In the early days of American public education, a premium was placed on equality and standardization. For example, in the 19th century, it was paramount that we enabled all kids to become literate regardless of whether they could afford boarding schools and tutors. In the decades to come, as more and more immigrants reached our shores, our schools were handed the duty of advancing acculturation and assimilation.
The focus on equality is not a relic of the early republic, of course. Over the past several generations, the most high-profile reform efforts have sought to create a more level playing field for groups of historically underserved students, including African Americans, girls, children of immigrants, English-language learners, and students with special needs. The court cases related to school desegregation and busing, the passage of Title IX, and rules related to special education all promoted an equality agenda.
When I started working in the modern education-reform movement about two decades ago, virtually all our efforts were intended to help the most disadvantaged students. Over the years, I helped found a charter school for low-income kids, was involved in the early days of two education advocacy organizations, and worked on education policy for a state legislature, a member of Congress, the White House, the U.
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Department of Education, a state department of education, and a state board of education. Vouchers offered expanded options to low-income students assigned to failing schools. Teach for America prepared sharp recent college graduates for teaching jobs in disadvantaged communities. School-finance lawsuits aimed to direct more dollars to low-income schools.
Charter schools became an engine for starting high-performing, high-poverty schools, especially in urban America. The No Child Left Behind Act aspired to get all students up to proficiency in reading and math and to close the achievement gap. Agree or disagree with the strategies used, such initiatives were similarly motivated by the impulse to treat public education as a leveling force. In hindsight, it is striking how little discussion we had in the reform community about how these efforts did or did not address the needs of kids who were excelling, or how these initiatives were landing on non-disadvantaged communities—places where parents liked things just as they were.
These examples should have revealed to the sometimes self-certain reform community that, because public education is a democratic enterprise, an education-policy agenda should address the needs and interests of all families. For entirely too long, policy has been incapable of addressing that question when posed by the parents of high-performing kids. As a result, high-achieving students depend on state and local policy and practice.
Worse, only 17 states require that gifted services be provided in all K—12 grades. Four states only required that gifted students be identified—with no requirement to serve them. That doesn't happen to me often. And it is beautifully shot. The movie has drama, humor, sadness, and happiness. Even a little romance.
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The story revolves around a little girl, Mary, who, at 7 years old, is found to be a mathematical genius. Her uncle, Frank, is bringing her up, after his sister committed suicide. When it comes to light that little Mary is truly exceptional, Frank's mother enters the equation pardon the math pun.
She wants Mary to go to a school where her gifts are challenged, where she can advance her level of mathematics.
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Frank, however, wants Mary to be a kid. To grow up playing, having friends, and tromping around with her one eyed cat Fred, and go to a regular school, with regular kids, so she's not alienated from kids her own age. Basically, he wants her to have a normal life, where she can be normal. A custody battle ensues between Grandmother and Uncle, and Mary is caught in the middle. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm keeping it vague. The movie has many "Moments". Things that you'll recognize from your own life, the troubles and the joys. I loved it for that.
I would say it's suitable for kids to watch, although there are some adult themes. Nothing graphic though. It's a quiet movie, not something flashy, not hugely dramatic. But there is a good story that's well filmed and acted -- and honestly, there don't seem to be many of those anymore.
All I can say is, watch it and make up your own mind.
And yes, I would definitely watch it again. Visit Prime Video to explore more titles. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet!
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