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180 Days in an American High School

If you could allow cameras to follow you in the classroom and follow the lives of your students, would you? The students, teachers and administrators that attend Washington Metropolitan High School (also known as DC Met) said yes. The result is 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School, a two part documentary that airs on GPB tonight at 10 p.m. and includes tomorrow at the same time. The film shows the very gritty challenges that teens, parents, teachers and administrators face every day.

The first part shows how the teachers and the school’s fairly new and young principal try innovative tactics to improve their test scores and school attendance. At the beginning of the film, half the students don't show up and the school's test scores are abysmal. I watched a preview of the film and was touched at how the faculty did everything in their power to help their students succeed on their exams. They created practice games to make the test preparation process fun. The conducted drills on how the test day would go.

Equally gripping were the stories of students who were the first in their families to go to college, their search for the right ones with the help of their teachers and counselors and the exciting moments when they received acceptance letters and calls. One student received a full scholarship to Lincoln University and then learned her scholarship was revised to include room and board. As the first person in her household to go to college this news was a triumph.

Another touching part of the documentary were the teacher stories. It was certainly sad to see the dedicated music teacher let go because of budget cuts. It was also touching to see the teachers tell their senior class that the prom costs were lowered because they - the teachers - were chipping in to make sure it was affordable.

The documentary shows how a dedicated school staff and parents can overcome and handle some of the worst challenges and how much they had an impact on the lives of the students in their care.

Check out the preview below.

Watch 180 Days preview cut on PBS. See more from 180 Days.