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School Features Real-World Learning, No Grades

During her internship with a pediatrician, Met School junior Vimar Rodriguez, left, helps a nurse give a shot to a 14-year-old patient.
Margot Adler, NPR /
During her internship with a pediatrician, Met School junior Vimar Rodriguez, left, helps a nurse give a shot to a 14-year-old patient.

It's hard to imagine a school with no tests, no grades and no classes. But those familiar elements of education are missing at two dozen Big Picture schools in six states, each with no more than 120 students.

They emphasize work in the real world, portfolios, oral presentations and intense relationships between students and advisers. Margot Adler visits one of the schools, called The Met, the 10-year-old model for the schools, in Providence, R.I.

Students are encouraged to discover their passions, interning two days a week with mentors in the community who relate those passions to the real world. The student might work at a hospital, a bakery, or an architectural firm. School projects are designed by the mentor, the adviser and the student together -- and are presented orally, along with a portfolio, every nine weeks.

Vimar Rodriguez, an 11th grader interested in medicine, has a neighborhood pediatrician as a mentor. Dr. Hector Cordero says she knew little when she started interning at his office.

Copyright 2005 NPR