Niagara Gazette

Communities

February 26, 2013

Riviera Theatre to host showing of "Race to Nowhere" documentary and discussion

Niagara Gazette — Kathy Brown has made children cry ... and she doesn't like the feeling.

Brown, an elementary special-education teacher in Grand Island, said that she's comforted children who sobbed after she had to give them pre-tests at the beginning of the school year — before they'd ever been taught any of the material on those tests.

"It was a terrible start to the year," said Brown, who is in her 32nd year of teaching. "I vowed that I was going to do something about that."

It's that sort of story that's behind the Partnership for Smarter Schools and its message.

The grassroots organization, along with the School Administrators Association of New York State, Phi Delta Kappa and the Niagara Region PTA, is sponsoring a showing of the documentary "Race to Nowhere" at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda, followed by a panel discussion, "From Nowhere to Rethinking Reform."

The documentary, which premiered in 2009 and has since been screened in 44 states, three countries and more than 50 theaters, is a critical look at increasingly test-oriented education standards in the United States and the effects of "achievement culture" on students. Filmmaker Vicki Abeles started the film after seeing the effects of such stress in her own family and community.

The panel discussion after the documentary screening will feature Mark Garrison, an expert on school reform; MaryBeth Carroll, director of the Niagara Region PTA, and Walter Polka, professor of education at Niagara University and former superintendent of the Lewiston-Porter school district.

Polka, a member of the PSS Steering Committee and one of the groups's founding members, said the organization started when a group of educators met and saw the documentary, which he called a look "at the whole testing craze through children's eyes."

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