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  • Summary: Paul J. Adams III landed a job as guidance counselor at Providence St. Mel, an all-black parochial school on Chicago’s notorious drug-ridden, gang-ruled West Side. A year after his arrival, Adams became principal and set an important goal: To turn Providence St. Mel into a first rank college preparatory school, and its African-American student body into a corps of driven, disciplined, high achieving students. That was over 30 years ago. Since then, 100% of Providence St. Mel graduates have been accepted to college, half of them to first tier and Ivy League colleges and universities. The road from failing inner city school to a pre-K-through-12 educational system that produces graduates who attend Ivy League colleges and universities was not a smooth one. The Providence Effect traces the school’s development from a struggling shoe-string budget dream into a school and a method of teaching that produces not only inspired students, but parents, teachers and administrators dedicated to settling for nothing less than the highest expectations. (Slowhand Cinema Releasing) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 10
  2. Negative: 1 out of 10
  1. If anything is missing from this inspiring film, it is a deeper examination of why, given how common-sensical these approaches are, so few other schools have been able to accomplish what Providence St. Mel's has.
  2. This uplifting documentary breaks no new ground stylistically, but the story it tells is urgent and compelling.
  3. 75
    Impressive, although not quite the film it could have been. It asks few hard questions.
  4. Reviewed by: Ruth McCann
    Though it drags on a bit, the film is certainly good-hearted, informative and relevant. We look through the doors of the St. Mel's classrooms and we see the whirrings of a school that can help a smart West Side kid land a spot at MIT. That, at least, is something to celebrate.
  5. For the film to be truer to the school’s reputation, it would have had to dig a little deeper.
  6. 38
    Adams and the school's students and teachers deserve an A-plus, although the film rates a much lower grade. It unfolds lifelessly, as Binzer parades a contingent of talking heads before the camera in what could pass for an infomercial.

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