education · standardized tests

Where are we running?

“Race to Nowhere” is a documentary that has been talked about, but has not been widely advertised like “Waiting for Superman” was earlier this year.  From what I’ve heard, “Race to Nowhere” is the documentary that gets at the heart of the issue with regard to what’s happening in our nation’s public schools.  Here’s a synopsis of the film from the

Featuring the heartbreaking stories of young people in all types of communities who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

“Race to Nowhere” is supposed to be a call to action for educators, policy makers, and parents to do something about the over-testing that is pervading our schools today.  If you’re one of those teachers who says you spend too much time teaching to the test, then this documentary is for you.  If you wish you could spend more time teaching kids how to read and write, rather than how to read multiple choice questions and answer written prompts, then this documentary is for you.  If you long for the day that assessments will help drive your instruction, rather than stifle it, then this documentary is for you.

There are screenings around the country, but the documentary isn’t being show everywhere. Therefore, if you go online and find that “Race to Nowhere” isn’t being shown anywhere near your hometown, then I implore you to work with people you know to bring the documentary to your community.  (I found some like-minded people here in Central Pennsylvania who organized a screening in late February.  Now, rather than having to drive to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh to view this film, people in Midstate PA can travel a short distance to watch this film and listen to a panel discussion about the high-stress testing culture that has penetrated into nearly all aspects of public education.)  Bringing “Race to Nowhere” to your community in 2011 is one way you can start a dialogue to help others determine where and what we’re running towards ever since standardized testing has been forced upon us and the children we teach.

Here’s the trailer:

8 thoughts on “Where are we running?

  1. @Zinnia–Yes, many decisions should be student driven and begin in much younger grades. The rise of so many soccer teams and soccer moms was not child driven, but misguided parenting. Kids would probably appreciate a neighborhood pick-up game so much more.
    Then through the growing up years other groups (government, school administration, etc.) add on pressure. Again, misguided.
    Our school’s Outdoor Classroom Committee is currently reading A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard & Jennifer McDonough. We hope to examine just how we as elementary teachers could be nourishing kids who wonder & discover. However, the pressure for testing results is there also. Frustrating!


  2. I haven’t seen this movie either but I had heard of it. Unfortunately, it isn’t in our community but I would like to bring it here!
    I, along with some teachers I work with, saw WFS and a lot were leaving angered saying it was nothing but propaganda for charters. I agree charters aren’t THE answer but CHANGE is. We’re putting our kids through some horrible things and they’re leaving very little prepared. I have a friend that graduated top 5% of her class in high school and when she got to a very prestigeous school she had to take remedial classes. She loves/hates to say, “High school was a joke and lied to me!”
    Politics needs to get out of our classrooms and leave educators/students/parents (mainly students) to make the decisions for what’s best for our students.


  3. @Mom of two girls: Unfortunately, neither one of these documentaries have been in my area, which is why I’m still waiting to see both of them. I would’ve traveled to see both, but the nearest showings were a two-hour drive. Seeing as I have back problems and have been pregnant this fall, it made it nearly impossible to make a four hour round-trip drive to sit in a theater for another few hours. Therefore, I’m looking forward to seeing both in 2011 after my daughter arrives.


  4. I think it’s a shame that this starts with “from what I’ve heard.” I have seen both films and so should everyone. They have different approaches and points of view, but both offer much to think about and discuss. Awards season aside, this is not a competition. Many voices are essential to the process of real educational reform.


  5. I have seen both films, and I think that both make great points. We should take the best ideas from each of them to improve education in the U.S. It isn’t a contest between the two films (although some supporters of each seem to want to make it one). The problems are serious enough that we need all the good ideas we can get.


  6. Our kid’s high school screened this movie twice – many parents came to see it, and there was a great discussion after the screenings. The irony is – many parents there, including the pediatrician mother who moderated the discussion , were just the type who contribute to the stressed out fast track high school life! As the parent of two kids who have now graduated and one who is in the midst of the world portrayed in the movie, I despair. Things have become so out of whack that it will take a lot more than a movie to raise awareness and move to change …but it is a start!


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