The Newark Public Schools have an abysmal 22-percent high school graduation rate. The primary reason for this is poverty. Equally abysmal is Newark's murder rate; since 2007, it has gone from 8th to 7th highest in the nation. Again, the reason is poverty. Since 2007, the poverty rate in Newark has risen from 25-percent to an even more appalling 32-percent. With a population of 278,000, this means that almost 90,000 Newarkers live in poverty!
As a result, young people from Newark come to school with heavy baggage due to living in an environment smothered by poverty; they have basic needs that are not being met. Therefore, Newark schools must be ready, willing, and able to counteract the effects of poverty, providing students with what's lacking.
During a tour of Revolution '67, the Bongiorno's met Historian Dr. Tom McCabe H’02, author of Miracle on High Street, who introduced us to St. Benedict's Prep in the heart of inner-city Newark. It’s run by Benedictine monks who've achieved a near 100-percent college acceptance rate for their predominantly African American and Latino young men. We spent a year filming at the school, learning that for inner-city youth, cognitive skills are impeded by the dysfunctional environment caused by poverty, therefore inner city schools must be committed to helping students overcome this dysfunction so that the process of education can begin. At SBP, this commitment includes protracted counseling as well as a year-round residence for the most vulnerable students.
The filmmakers of THE RULE are working with Columbia University's Teachers College to develop a study guide for policymakers and educators that uses THE RULE as a vehicle for urban school reform.