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AZ–produced Film Explores Best and Worst of Public Education

October 31, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The documentary, "Mitchell 20," has its national premiere on Nov. 4 in New York. The film is named for 20 teachers at Mitchell School in the Isaac district of inner-city Phoenix. It tracks the efforts of teacher Daniela Robles to inspire her colleagues to achieve National Board Certification as highly-accomplished teachers.

Arizona Education Association President Andrew Morrill says the film is both uplifting and troubling.

"This is a film that is not afraid to tell a very up-close, personal story - up close to these teachers who've come to the collective decision that one area still within their control as teachers is their own performance."

"Mitchell 20" co-director Andrew James Benson says the film also depicts "a broken educational system that actually works against the very teachers who commit to investing time and effort to reach the highest level of excellence."

The film shows how the district administration broke up the team of nationally-certified Mitchell teachers. Robles was reassigned, then shortly thereafter left the district. Morrill says the decision was understandable.

"What it really points to is that districts are really hungry out there for leadership among the teacher ranks. You can fault the tactic, but you can certainly understand the motivation."

The National Board Certification process is voluntary, rigorous and very expensive, but Morrill says it is also very valuable for teachers.

"Just going through the process, even if you're not a successful applicant, improves your teaching performance because of the way it deeply affects your teaching methods."

Morrill says state lawmakers should be doing more to improve financial access to the certification program, but instead are moving in the opposite direction by cutting investments in education.

"If we wanted to get serious about building education out from the student and the classroom and the classroom teacher, National Board Certification is one excellent strategy to pursue. It's not the only one, but it is a very important one."

The film "Mitchell 20" is showing at the AMC Arizona Center through Thursday, at least. It has already been held over twice.

A 2.5-minute preview "trailer" of the movie is available at www.imdb.com.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ