Roosevelt High School: One Year in the Life
NPR Series Follows Students, Teachers in Seattle High School

Click for more Browse all the stories in this series.

Roosevelt High School front entrance

Roosevelt High School front entrance.
Photo: Seattle School District

Fitting in, finding friends, joining up, hanging out, looking cool, or just getting by -- for most, high school is a heady mix of good times and heartaches.

NPR's Robert Smith spent a year following the students and faculty at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Wash. -- the largest high school in the city. Judging by the test scores, Roosevelt High is an above-average school in a below-average school district. Most of Roosevelt's students are from middle-class families and are headed to college.

Like other schools, Roosevelt has its own traditions. New students, for example, are taught never to step on the school motto in the front hall. But Roosevelt also has challenges typical to an urban high school -- things that schools in the wealthy suburbs surrounding the city of Seattle probably don't have to spell out. One regulation tells students that the school will not bail them out of jail if they are arrested for shoplifting.

Classes have been held at the massive brick building for 80 years, and the ruts are well worn into the stairs and hallways. But each new school year brings new challenges and a new crop of kids who have changed radically with the times. And as Smith discovered, some things will always remain the same.

Stories in this series:

listenEpisode 1: Opening Day for Freshmen
High school freshmen may put on brave faces, but it often hides the fear of hazing and the normal stress of starting school. Robert Smith reports on first-day jitters for kids trying to find their way through campus -- and fit in as best they can. Oct. 12, 2001.

listenEpisode 2: Bottom of the League
Roosevelt High School is very good at many things -- but football isn't one of them. The Roughriders have lost every game this year, and none of the school's current students can recall a winning season. Smith reports on what it's like to play to empty seats against better-prepared teams from the suburbs. Oct. 26, 2001.

listenEpisode 3: The Lonely Life of a Teacher
No one ever said being a high school teacher would be easy -- but few expected it to be lonely. Teachers are surrounded by hundreds of students all day, but many say they crave more time with their colleagues, to share good ideas and get better at their jobs. Roosevelt High School is taking the first steps to give teachers more time together. Feb. 4, 2002.

listenEpisode 4: Teaching Curiousity and the Scientific Method
As scientific knowledge expands, it's getting harder for teachers to fully cover subjects like biology or physics in a single year. So instead of rote memorization of the periodic table or names of animal species, many schools are trying to teach the thrill of scientific discovery. It's called the "inquirity method," and at Roosevelt High School, it's getting mixed reviews. March 4, 2002.

listenEpisode 5: Cafeterias -- Turkey Tetrazzini Day
The recipe for the famed turkey tetrazzini at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Wash., hasn't changed in decades. It's buttery, cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs stuff, served up with pride by the "lunch ladies." But most everything else in the cafeteria is facing a profound transition. The forces of marketing, consolidation and convenience are transforming the school lunchroom -- and the era of the lunch lady may quickly be coming to an end. April 4, 2002.

      Episode 6: Students Working Against Time
listenPart One, April 22, 2002.
listenPart Two, April 29, 2002.
The 11th annual FIRST Robotics competition featured about 600 robots made by teams of high school students and their college and industry mentors. For many, the toughest part of competition is simply finishing the robots on time. The team from Roosevelt High School even acknowledges the pressure with their team name: SWAT, which stand for Students Working Against Time.

Listen Episode 7: Summertime and 'Senioritis'
It's almost summertime, and students across America are looking forward to taking it easy. But for many high school seniors, the relaxation has already started. With most of the required work behind them, second-semester seniors are notorious for checking out, slacking off and sleeping in. June 3, 2002.

Listen Episode 8: Keeping Latin Alive
While school is almost finished for students, teachers and administrators must begin the work of planning for next year. At Roosevelt High School, the staff is waiting to see how many students will sign up for their classes, and what their schedules will look like come fall. This is especially nerve-wracking for the school’s lone Latin teacher, Nora McDonald. Smith reports on the teacher's 25-year crusade to keep the dead language alive at Roosevelt. June 14, 2002.

Listen Episode 9: Graduation Day
It's all been building up to this day -- graduation. A high school graduation ceremony can be either an emotional, life-changing event, or a long list of names to be endured. At large schools like Roosevelt High School, it's always difficult to dole out the right amount of pomp and circumstance to 420 seniors, and still finish in time for lunch. In his last dispatch from Roosevelt, Smith reports on the last-minute jitters and final emancipation of the class of 2002. June 21, 2002.

Other Resources

Roosevelt High School official Web site.

Seattle School District Web site.

Roosevelt H.S. annual performance report for year 2000.

National Commission on the High School Senior Year Web site.