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When they arrived at Harper, the students from Neuqua Valley were shocked immediately by the difference between Harper and their own school. For starters, students have to enter Harper through a metal detector. They have a pool at Neuqua Valley, but the Harper pool hasn't been filled with water in a decade. The Neuqua Valley students have an award-winning music department, while Harper doesn't have enough instruments for a music class and relies on improvised instruments—like banging on desks.

At Neuqua Valley, students can enroll in more than two dozen advanced placement courses, compared to the two offered at Harper.

"It's so mind-blowing to think that there's such a difference and we're both in the same state, an hour away from each other," one Neuqua Valley student says.

After sitting in on a math class at the suburban school, a Harper student was particularly worried about what her Harper education was actually teaching her. "I was looking at the math problems that they're doing [at Neuqua Valley], and I'm like, 'What language is that?'" she says. "As soon as I get to college, I'm going to be lost."
FROM: What Bill and Melinda Gates Want You to Know
Published on April 11, 2006