Jelani Cobb on the Closing of Jamaica High

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When Jamaica High School, in New York, graduated its last class of seniors, in 2014, the graduation rate was around forty per cent; about sixty-three per cent of the student body qualified as poor; and almost every student was a minority. Jelani Cobb, a staff writer who graduated from Jamaica High, in 1987, recalls a different school, one known for its academic glory and a diverse student body. But he also remembers a deeply troubling event that turned out to be a bellwether—a shooting that occurred in a dispute between two students. Cobb visited the school and talked with a recent alum about what changed.

Produced by Emily Botein