Metropolitan Learning Center

High school students take international studies classes at Yale and other local universities. Photo courtesy MLC.

Opened in 1998, the Metropolitan Learning Center (MLC), a small magnet school outside Hartford, has built its model international studies curriculum one grade at time. This year, as it graduates its first class, the school continues to attract a very diverse group of mostly lower-income students from six surrounding towns. With its rich breadth of core courses around international issues, the school appeals to students and families seeking an engaging education with real-world applications.

The middle school curriculum is organized around an interdisciplinary approach to global systems. The high school offers area and international studies courses as well as Spanish, Chinese, French, Arabic and American Sign Language. The Metropolitan Learning Center remains well connected to contemporary scholarship on international issues by drawing on its partnerships with Yale, Brown and local universities for teacher professional development and courses for seniors.

The school actively uses technology to promote international communication and is a participant in iEARN, an international communication program that engages students in interactive discussion forums in a dozen disciplines and languages. (iEARN was a co-recipient of the 2003 Goldman Sachs Foundation Prize in media and technology). In 2003, the school was selected to work with Global Nomads Project in a live teleconference connecting students from the Metropolitan Learning Center with high school students in Baghdad-before and after the war in Iraq.

Since winning, Metropolitan Learning Center has become an anchor school for the International Studies Schools Network, the first national network of urban secondary schools devoted to international studies and world languages. In this capacity the school serves as a best practice example and role model for other network schools. MLC is also contacted regularly by other schools across the country for assistance and advice.

The award helped to fund travel for students at the school, an important part of the MLC program. Students have received assistance to travel to Japan, China and Ecuador. This year over 100 students are traveling abroad and six international students are visiting the school. A new sister school partnership with a school in Ecuador was established in 2007 and the first international service learning program was completed.

Anne McKernan, Principal, has this advice for those seeking to add international components to their curriculum, "Stay in contact with organizations such as Asia Society, iEARN, Global Nomads, YFU and others that are involved in this work. Have your teachers travel and get interesting worldly speakers into your schools. The teachers are a big hurdle. Few teachers have this kind of training and it is desperately needed."