West Vancouver is hosting a screening of the new movie Beyond Measure. Along with the new book of the same name by Vicki Abeles, they make the case of the collective power of communities to work together for a better school system. The trailer for the movie nicely sets the tone:
As I was with the previous effort by this film’s director, Race to Nowhere – I am left with mixed feelings. I am reassured that our work in Canada, and particularly British Columbia is on the right track. From our shifts in teaching and learning in part fueled by the rethinking of our curriculum, to our move, albeit slower than some would like, to a post-standardized world of assessment where letter grades and system-wide tests are less important and ongoing feedback is more important – there is a lot happening around me that would be success stories in Beyond Measure. And while I see elements of familiarity between the common Canadian student experience and the common American student experience – while broadly over-generalizing, there are tremendous differences, and we seem to be moving further apart – with the Canadian system, far more in-tune with the themes of Race to Nowhere and Beyond Measure.
Of course there is always more to do. Beyond Measure reminds us that as we make up ground in one place, to truly move forward there are many pieces that have to move together. We are moving on testing, and images of a “zombie apocalypse” that Abeles shares in her book are not our reality, but we are not there yet – a work in progress. Other topics that Abeles raises from the volume of homework to college admissions are ones we continue to wrestle with. I was speaking with new teachers last week and was asked about homework “policy” in our district. We don’t have a central policy, but schools have guidelines, and I can say with certainty there is less homework now being given than a decade ago, the work is far more purposeful – but external pressure, often from parents remembering their school experience fights efforts to move beyond homework. The guidelines shared in Beyond Measure are strong aspirational goals – homework should advance a spirit of learning, homework should be student directed, homework should honour a balanced schedule.
Particularly heartening is that rather than just list problems, the book is really a call to action – what parents, educators and communities can do together. I feel some of this “action” right now in BC as we work together to move our system forward. If others are interested, the book is available here.
The screening of the film is Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Here is ticket information. If you can’t attend, encourage your community to bring the film to your local school or theatre and let’s keep this conversation going!