“Public education is a right, a freedom and an investment.”

Laura Stelsel is director of marketing and communications at Kappa Delta Pi.

Rise Above the MarkAs a staff member at KDP, but someone who has never taught a day in her life, it’s hard for me to fathom the pressure placed on today’s teachers. Last week, I was able to see the emotional toll these demands—issues like teacher evaluations, testing and budget cuts—are having on educators in “Rise Above the Mark.”

A few staff members and I attended the premier of this documentary, which is the brainchild of Superintendent of Schools in West Lafayette, Ind., Dr. Rocky Killion. It features the recent and well-publicized woes of the Indiana Department of Education, and it illustrates how public school educators and administrators across the US struggle when politics enters the classroom. And at what cost to the students they serve.

The subjects are tearful veteran teachers who still very much love what they do but who feel defeated by a system that values multiple-choice evaluations in place of creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking. “Rise Above the Mark” asks legislators to remember the teachers who impacted them as kids and what made them great. Would those educators exist in the climate that’s been created?

I certainly saw in each of them the best teachers from my youth, and it nearly brought me to tears to think how they must be struggling to change to satisfy today’s standards.

“Rise Above the Mark” gives teachers a voice and hopes to start a dialogue about the future of public education. I left the theatre last Thursday feeling frustrated, and I hope that the rest of the theatre was, too. From these frustrations come conversations, and from those conversations come great change. I hope you have the chance to check it out, but more importantly, I hope you take the opportunity to have a dialogue with someone about the future of public education this week. Because, as it was so eloquently put in the documentary, “Public education is a right, a freedom and an investment.”

I should also note that national education reformers Diane Ravitch and KDP Laureate Linda-Darling Hammond are featured and provide some great commentary. Ravitch even recently blogged about the documentary.

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