Issaquah Schools Foundation’s education-based film series debuts

February 14, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

'The Race to Nowhere'

Three years ago, Vicki Abeles said her daughter, then 12, was pretty much like other children her age.

Her mom watched as her daughter juggled school, homework and various extracurricular activities. Then, her daughter began suffering panic attacks in the middle of the night. On one particular evening, Abeles and her husband found the girl doubled over in pain and rushed her to an emergency room.

“When she was diagnosed with a stress-induced illness, I was determined to do something,” Abeles said.

That something ultimately led to the documentary “The Race to Nowhere,” which will be shown at Issaquah High School on March 1.

Doors open at 6 p.m.; the film starts at 6:30 p.m. A discussion follows from 8-9 p.m. The Issaquah Schools Foundation is sponsoring the film along with the school district, the Issaquah Education Association and the Issaquah PTSA.

“The foundation wants to be a catalyst for change,” said Lynn Juniel, ISF development manager.

If you go

‘The Race to Nowhere’

  • 6:30 p.m. March 1
  • Issaquah High School Performing Arts Center
  • 700 Second Ave. N.E.
  • Day-of-film ticket sales begin 5:30 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. A discussion of the film follows the screening, beginning at 8 p.m.
  • Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door, and are limited to 600 people.
  • or

Foundation officials believe bringing the film and others like it to town is really an extension of its primary mission, she said.

The next film is “American Teacher,” another documentary, to be shown April 5, again at IHS.

“It just brought tears to my eyes,” Juniel said, “probably because my mom was a teacher.”

“American Teacher” profiles several teachers both in and out of the classroom. One teacher is forced to get an extra job at a retail outlet while teaching full time. The film asks if our society values its teachers as they should, Juniel said.

Still a third film is planned for a showing later this year, though no final decision has been made.

Regarding “The Race to Nowhere,” Abeles said one topic it tackles is how much homework is given to today’s students. It’s a topic that comes up at every screening, she said.

“The research on homework is clear and unanimous,” Abeles said.

Many parents and educators assume more homework means higher grades and test scores. That simply isn’t the case, according to studies cited by Abeles.

“Eliminating homework is not an outlandish proposition,” she said.

Last year, a school in New Jersey experimented with homework-free holiday breaks, she added, stating the school’s administration is committed to no-homework breaks in the future.

“They acknowledge that holiday breaks are not actually part of the academic calendar,” Abeles said. “Families are grateful. Students come back rested, energized, ready to learn.”

In the end, what message does Abeles want parents and others to take from “The Race to Nowhere?”

“This film is a wake-up call that the current paradigm isn’t serving children or our educators,” she said.

Tom Corrigan: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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One Response to “Issaquah Schools Foundation’s education-based film series debuts”

  1. Kenneth Goldberg on February 15th, 2012 4:43 am

    The Race to Nowhere is an important film for all teachers and parents to watch. Regarding homework, my own proposal is that we revise the rules so that teachers offer homework with the understanding that it is only done with the permission of the parent. Most parents will agree to reasonable amounts of homework for their children. Yet, push come to shove, parents should be the final arbiters regarding what is done in their homes. Practically, this would mean that parents would have the authority to modify or waive homework assignments, and to insist that penalties for homework not done be either waived or dramatically reduced. I recommend that homework be time based rather than assignment based as well. These concepts are presented in my book, The Homework Trap, and will go far to carving a new understanding about the boundaries between home and school. With these understandings in mind, teachers can then develop best educational practices, knowing that their primary zone of control is in the classroom, not what goes on outside of school. Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D.

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