented

Sponsor Insights

Vocabulary Development for Striving Readers

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >