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Critical Exposure taught us to take pictures of our everyday lives so we can get in touch with people who do not understand what is going on in the DC public schools.
Do students who arrive late to school not care about their education?
Our students at Washignton Metropolitan High School (D.C. Met) launched a campaign to change the school’s attendance policy, which stated that if a student arrived late to his/her 1st period class, s/he would be marked absent for the entire school day.
For their campaign, students documented their journeys to school, many of which begin in SE and end at the school in NW. Many of these commutes take an hour or more, and some have to drop off younger siblings at their schools first. The students coupled these photos with writings about their experiences going to truancy court and a related survey of over 60 members of the student body in a presentation to their Principal, Carlos Perkins.
This Spring semester (2013), Critical Exposure has embarked on an exciting new opportunity at The Washington Metropolitan High School. We are now teaching five days a week, which means more opportunities to develop relationships within the class and more time to develop our campaign around the issues that arise during class discussions.
During the Fall 2012 semester, Critical Exposure partnered with D.C. Met's Art I class. Students decided to use their photography to lead a campaign to improve technology resources at the school. After a few research meetings with their principal, the class chose to focus on getting a computer technology teacher at D.C. Met beginning in the 2013-2014 school year. In response to presentations given by students of their photography and writing, their principal has agreed to include a computer technology teacher in the hiring budget for next school year.
In August 2011 a second Critical Exposure class began at D.C. Met. Students this year documented their lives and set about their goal of building a more inspiring and respectful school culture. After months of photography and planning, they organized their peers to create a Peer Jury & Restorative Justice program for their school. They presented their proposal to the school leadership team, which has given its full support to the project. Students are now in the process of recruiting jurors and establishing an official policy for the school.
In January 2011 Critical Exposure initiated a program at the Washington Metropolitan High School, an alternative D.C. public high school located in Ward 1 of D.C. Students identified their school's lack of a library as a major obstacle to academic success. After a semester of documenting a disorganized storeroom and the consequences of illiteracy, the students presented their photographs and writing to their school's Superintendent and DCPS officials to eventually win more than $20,000 in funding and thousands of donated books. In February 2012, more than one year after they began their project, Critical Exposure students at D.C. Met celebrated their victory. Their school now has a fully-equipped library, complete with relevant books, sturdy shelves, new computer, comfortable chairs for relaxing, and elegant glass tables for groupwork.