Fifteen education documentaries that need to be made

8. Special education

“A film could be on ‘Special-needs students: Challenges and hopes.’” —Samia Al Farra

“The topics that come to mind are: ‘Secrets Kept From Parents Regarding Special Education Accommodations/Modifications’; ‘Should Individual Education Plan (IEP) Be Renamed School Educational Plans for Individuals with Disabilities (SEPID)?’ IEPs and Foster Children: Where Are the School Counselors, School Psychologists, and School Social Workers? and ‘What happens when teacher subjective data does not match school objective data for students with IEPs?’ –Philip Canady, teacher, York County School Division, Yorktown, Va.

7. U.S. education vs. education in other developed countries

“I would love to see a documentary that compared American students’ knowledge of the world to students from around the world. We are a globally incompetent country, and it is going to come back and bite us because our students won’t be able to compete in the global economy.” —Charmagne Campbell-Patton, World Savvy Challenge program manager, Minneapolis, Minn.

I would love to see a documentary detailing the correlation between a country’s value of the teaching profession (teacher pay, working conditions, training, workload, appreciation) and student success.  Instead of Waiting for ‘Superman,’ this would document how teachers in the U.S. are really ‘stuck in the trenches.’” —Gabrielle Hernan, technology director, Boulder Country Day School

“The movie I would like to see is one of comparison: I would like to see something that focuses on the techniques used by high-performing countries concerning discipline, class work, homework, and grading policies, and see how our policies (including the ones the pundits want to implement) compare.” —Keith Weston

[Editor’s note: Filmmaker Bob Compton has compared the attitudes toward homework and extracurricular activities, as well as the rigor of the curriculum, in the United States, China, and India in his documentary Two Million Minutes, and his film The Finland Phenomenon looks at that country’s educational success. While both films raise important points for discussion, they don’t dig more deeply into how those other nations differ from the U.S. and whether the success they are seeing could be replicated here in the U.S.]

6. The best vs. the worst in education

“I want to see a fantasy film where the best students are taught by motivated teachers [who] are paid what they are worth, and engaged parents whose volunteer efforts are leveraged effectively. You can pair it with a horror movie about the opposite. In reality, I’d like to see what we could do if we put emphasis on letting the best students stretch as far as they could, the average students having a fair opportunity, and the poor students given the dedicated remedial help they need. The best teachers getting paid for exceptional performance, the average teachers getting the mentoring and encouragement to become elite, and the poor teachers fired. The parents who have the skills to fill gaps not blocked by silly rules, things to do for people willing to help, and required engagement for those unwilling.” —James Schweitzer

5. The effects of parent involvement

“I keep wondering why no one has done a documentary about the responsibility of a parent when it comes to raising children. Why is no one castigating them for not feeding their children real food, letting them stay up until all hours on school nights, not supervising their homework, and not becoming active in their schools? Why am I getting children entering kindergarten who do not know their letters, colors, names of body parts, and cannot speak in complete sentences? I want to have parents come to parent-teacher conferences, not just to get food or handouts, but to check up on their children. I don’t want to tell a parent that while their child is getting a D, he should be getting A’s, and have the parent say that as long as he is passing it is not a problem.” —B.J. Logan

“I’d love to see a documentary on the impact of parent involvement, or lack thereof, and the result on the academic outcome of children. There are many students who are [hurt] by the lack of parent involvement, yet with all of the ‘accountability’ mantra, teachers are the ones held accountable. Think of it this way: One child, who has support at home, is rowing a boat with two oars, one on each side, representing parent involvement at home, and the other the teacher’s involvement with the student at school. The child without parent involvement is trying to row a boat with only one oar. … It’s difficult, if not impossible, for the student with only one oar to every be able to perform as well as the student whom has two oars.” —Bill Miener, director of information systems, Edwardsville Community Unit School District No. 7

Meris Stansbury

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