Video: Back To Providence-St. Mel

NBC's Today Show went back to Providence-St. Mel, 30 years after the school first gained national attention in part through a visit from Ronald Reagan.

The best part is seeing what's happened to some of the kids from way back then. Anyone familiar with the school who reads this blog it'd be great to know if the school is or was as good as it's made out to be, and what everyone thinks about the creation of Urban Prep, the charter school modeled after it.

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  • The principal would actually brag that only 50% of incoming freshman would graduate. Why is that a bragging point?

  • Providence-St. Mel has good points and bad points. The idea that all of it's Senior class members graduate with multiple acceptances to good 4 year colleges (including some of the best schools in the country) is very well established. Graduates of PSM are extremely well prepared to succeed in college. I really do believe that the leadership of the school have their hearts in the right place. Things often neglected in other schools such as the arts are well supported. Discipline is rigid and parent involvement is expected. That being said, the place is a pressure cooker for both students and staff. Faculty turnover is huge due to the unrelenting pressure from above. Micro-managing is incessant. Teachers are often called on the carpet for NOT failing enough students or not giving enough homework (students are expected to have 4-5 hours of H/W a night!). Prospective students have to score at least in the 35th% to be accepted, which I would imagine would exclude a huge number of CPS educated students (who would fall well below that level). There are no Special Education students there either. Once in the school, a lot of remedial work and help is given, which is great, but the pressure to perform is extreme, and a huge number of students just can't handle the stress. Discipline can be draconian (to the point of what color tupperware the kids can bring their lunches in), and a lot of students are kicked out for what would be very minor offenses in other (even some successful) schools. Unless, of course, you are a basketball player. We all know that adolescents do stupid things. At PSM, a lot those stupid things very often result in the student leaving, rather than an effort made to "save" him or her. As for the "brag" that only 50% of incoming Freshman will graduate - the percentage of incoming students who actually leave PSM with a diploma is probably closer to 33% than it is 50%. Is Providence-St. Mel successful? On many levels it is, but like CPS Selective Enrollment schools or many charter schools, the operative idea really is TRIAGE. Separate the better students, those with more potential, more family support, self discipline, etc. and educate them away from the distraction of the problem children, the horrific family situations, the mainstreamed Special Ed students, etc., etc. There is a lot of good, a lot of things that can be learned from the PSM model. Things that other schools would do well to replicate. But it would also be best to remember that for most average (or below) kids, the kind of extreme environment that is Providence-St.Mel probably is not the answer. Former Teacher

  • I agree with much of what you said. However, they did accept lower level students when Fry money was available. The PSM program did not help those children and most were dropped.

    You are correct about the basketball issue. I remember Paul Adams fawning over a player stating "If I had a son, I would want him to be you." This was not based on academic prowess but athletic skills.

    Whats worse was how teachers were treated. Adams was often cold to an underpaid staff. PSM administration would encourage students to become "doctors and lawyers" but never teachers. Adding to this, was a poster in a cafeteria that defined success: it showed a big house and multiple expensive cars, not christian values.
    I found PSM to be contradictory both in their education program and dedication to Christian ideals.

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