NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 2, 2014

Shining the spotlight on education

New school to present free documentary screening next week

How well are American high-schoolers being prepared for the future?

That’s a question posed both by a new school slated to open this fall and by the 2007 film “2 Million Minutes: A Documentary Calculating the Educational Divide.”

Learning Outpost will host a free screening of the documentary on Wednesday night at Newburyport City Hall, and school founder Pam Ameen hopes that teenagers will be encouraged to watch.

“It just really makes you think, ‘What do I want from my high school experience?’” Ameen said. “It will hopefully open a dialogue between the kids and parents.”

The film follows six students from three countries — China, India and the United States — as they navigate life inside and outside the classroom. The title refers to the approximate amount of time from the end of eighth grade to high school graduation.

The U.S. has been under a lot of scrutiny since the introduction in 2000 of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures scholastic performance in math, science and reading.

“There has been a lot of flak about how the U.S. places in the hierarchy,” Ameen said.

In 2012’s results, which were released last month, American students showed little improvement in the three years since the last test, failing to break the top 20 in math, reading or science. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the results a “picture of educational stagnation,” according to The Associated Press.

“The film takes a different perspective,” said Andrew Soracco, who helped conceive Learning Outpost and will serve as an instructor/guide. “It shows how (education) affects the children’s lives as a whole.”

Soracco, who currently teaches fourth, fifth and sixth grades at River Valley Charter School in Newburyport, said it’s interesting to see how the students — a boy and girl from each country — balance education with sports and extracurricular activities.

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