“Mitchell 20″ Spotlights Educator-Led Transformation
By Will Potter
As educators are facing attacks across the country – from budget cuts to bargaining rights – a new documentary spotlights a group of teachers in a low-income, high-needs school who are taking a stand.
“Mitchell 20: Teacher Quality is the Answer” is the story of 20 teachers who pledge to earn National Board Certification in the course of three years in order to improve their teaching and to improve the lives of their students. National Board Certification is a rigorous process in any school district, and one that is compounded by the fact that their school, Mitchell Elementary in Phoenix, Arizona, is in a high-poverty area, and many students are English language learners.
The National Education Association will host a special screening in Washington, DC on Friday. The film has already sparked a discussion of the importance of teachers’ voices in schools and in politics.
“I think sometimes we define heroes by position or title,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. He said the Mitchell 20 are an exciting example of deciding to lead school transformation — and bring everybody along. Educators are facing similar challenges across the country, and they are rising to the challenge. NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, for example, focuses on making substantial, educator-led improvements in high-needs schools.
Earlier this week, the White House hosted an event to celebrate the newest class of 6,200 board certified teachers, bringing the total number of board certified teachers to nearly 100,000. The Administration also drew attention to the certification process and how it has a positive impact on teacher quality. According to the National Research Council, students who are taught by board certified teacher show higher gains on achievement tests than those taught by other teachers. NEA was among the founding organizations that established the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 1986.
The main character of the film is Daniela Robles, a National Board Certified Teacher at Mitchell Elementary who encouraged her colleagues to fulfill the program. “Too often educators can say, ‘they can’t reach this,’” Robles says. “And I think everyone here at Mitchell challenges that and says, ‘No they can.’” As the Mitchell 20 go through this process, though, they are met with resistance by their own superintendent.
For the filmmakers, shadowing teachers and seeing schools from their viewpoint made them rethink their own approach to the film. “Mitchell 20” had to evolve during production, they said, as they realized the scope of challenges facing public education.
“We thought this film was going to be a heart-warming story of teachers working to improve their craft,” said co-director Randy Murray. “Instead, what our cameras captured was the reality of teachers taking on one of the greatest challenges of today…preparing our children for the future against all odds and in the face of steadily diminishing resources.”