Students and teachers from West Philadelphia High School, a public high school serving one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia, defy expectations as they design and build two super-hybrid cars for international competition and compete for the chance to be part of a technological revolution. In summer 2010, the high school’s EVX Team raced against mega-sized auto manufacturers, multimillion-dollar start-ups and university teams from around the world in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE competition. The challenge: Build an affordable, 100 miles-per-gallon car. The prize: $10 million dollars. In “Fast Times at West Philly High,” FRONTLINE explores the viability of these cars, the potential that exists within our young people and the prospects of effective innovation in public education.
Also in this hour, “The Middle School Moment”: A growing body of evidence suggests that the make-or-break moment for high school dropouts may actually be in middle school. Yet middle schools, with their vulnerable population, have long been overlooked. Now a group of dedicated educators is thrusting middle school onto center stage. They want to use data to find the answer to the middle school malaise. What’s more, they insist this data already exists, has enormous power to help repair a broken school system and to predict and prevent dropouts.
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