Camden Should Look to Copy Met East Model

Camden Should Look to Copy Met East Model

Camden Should Look to Copy Met East Model


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Camden should look to copy Met East model
Where we stand: If the city’s unique new high school proves to be a success, the district should move to create more small learning environments

It may be only a few months old, but Camden's newest school, Met East High School, appears to be providing a far improved learning environment compared with the city's two main public high schools -- Woodrow Wilson and Camden.

If students at New Jersey's first Big Picture school -- which gives no grades or tests and
requires students to spend school time at internships -- show they have learned enough in basic subjects by passing the state's standardized tests and are eventually accepted at colleges at a higher rate than other Camden high schoolers, then district officials should move to open more such high schools in the city.

With just 42 students, all freshmen who were selected in a lottery, the bullying and violence that plagues the city's large high schools is nonexistent at Met East, students say. That alone should be a major factor in considering any plans for more small high schools.

When students are worried about bullies, drug dealers, gangs and violence, it's hard for them to focus on learning, or even want to come to school each day. However, in a tiny school such as Met East, it's a lot easier for teachers and administrators to keep control and provide a suitable learning environment. That very likely explains why Met East has such a high daily attendance rate – 95 percent -- compared with Camden's other high schools.

With methods wholly different from a regular high school, Met East is a school where students must take ownership of their education.

Students spend about two days a week away from the school at an internship -- anything from a law office to a funeral home.

When students are at the school, days aren't broken into the normal periods at most high
schools. Students must schedule their own time and detail when they read, work on projects, write in their journals and do other work. For at least 30 minutes each week, they meet one-on-one with their teacher, called an "adviser," to discuss their reading, internship, journal writing, projects they've been assigned and other work.

However, textbooks are rarely used and conventional daily homework isn't given.

Despite all this, parent Gerry Baker says his daughter Deborah, a student at Met East, is getting a lot out of her education there.

Because of how different Met East is in its academic structure and methods, Camden school officials certainly must closely monitor how this freshman class progresses. However, if students do well on the standardized tests that all New Jersey students must take and follow the lead of students at other Big Picture schools across the country, where almost all who graduate go on to attend college, then the Camden school district should certainly look to open more schools like Met East.