Highlights from Last Week

Last week was an extraordinary week of Race to Nowhere screenings and community conversations. With the snow and wind howling up and down the coast, Vicki joined education officials, community leaders, parents and students in several key venues including the 92nd Street Y in New York and the Alexandria PTA Council in Alexandria, Virginia. The Virginia location was significant for its proximity to the nation’s capital and for the participation of ASCD, the Alexandria PTA and the City Public Schools with Superintendent Morton Sherman, PTA Council President Karen McManis and local Congressman Jim Moran attending.Meeting on the doorstep of the nation’s capital at a time when the country was riveted to the tragic events in Arizona, reminded us that the health and well-being of the nation’s children forms the core of our efforts and must remain a national priority as we consider the broad set of issues that make up education reform.As one of the primary organizations providing tools and solutions for the world of professional educators, ASCD was a natural and welcome host for the event and acted as an ideal catalyst for the community discussion that followed the screening. The organization’s executive director, Dr. Gene Carter, began the evening with an introduction that touched on significant issues raised in the film (see complete text of Dr. Carter’s remarks attached). He spoke of how Race to Nowhere focuses in on “the intense level of pressure that impacts the lives of many of our young people, as well as addressing the burden our traditional emphasis on winning at all costs places on our young people.”ASCD helped to facilitate the post-screening community conversation by posing a series of questions, aimed at eliciting responses and provoking recall of personal experience with the main issues raised in the film. Included were questions about whether stress was an issue with students and how best to alleviate it on the family, school, community, state and national level. Responses touched on issues of time management; the importance of sleep and physical education; the need for parents to create more effective models of their own behavior for kids. ASCD’s participation in the development of the Whole Child initiative was a major area of focus as a movement that has critical implications for replacing the current educational system with a meaningful and effective alternative.The major takeaway from the evening was that change will not happen from the top down. It will take an ongoing commitment for those concerned to continue participating and lending their voices. As Dr. Carter said, “…the time is now for each of us – educators, families, students, business persons, service providers, policy makers and community members—to collectively ensure that what we are doing is good for each child; and that we must commit to excellence in health, safety, engagement and learning for each child.The week concluded with several screenings at the CTA Issues conference in Las Vegas where Vicki had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of educators. She was joined by well-known organizer, Fred Ross, who first started organizing in the 1970s with Cesar Chavez. He spoke of the importance of educators and parents organizing around the issues raised in the film. Manny, a teacher from Oakland , called Vicki a "social arsonist" - one of Fred's father's favorite axioms - an organizer who goes around setting people on fire."