Wednesday, March 2, 2011

We Start

At the start of the school year my son, who is 11 and in the fifth grade at Park Forest Elementary in State College, made a short film about always doing your best for an all school assembly. It was a great success.

A couple months ago he came me with an idea for another film project. This time he wanted to make a movie at his school about the high stakes NCLB testing, in Pennsylvania called the PSSA. Specifically, he wanted to document how test was hurting his education and that of his school mates.

I had a lot on my plate at that time. My mother was going to have surgery for breast cancer. My husband was teaching a new course at Penn State. An online community that I work with was dealing with expansion. I was still digging out from Christmas. The cat was sick.

I said, "That sounds great, Ted." And off I rushed to put out the next brush fire.

My son's school is a wonderful community serving a wonderful community. In 2009, the school was recognized by the Education Commission of the States and the National Center for Learning and Citizenship as one of 10 outstanding schools nationwide.
Nationally, Ten Schools Chosen for Service-Learning Schools of Success Award
DENVER, CO -- The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and the National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC) are pleased to announce the recipients of the Service-Learning Schools of Success Award. Ten schools were selected based on their support of five elements critical to the successful, school-based integration of service-learning — shown to lead to greater student achievement and success: vision and leadership, curriculum and assessment, professional development, community- school partnerships and continuous improvement.

The principal has won numerous awards as well, including the Milken Family Foundation PA National Educator of the Year Award in 1996 to the PA Resources Council Educator of the Year in 2007. In 2008, she was awarded the Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award by the American Educational Research Association.

Over the next months, Ted would occasionally give me updates about his film project. He showed me some outlines and discussed some possible story outlines. One was about a newspaper reporter who goes to do a hard hitting exposé about a failing school and discovers a paradise of joy, community, and learning. Another was based on the Dr. Seuss book called Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, except at the end of his movie, the kids are sent to Flobbertown.

This is NOT Flobbertown. This is a school that is doing everything right according to all the initiatives and proposals of all the education reformers out there, from Bill Gates to the President. What could possibly be wrong? Well, last year this school fell short of meeting mandated proficiency goal under the No Child Left Behind law.

Then Ted read something about the Bartleby Project. I loved the short story about Bartleby when I was in school. Ted and Bartleby, the Scrivener finally got me to focus. I started doing some research about the upcoming PSSA testing and the No Child Left Behind law. And what I discovered shocked me. I'd like to share that the world here.

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