[eDebate] And NEXT Week on HBO..

Andy Ellis andy.edebate
Tue Jun 17 00:02:54 CDT 2008

Hard Times at  Douglass High....it is a documentary that focuses on
Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High School, the debate team is involved, but
its not about them, its about the school. Itwont have as many of your
friends in it as Resolved: but if you liked Resolved this week, you should
watch Hard Times at Douglass High Next week.

Here is the web page and the description..

Alan and Susan Raymond spent one year filming in Frederick Douglass High
School, which has a rich history of successful alumni, including Supreme
Court justice Thurgood Marshall. Shot in classic cinema verit? style, the
film captures the complex realities of life at Douglass, and provides a
context for the national debate over the controversial No Child Left Behind
Act, focusing on the brutal inequalities of American minority education,
considered an American tragedy by many.

Douglass principal Isabelle Grant oversees a staff of teachers that is
two-thirds non-certified, while many are substitutes unqualified to teach
their subject areas. Threatened with sanctions, or even closing, unless
student scores improve in annual standardized tests, the faculty tries to
find workable solutions to chronic problems of attendance, lateness and
apathy among students, many of whom come from poor backgrounds and broken
homes, and lack the most basic reading and math skills.

Due to an achievement gap of four to five years below grade level, ninth
grade students present the greatest challenge, requiring intensive
intervention by the already overwhelmed teaching staff. By the end of the
school year, 50% will drop out. Grant and her staff struggle to raise state
assessment scores as a Maryland State monitor continually watches over
Douglass with the threat of a state takeover.

At the same time, there are reasons for hope. The high school boasts an
award-winning music program, named after Douglass graduate and jazz great
Cab Calloway, that includes a choir, a drumline marching band, a jazz combo
and an orchestra. The basketball team was Maryland State champion two of the
last three years. And the outstanding debate team consistently wins trophies
at the Baltimore Urban Debate League. Students Sharnae, Jordan and Matt tell
stories of struggling to overcome the enormous challenges of splintered
families and peer pressure as they navigate their high school days, offering
a reminder that education is inevitably an achievement of people, not
policy. With the support of Douglass, these students have demonstrated
resilience in the face of formidable odds.

Eventually, Douglass fails to make the adequate yearly progress required by
the No Child Left Behind Act and the city and state wrestle for control of
the school. This is typical of inner-city schools that cannot meet the
demands of the federal law. By 2007 one in four of the nation's public
schools failed to show improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act and
was threatened with sanctions.

Alan and Susan Raymond's other HBO and CINEMAX credits include "How Do You
Spell Murder?," "Children in War" (Emmy(R) for Non-Fiction Prime-Time
Programming), "I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School"
(Best Documentary Feature Oscar(R) as well as Emmy(R), DuPont and Peabody
Awards), the Oscar(R)-nominated "Doing Time: Life Inside the Big House," "Into
Madness" and "Elvis '56." The Raymonds are also the filmmakers of the 1973
PBS documentary "An American Family" and its follow-ups: 1983's "An American
Family Revisited" and 2003's "Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family."

V?rit? production; produced and directed by Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond;
written and narrated by Susan Raymond; cinematographer and editor, Alan
Raymond. For HBO: senior producer, John Hoffman; executive producer, Sheila
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