Up the Down Staircase (1967) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • Sylvia Barrett is a rookie teacher at New York's inner-city Calvin Coolidge High: her lit classes are overcrowded, a window is broken, there's no chalk, books arrive late. The administration is concerned mainly with forms and rules (there's an up and a down staircase); bells ring at the wrong time. Nevertheless, she tries. How she handles the chaos and her despair in her first semester makes up the film: a promising student drops out, another sleeps through class, a girl with a crush on a male teacher gets suicidal, and a bright but troublesome student misunderstands Sylvia's reaching out. A discussion of Dickens, parents' night, and a mock trial highlight the term. Can she make it?

    - Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>
  • Fresh out of graduate school, Sylvia Barrett begins her teaching career as an English Literature teacher at Calvin Coolidge High School, located in a tough inner city neighborhood in New York City. The school is overly bureaucratic and disorganized, with forms needing to be completed for every small task (why would an English teacher be required to fill out a basketball requisition form?), keys allocated to teachers even for things that do not exist, lack of supplies or people to fix broken items, overcrowded classrooms, and staircases labeled as up and down. This bureaucracy is designed to deal with the chaos that exists both within the staff and student body. Despite these problems, Miss Barrett comes into the school with an idealistic view of being able to assist students in learning, regardless of obvious or hidden obstacles. Some of the students who may be facing some of these obstacles are moody but bright Joe Ferone who is always on the verge of expulsion, romantic but socially awkward Alice Blake, and Roy Hackett, whose surrogate mother pleads on his behalf for Miss Barrett to pass Roy despite him continually falling asleep in class. Miss Barrett's fellow English teacher, Paul Barringer, who is the center of attention of many a female student and who has aspirations of getting out of teaching to become a novelist, tries to advise Miss Barrett not to take her job so seriously. Through it all, will the school get the better of Miss Barrett or will she get the better of the school and the students?

    - Written by Huggo
  • The experiences of a young female English teacher in an inner-city New York high school.

    - Written by alfiehitchie


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