‘Beyond Measure:’ part of the movement to reform education

Be sure to click on “Beyond Measure” for a sneak-peak at the film!

Jessica Deutsch, along with many other Princeton residents, first saw Vicki Abeles’ film, “Race to Nowhere,” in the packed auditorium of Princeton High School in 2010. Others may have caught it more recently, on Oct. 5, at the Princeton Public Library. For those passionate about reforming education and pursuing progress through creativity, Abeles’ next film, “Beyond Measure,” is surely one to see – co-sponsored by Princeton Public Schools and PPL.

“The first film pointed out problems in our culture – too much emphasis on testing, too much pressure about the college admissions process, too much homework, too much busy-ness – all crowding out time to learn deeply, be creative, enjoy family and sleep,” said Deutsch, a former Princeton University health advisor, a private practice college advisor, founder of the Facebook group Princeton Balance and one of the key motivators behind the Princeton Board of Education’s recent implementation of homework-free breaks.

“We know from hard science that all of these missing pieces are essential, and yet we, as a nation, are not valuing them. This new film highlights some of the bright spots where educators, parents and children are being bold and finding big payoffs.”

Deutsch hopes Princeton parents and teachers will think about what they can do in their homes and classrooms to advocate for more balance for Princeton’s young leaders.

If you need some food for thought as you begin to scrutinize the culture of education in the U.S., the “Beyond Measure” website poses the questions:

“What if our education system valued personal growth over test scores? Put inquiry over mimicry? Encouraged passion over rankings? What if we decided that the higher aim of school was not the transmission of facts or formulas, but the transformation of every student? And what if this paradigm-shift was driven from the ground up? By students, parents and educators? By all of us?”

In “Beyond Measure,” Abeles explores schools that are answering these questions by breaking from the mold of traditional test-driven education. “From rural Kentucky to New York City,” she demonstrates how diverse communities pursue education in a way that nearly every student graduates and finishes college.

“We are on the cusp of a major change in public education. The decades-long focus on standardized testing is giving way to a new paradigm of learning. The documentary highlights the growing and exciting shift from simply having students perform well on tests to having them perform well in life,” said Princeton’s Superintendent Stephen Cochrane, who has included goals that address topics such as balance and wellness in his PPS five-year strategic plan. “It effectively raises the ante for education – challenging us to think about how we are helping our students develop the skills of innovation, analysis, collaboration and character.  It is not always something that comes from above but grows from within: teachers, students, parents with a different vision of what learning can be. That vision already exists in the Princeton Public Schools and is being fanned and fed by our work already in the areas of wellness and innovation.”

Cochrane, Jane Fremon, founder and head of Princeton Friends School, and Joel Hammon, co-founder and director of Princeton Learning Cooperative, will host a post-screening panel discussion after “Beyond Measure” is screened Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in the JWMS Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required and can be done online at bit.ly/PPLbeyond.

For more information regarding the film, or for inspirational tips to get started on educational reform, visit beyondmeasurefilm.com.

“Vicki Abeles’ work on these two films is part of a critical movement to shift our national conversation about childhood and education,” Deutsch said.


About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida