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One in 1.1 million: After homelessness, an Ivy League admission

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In class on tragedy, a teacher casts herself as supporting actor

Joanna Dolgin's "Tragedy" class at East Side Community School focused on Shakespeare's Othello in December. Joanna Dolgin uttered only a few words during her first period "Tragedy" class one Monday last month, and she thought even those might have been too many. Dolgin's junior and senior English students at East Side Community High School were holding a formal discussion of Shakespeare's Othello. Tragedy is one of four English electives offered this semester at East Side, a small secondary school whose students, mostly Manhattan residents, are not required to take the full slate of Regents exams typically required for graduation. Instead, students complete projects, make presentations, and participate in discussions to show that they have mastered course material. Dolgin's Tragedy class is one of 52 high school courses citywide that the Department of Education has certified as being good preparation for college. GothamSchools spent a morning in the class, observing as students discussed a central question about Othello's plot. As when we have chronicled other classes in the past, we’ve included both a description of what we saw — and, in block quotes, a description of what the teacher was thinking. 9 a.m. "Who or what is to blame for Desdemona's death?" The debate prompt was written on the board when students entering Dolgin's makeshift classroom on the seventh floor of the Norman Thomas High School building, where East Side Community moved in October after its building was found to be structurally unsound.