No Textbook Answer: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap (documentary film)

This post includes details on a new National Issues Forums documentary film on how schools can use deliberation to uncover the best ways for them to address the achievement gap. The film will be aired on PBS stations around the country in 2011, and you can (1) request a free copy of the film and (2) help make sure your local PBS station airs the film.

Our national education system allows many children to languish and fail, despite the fact that we know how to create good schools that can produce high-achieving students, no matter what their socioeconomic background. No Textbook Answer‘s name comes from one of its main findings—that there is no textbook answer that will fix all schools and all students. Each community documented in the film had to create their own answer—by coming together, deciding what the problems were for themselves, discovering what they could do to change them, and taking action.

The communities chosen for this film were eight locations around the country with significant achievement gaps, gaps in achievement levels between white and minority students, and between poor and affluent students. Some of these schools and communities were performing better than others, but all were failing at least some large fraction of their students.

No Textbook Answer is not intended to be any kind of answer either. Simply replicating any of the communities in the film won’t work for any community struggling with low educational performance. No Textbook Answer is intended to help people ask themselves a few simple questions:

  • Are my kids and my community facing this problem?
  • What could we do about it?
  • Who can help?

No Textbook Answer: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap is airing on public television stations around the country in 2011. It is also being offered free of charge to university and college television stations. Education or civic organizations who would like a DVD of this film to present to their members or the public should email [email protected] with their name and shipping address.

We in the National Issues Forums (NIF) network know the tremendous power public deliberation can have in a community facing a troublesome or divisive problem. Now we have an opportunity to share a film that vividly shows the results of deliberative forums with communities around the nation.

As you may remember, several years ago a huge number of forums were held around the country using the NIF issue guide Too Many Children Left Behind: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap. Some of these forums were so powerful that substantial community action came out of them — and those communities and their stories are the subject of the new documentary No Textbook Answer: Communities Confront the Achievement Gap.

This documentary is currently being offered to public television stations around the country, but if you want to make sure it’s aired in your area, please call your local public television station (you can contact info for your local station here) and ask them to carry No Textbook Answer. You might also mention that you’d be interested in participating in any community engagement efforts they might build around the film. (The Kettering Foundation, which produced the film, is also working with stations around the country to design community engagement efforts built around airing the documentary.) With your help, we can convince more stations to air the film and spread the word about the transformative power of public deliberation on the problem of the Achievement Gap to other communities who may be struggling with the problem.

In addition to contacting your local public television station, if you would like a copy of the film, they are being offered free of charge to the entire NIF network! Kettering also has materials to help anyone who would like to hold a viewing party or community conversation about the issues in the film.

To receive a copy of the documentary, just email: [email protected]

You can also find out more about the film, where it’s being aired, and find additional resources at the film’s website: www.kettering.org/achievementgap

And, if you want to get connected with others interested in the film and the issue of the Achievement Gap, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NoTextbookAnswer

and follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/-!/NoTextbkAnswer

About Deliberation in National Issues Forums
National Issues Forums issue books are designed to stimulate public deliberation, which is a way of making decisions together that is different from discussion or debate. The pupose of deliberative forums is to inform collective action. As citizens, we have to make decisions together before we can act together, whether with other citizens or through legislative bodies. Acting together is essential for addressing problems that can’t be solved by one group of people or one institution. These problems have more than one cause and therefore have to be met by a number of mutually reinforcing initiatives with broad public participation. This book is about such a problem.

About the National Issues Forums Institute
The National Issues Forums Institute’s mission is to promote the use of public deliberation in schools, colleges, civic organizations, and religious institutions in the United States. The institute’s directors are volunteers drawn from leaders in government, colleges and universitites, libraries, civic organizations, the media, and medicine. For more information visit www.nifi.org.

About the Kettering Foundation
The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with offices in Dayton, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The foundation’s research is used in preparation of the books in the National Issues Forums series. For more information visit www.kettering.org.

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