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

This documentary film from the Kettering Foundation on how schools can use deliberation to uncover the best ways for them to address the achievement gap was aired on PBS stations around the country in 2011. The film vividly shows the results of deliberative forums with communities around the nation. (Viewable here and on Vimeo at http://vimeo.com/35957308.)

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 aired on public television stations around the country in 2011.

As you may remember, several years ago a huge number of forums were held around the country using the NIF (National Issues Forums) 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.

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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