The Metropolitan High School
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The Metropolitan High School
All the students we spoke to at Metropolitan High School seemed passionate about what they were learning. The school, housed in a new building in the South Bronx, has strict rules about behavior and a serious focus on getting into college. While nearly all kids enter the high school with weak academic skills, about 70 percent graduate on time.
Metropolitan High School is modeled after Chicago’s Noble Street Charter High School. Both are predominantly comprised of Hispanic and African American students, many of whom are in temporary housing, foster care or living with a relative instead of their parents. And like Noble Street, Metropolitan has an extended school day, running from 8:05 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 8:05 a.m. to noon on Friday. Metropolitan is also similar in that it boasts numerous extracurriculars, including sports such as baseball, softball, football and track, as well as clubs such as knitting, anime, chess and yearbook, according to founding principal Carla Theodorou, who opened the school in 2005.
Metropolitan and occupies the second and third floor of a new three-story building, which it shares with Peace and Diversity Academy. The two schools share spaces such as the gym, lunchroom and outdoor facilities, which include a track and basketball courts. Unfortunately, the principal said, there is no regulation-size gym. Class sizes range from 25 to 28. Students take double periods of reading and math to boost their skills.
Theodorou admits that she is “pretty strict” when it comes to her student body. Students are expected to adhere to a strict dress. There is a merit and demerit system and those who receive too many demerits are placed in detention. Students who blow off detention are suspended for a day. Cell phones and electronic devices are not allowed and teachers are cracking down, the principal said, although Metropolitan is not a scanning school. The discipline measures seemed to be working. We noted that those students seen in the halls between periods all had passes and the transitions between classes were smooth and quiet.
Despite its strict guidelines, we noticed that the school culture was exceptionally positive. Every student we spoke to seemed passionate about what they were learning. Each classroom has a “student greeter” who opens the door when a visitor knocks, introduces him or herself and explains what the class is focusing on. During the rundown of each of the classes, we learned that Advanced Placement Spanish students were reading about the medieval times, ninth grade algebra was about graphs, those in ninth grade English were working in small groups on vocabulary words such as “arrogance” and the college prep class was seeking out various scholarships and sharing their findings with their classmates. In that class, we noted some talking and wandering. However, the principal was extremely open during our visit, allowing us to enter and sit in on any class we wanted and talk to any student, even out of earshot.
One student from another country told us Metropolitan had helped him out a lot. He was in the process of applying to Fordham University and said he liked his teachers but felt that the students were a mixed bag. On the Department of Education’s school surve,y 63 percent of students reported physical fights “some of the time” and 38 percent said the same thing when asked if students are threatened or bullied at school.
Unfortunately, Theodorou said, the school had few advanced classes. Only Advanced Placement Spanish and English are offered. She said there is simply not enough funding and students to create such classes. Also, the only foreign language offered is Spanish. However, the principal was working to expand offerings via online courses.
College: About three-quarters of graduates enter two-year schools and the rest go on to four-year colleges, the principal told us. Trips to colleges, including Manhattanville College, Pace University, Hofstra University, Oswego College and Stony Brook University, take place throughout the year.
Special education: The school offers both team-taught and self-contained classes. The principal said she tries to mainstream kids as much as possible and some have a split schedule, spending some time in general education classes and some time in smaller groups. There are classes in English as a Second Language in every grade.
Admissions: Limited unscreened, with preference given to Bronx students. (Nikki Dowling, October 2012)