180 Days: Hartsville lays out for the viewer how the schools in this small, rural US town struggle – and succeed – to meet new curriculum standards, find funding and address the special education needs of children from impoverished communities. South Carolina is the 45th worst-faring state in terms of schooling, and Hartsville one of the poorest communities in the nation.
The series documents a full school year in Hartsville. One of the ‘stars’, new principal Tara King, explains on-screen the weight of local history: in 1817, Captain Thomas Hart bought 500 acres of virgin pine forest, purchased hundreds of enslaved Africans and made a fortune growing cotton and raising cattle.
Say the film’s producers: “In 180 Days: Hartsville, viewers will experience one Southern town’s efforts to address the urgent demand for reform in American public schools. Viewers will watch what happens when the systems that can either fuel or diffuse that reform – bureaucracy, economic opportunity and fixed mindsets – interact and intersect. Is Hartsville an anomaly, or do its successes point towards some transferrable and sustainable solutions?”
180 Days: Hartsville is also an online game that anyone can play, from the perspective of either a student, a teacher or a parent, at http://blackpublicmedia.org/180daysgame/. By answering a set of questions, players are contributing to a debate centred on the question: how do we foster the practices and policies in [American] public education that will encourage all schools to foster a more balanced emphasis on each child’s development and growth?
When Independent Education’s editor participated in the innovative online experience, she received the following feedback: “Based on your answers, your teaching style gave a slight preference to the emotional needs, overwhelming attention to the social needs and strong focus [sic] on the intellectual needs of your students.
“That’s not a score as much as it is a barometer for where you believe the greatest attention in schools should be placed.”
Category: Spring 2015