Chris, a senior at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence, Rhode Island, submitted his applications to Yale and Wesleyan in 2005. This may seem unremarkable; many students go through the elite college application process each year. However, students from low-income, inner-city families like Chris's drop out of school much more frequently than other students. In fact, most of his middle-school friends have long since left school.
Many city public schools have very large classes that prevent teachers from paying much attention to any individual student or engaging the class in the curriculum. The course of Chris's life, and the lives of more than 200 other students, have been changed by Rhode Island's innovative system of teaching students at high risk of dropping out.
The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence tailors its system of schooling to Rhode Island students at the greatest risk of dropping out. Groups of fifteen students meet with one dedicated "Advisor" who will see them through all four years of their studies. The Advisors tailor an individual plan of study for each student. Instead of sticking to traditional classroom-based learning, students' academic work is supplemented by professional internships they go to twice a week. A college transition team helps students apply to college and even arranges college visits for students and their parents.
Other statistics speak to the Met's extraordinary effects on an at-risk population. Rhode Island lists it as an "improving school," with test scores on statewide assessments climbing steadily. Met students perform better than expected on state assessments, especially compared to other students that share their demographic information. Behavioral problems are reduced as well; the Met has the second lowest percentage statewide of students reporting that someone tried to sell them drugs in school.
The Met works to ensure its students' success continues after they have graduated, as the Advisors keep in touch with students even after they leave the school. Most graduates are the first people in their families to attend college. Advisors help these students cope with the rigors and surprises of college education to ensure that these students are successful long after high school.
More than 200 students have graduated from the Met, 75% of whom went straight to college. School officials estimate that a further 5% will eventually be college-bound. Other cities are so eager to emulate The Met's success that the school's founders have created an umbrella organization called The Big Picture Company to help facilitate replication in other jurisdictions. So far, fifteen schools have been opened across the country, with two more set to open in 2006.