Up The Down Staircase Synopsis

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 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?

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Eileen Heckart
Eileen Heckart

Henrietta Pastorfield

Elena Karam
Elena Karam

School nurse

Frances Sternhagen
Frances Sternhagen

Charlotte Wolf, school librarian

Jean Stapleton
Jean Stapleton

Sadie Finch

Ruth White
Ruth White

Beatrice Schacter

Sorrell Booke
Sorrell Booke

Dr. Bester