‘Beyond Measure’ continues community conversation about education | ParkRecord.com

‘Beyond Measure’ continues community conversation about education

Last year, the Park City Film Series partnered with the Park City Day School, Park City Education Foundation, Weilenmann School of Discovery, the Park City School District and the Sundance Institute to present a free screening of Greg Whitely's documentary "Most Likely to Succeed."

The film examines the project-based teaching and learning at High Tech High in San Diego.

The screening was a success, as was the post-film panel discussion that addressed new ways of teaching and learning in local schools, according to Tess Miner-Farra, assistant head of Park City Day School.

"We all got a good sense of how ripe Park City is, as a community, for thinking about innovation in education, and just how invested the community is in thinking about educational ideas," Miner-Farra said during an interview with The Park Record. "We are certainly not a passive-parent community when it comes to the investment that we have in our own children's education."

So, when Miner-Farra learned about Vicki Abeles' documentary "Beyond Measure," she approached Park City Film Series Executive Director Katharine Wang earlier last spring.

"I reached out, thinking that we might like to partner again to bring another interesting educational film to Park City, because I knew there was another opportunity for us to continue the conversation," Miner-Farra said.

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"Beyond Measure," which will be screened for free at the Park City Library's Jim Santy Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 29, is based on Abeles' book of the same name, further examines project-based learning and an education system that values more than just test scores, formulas and mimicry.

"I actually proposed the screening of the film before I actually saw it," Miner-Farra confessed. "I had read portions of the book, on which the film is based, and knew the film did draw upon the same thought leaders that 'Most Likely to Succeed' used. So, I was interested in what different take this film would have."

Miner-Farra liked that the film and book challenged how people think about measuring success through standardized tests and grades.

"We face it here at Park City Day School as much as they do in public and charter schools," she said. "It seems as though so many of us are ready for innovation in education, ready for how we change our teaching for the benefit of our students."

A big issue surrounding new teaching and learning strategies is how to measure the success.

"Standardized tests and other standardized measures become the default because they are reasonably easy and give us metrics that are concrete and easy to understand," Miner-Farra said. "But what if those measures don't effectively reflect the kind of learning we actually want to have in our schools? That was the piece of the film that captured my attention. Now, I can't say that it answers the dilemma, but captures, effectively, how complicated it all is."

Park City Film Series Executive Director Wang said the screening will kick off this season's REEL Community Series, which is a program the series works with local nonprofits to elevate their missions through film.

This year will also have a pre-screening reception featuring Verizon Wireless, which is also part-sponsor for the screening.

"We are excited to announce that we received a grant from Verizon Wireless and their focus is in STEM Education," Wang said. ""We're using some grant funds to support the screening and to bring in James Harvey for a post-screening Q&A."

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. When an art element is added, the acronym is STEAM.

"When Verizon Wireless heard about the screening, they were excited to come and showcase some of the technologies they have developed that support project-based learning and STEAM Education," Wang said. "So, they are hosting the reception that is open to the public from 5:45 p.m. until 6:30 p.m."

The reception, which will feature refreshments, will provide the opportunity for the public to engage in these new technologies and apps that include transforming mobile phones into a projector.

Verizon Wireless will also spotlight their Innovative Learning App Challenge, according to Wang.

"This is open to grades six through 12," she explained. "Teams can submit a concept that they think would make a great app.

"Whichever concept wins, is actually created into an app by Verizon's creative team of
engineers and then put on the market through their store," she said. "That's pretty exciting, because this is a national contest for something that can be potentially globally available."

As an added bonus, the Park City Film Series and the Park City Library will present a free screening of Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's 2014 animated film "The Box Trolls," rated PG, in room 301.

"This screening is for younger students in grades K and up, whose parents want to attend the 'Beyond Measure' screening, but not sure if it will keep their kids' attention," Wang said. "The screening will be supervised by adults and snacks will be provided."

Space for "The Box Trolls" is limited, so RSVPs are required. They can be made by emailing director@parkcityfilmseries.com.

A panel discussion featuring James Harvey will be held immediately following the screening of "Beyond Measure," said Park City School District Superintendent Dr. Ember Conley.

"I serve on the executive board of the Horace Mann League, and James, who lives in Seattle, and I are committee members," Conley said. "He's an incredible researcher and the executive director for the National Superintendents Roundtable, a group of 30 school district superintendents who get together twice a year to look at current research and discuss national issues that face education."

Harvey James completed two major studies. One, which has already been published, is called the "Iceberg Effect."

"The top of the iceberg is student performance and everything else is comprised of the other things that those countries aren't addressing, and it looks at how we score on assessments in comparison to the top seven nations," Conley said. "It takes into account how we address equity, which includes social issues such as poverty, and how we do that so differently than those other countries."

His second study, which is just about to be published, is endorsed by Horace Mann, the National School Board Association (NSBA) and the American Association of School Administrators  (AASA), according to Conley.

"It takes the research from the Iceberg Effect and takes it one step further and shows that not only are we holding our own against these other countries, but we're actually doing far better," she said. "He gets into the quantitative analysis and sheds a different light on the state and national assessments.

"'Beyond Measure' is just that," Conley said. "As we grow new educators and produce students who are ready to go onto college or careers, we ask what are the changes that we need to make in education and that creates a community conversation. I'm going to be the voice of the Park City School District administrators and teachers when I say we believe in creating well-rounded children."

Park City Film Series, Park City Day School, Park City Education Foundation, Weilenmann School of Discovery, the Park City School District and Verizon Wireless will present a free screening of Vicki Abeles' documentary "Beyond Measure" at Park City Library's Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave., on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.org.

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