Race To Nowhere

This past week it was time for another what’s wrong with education documentary. This time it was the film Race To Nowhere.

Race To Nowhere

While Waiting For Superman concentrated on failing schools and the students who don’t have access to quality education, Race To Nowhere focuses on students that are succeeding and the pressure on them to excel. I found myself identifying with the issues in the film because they are my issues:

  • I don’t work in an inner city school so much of what was in Waiting For Superman just wasn’t something I had experienced. I work at a small Episcopal school that like most schools could use more money but does not have the problems of the failing public schools.
  • My daughters have both gone to private schools for their entire lives. They have both faced the pressure of doing well in order to get in to a good private high school in our area.
  • I just went through the roller coaster experience of having my older daughter apply to colleges and be accepted by some and rejected by others. I guess her over 4.0 GPA & 6 AP classes just weren’t enough in some cases.
  • I also wonder where the mindset that going to a junior college instead of going right into a 4 year college indicates failure has come from. That is the culture at my daughters’ high school and it’s one that I hear from the parents at my current school who have children in other high schools in our area.
  • I’ve seen for myself that while my daughter was told that a 3 was a pass on an AP exam, a 3 gets you nothing in college – maybe it helped you get accepted but it gives you no credits. A 4 might give you an exemption from a lower level class and if you’re lucky a 5 will get you credit.
  • I’ve watched my younger daughter, who started high school this year, stay up until 12:30am working on homework when she has to be up at 6:30am for school the next day.
  • I’m trying to decide if my younger daughter is offered the AP track in high school if I should let her get on it. She doesn’t test as well as her older sister and she takes longer to get the work done so just because she has an “A” should she go into the AP class? If she doesn’t take the AP classes will it affect her chances to get into college? During college tours we were repeatedly told that admissions people look at what you could have taken at a school and what you did take and that it does affect your admission chances.
  • At one point in the film, some successful college dropouts were shown such as Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. I just couldn’t help but wonder if the companies that these men founded hire college dropouts these days?

As I struggle with some of these issues with my own children and wonder if I can convince my younger daughter’s school to have a screening of the film, I have to say that I am glad to be a teacher at my current school. We are certainly not a model of a 21st century school but we are a school that realizes that there is more to life than academics. We are a school that does limit the homework load and does not place an emphasis on standardized tests. The students do take standardized tests once a year in the spring, but our school culture is not one of teaching to the test – thankfully.

The crisis in education in this country is real. There is too much emphasis on testing and racing to the top or not leaving a child behind (by whatever name it’s currently called) and there is a definite inequity of access to quality education. We need real discussions about this and not the media hype that’s been going around lately. I would urge everyone to read Chris Lehmann: This Isn’t An Education Debate and attend or view the archive of Elevating the Education Reform Dialog.

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