MetEast [High School in Camden, NJ] graduated its first class of seniors on Friday.
It opened in 2005 as a laboratory for education in a city where the schools are part of an entanglement of problems.
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.
“Our students have the same issues, dilemmas and challenges as students at the larger high schools,” says principal Timothy Jenkins. The graduating class includes students who became pregnant or homeless but still made it through school.
All 30 students who began as freshman at MetEast four years ago have graduated from high school somewhere, including a handful that have moved or transferred, Jenkins says.
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