Westtown School to Show "Race to Nowhere" April 13

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Westtown School in West Chester, PA, will show the 2010 film “Race to Nowhere” at 7pm on April 13 in the Barton-Test Theater on the Westtown campus. The screening is free and open to the public. A panel discussion is scheduled after the film featuring experts in the areas of education, mental health and college admission, along with parents and students. Westtown hopes to foster dialogue about how a community can work together on behalf of the physical and mental health of its young people.

Westtown students gather after classes

At the heart of the film is the issue of balance, which is something Westtown's program addresses through required athletics, dedicated time for reflection and worship and a host of activities intended to balance the rigor of academic classes.

Westtown School, a pre-K -12 college prep school in West Chester, PA, will show the 2010 film “Race to Nowhere” at 7pm on April 13 in the Barton-Test Theater on the Westtown campus. The screening is free and open to the public. A panel discussion is scheduled after the film, featuring experts in the areas of education, mental health and college admission, along with parents and Westtown students.

Presenting heartbreaking stories of young people across the country who have been pushed to the brink, educators who are burned out and worried that students aren’t developing the skills they need, and parents who are trying to do what’s best for their kids, “Race to Nowhere” points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace; students have become disengaged; stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant; and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.

Westtown educators share these concerns. Founded by Quakers in 1799, the school’s philosophy of education already incorporates many of the changes called for in the film. Upper School Principal Eric Mayer explains. "At the heart of the film is the issue of balance, which is something Westtown's program actively addresses through required athletics, dedicated time for reflection and worship and a host of activities intended to balance the rigor of academic classes."

Westtown has long been a leader in prioritizing students’ mental and physical health, one of the goals of “Race to Nowhere,” supporting children’s well-being by such things as rethinking assessment to include more authentic measures of learning than tests and exams alone, and purposefully teaching resilience by making sure young people experience small, manageable failures in the presence of caring adults. The College Counseling Program presents the college admission process as a journey of discovery rather than a race for acceptance at a few prestigious institutions. And most important, Westtown empowers students to take charge of – and joy in – their own learning.

Other goals of “Race to Nowhere,” which was created by Vicki Abeles, a parent who was moved to action after a series of wake-up calls in her own family and community, are raising awareness about sources of stress for young people, fostering dialogue about them, and galvanizing grassroots support for redefining success and achievement. Westtown is a charter member of the Independent Curriculum Group, independent and public schools across the country that put students at the center of the education process by emphasizing teacher-generated curriculum for advanced courses rather than teaching to AP curricula. Westtown also opposes the emphasis on school “ratings” by the media – and their unspoken messages to young people about what’s important in education.

Westtown looks forward to opening the dialogue with its own parent body and members of the wider West Chester community about change in education on behalf of all students. Unlike earlier showings of “Race to Nowhere” in the area, there will be no entry fee at the Westtown screening.

Moderators for the discussion following the film will be Westtown’s Associate Head of School Susan Temple and Upper School Principal Eric Mayer. Panelists include Westtown Middle School Principal Nancy van Arkel, Consulting Psychologist Dr. Maria Alonso, Director of College Counseling Susan Tree, Director of Learning and Teaching Dr. Margaret Haviland, Haverford College Director of Admission Jess Lord (Westtown ’90), parent and Widener professor Sydney Howe-Barksdale, and Westtown seniors and Student Body Presidents Daquan Daly and Maggie Munts.

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