What would you do?

Have you ever heard a white person say something like: slavery is over, why don't blacks ____ (fill in the blank)? I wonder the opposite: how does anyone continue to have spirit, strength and hope in a country where this story can happen (and where Trayvon can happen, and Walter Scott can happen, and millions and millions of stories known or unknown to the public can happen...over centuries)?

I know. I talk about this a lot. It's because I have had the honor of teaching and working in black communities (not to mention being "adopted" by my second family in DC) but also because I know HISTORY. On the black-white issue, we have comparisons to make to South Africa's apartheid, but another comparison we need more people to see has to do with Germany and the Holocaust. Michelle Alexander calls what is happening to black men in America a "silent holocaust," and I agree. (Read her book The New Jim Crow if you haven't).

The important question is, I think: if you could go back to Germany in the 1930s, recognizing what was happening around you (or to you), what would you do? Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. what a good day to reflect on history and change the future.

What will you do?


Here's the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/15/closing-the-book-on-jon-burge-chicago-cop-accused-of-brutally-torturing-african-american-suspects/?tid=hp_mm&hpid=z3

Yom HaShoah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaShoah

Upcoming Code Oakland Screenings!

Our newest film, Code Oakland, is already getting into film festivals not just around the U.S., but the world! We have screenings coming up in St. Tropez, Canada and even one in India (not on the list yet -- stay tuned for those details). Meanwhile check out the dates for the Art of Brooklyn, Julien Dubuque, Humboldt Internat'l, "(In)Justice for All" in Chicago and more.

Go to our screenings page for dates & details.

Also, if you're in the Bay Area, save the date of May 9th, 6:30-8:30, for a very special screening of Code Oakland at Impact Hub Oakland! Details coming soon.

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We ♥ NYC!

Thanks to React to Film, NYCAN & its Exec. Director Derrell Bradford, the Museum of the Moving Image and the staff of Loudspeaker Films, we had a fantastic premiere screening of Code Oakland in NYC. Read the details here, the press release here and watch the student presentation and panel discussion HERE

Our Producer/Director Kelly Amis and Code Oakland film star Kalimah Priforce also got to join React to Film in ringing the Nasdaq bell! Thank you to React to Film founders Dennis and Coralie Dennis for this amazing opportunity.

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Working seven out of six hours!

This is interesting, from Education Week (article follows):

"One in 4 (American) teachers report leading class longer than the length of the school day, according to a new analysis of a national survey"...."That's only possible...if teachers are lecturing in empty classrooms, have no lunch breaks, team-teach, or teach students in overlapping shifts. While the last two do happen—rarely—the first is ridiculous...and the second would typically run against teachers' contracts."

So American teachers have been over-reporting how many hours they spend in front of a classroom (over-reporting to a degree that can't be argued: 25% claim they are working longer than the actual school day itself). And these numbers don't even begin to look at the massive variation in what teachers are actually doing when "leading class," only how long they say they are doing so.

We love good teachers. We honor good teachers. Good teachers and schools are arguably the most direct way to eliminate inequality and promote democracy in America. But we also see that the profession has become one dominated by a culture of non-accountability, negativity and refusal to acknowledge reality that is sometimes, as this article reflects, truly unbelievable. How did the research mentioned below get used so much (U.S. teachers were supposedly teaching class up to 73% more than in other countries?!)?

Posted on March 18, 2015 and filed under by Kelly Amis.

Code Oakland: Screening and Celebration


NOW POSTED: PHOTOS & VIDEO FROM THE CODE OAKLAND PREMIERE! Check out the PHOTO GALLERY and a great video our intern Vanessa made from the event: Code Oakland Premiere Party.


Please join us for the premiere and celebration of Code Oakland, a new TEACHED short film by Kelly Amis. 

The evening will include a performance by local girls band Sisters Keeper, music by DJ Oracle, and a chance to meet the stars & director of Code Oakland.
 It is brought to you by West Wind Artists, Youth Aid (both founded by performer & music producer D'Wayne Wiggins) & Loudspeaker Films, and is generously sponsored by the Kapor Center for Social Impact, the Salesforce Foundation and the Port of Oakland

We'll have scrumptious food (including veggie options), a hand-crafted cocktail created by local mixologist Danny Ronandelicious organic teas provided by Numi and tastings of fine wines from Clos Pegase, the Clif Family Winery, Cal Vin & Hocks and other generous donors.

This is an invitation-only event; please RSVP by Jan. 27th.  

Parking is limited: please use public transportation, a ride service, taxi or carpool. The nearest BART station is Coliseum. You can walk from there (10 -15 min.) or grab a taxi to Mindseed SoundStage.

Haven't seen the Code Oakland trailer? Watch it HERE.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Posted on January 28, 2015 and filed under Screenings.



The United States now bears the ominous title of being the world's most prolific jailer: with only 5% of the population, we represent 25% of the incarcerated. The vast majority of our prisoners are functionally illiterate—even if they went to school—and an inordinate number of them are people of color. In The Path to Prison, a former gang-member and felon from South Central Los Angeles shares his own path, helping us understand how so many capable and intelligent young men—especially African-American males like him—end up uneducated and behind bars in the 'home of the free.'  (8 min.) Featuring: Jerone Shell

The discourse around education reform—especially on issues involving teachers—lacks nuance, thoughtfulness and, often, commonsense. Political rhetoric is distracting from efforts to improve teacher quality, especially in schools serving urban, minority children. It has become virtually impossible to fire a teacher in America, and when incompetent, absent or even abusive teachers can’t be fired, they are shuffled to the schools where parents have the least power to do something about it. Meanwhile, qualified candidates go through the steps to become teachers only to be knocked around and sometimes out of the system by the same rules. In this short film, teachers themselves ask whether the system is serving students’ needs…not to mention their own. (17 min.)

Featuring: Howard Fuller, Pearl Arredondo, Virginia Walden-Ford, Steve Hill, Michelle Rhee, Amber Pierce, Batia Oren, Dan Gerstein, Lisa Raymond, Barrie Weiss

Charter schools have been around for over twenty years, yet many Americans are still unclear about what exactly these schools are and everyone wants to know why some are so great and others…not so much. Unchartered Territory looks at the advent of charter schools offering urban, minority children new school options while also providing new staffing models centered on results and accountability. Interviewing some of the most successful 'pioneers' of this still-developing frontier, this short film provides an insider’s look at both the opportunities and obstacles presented by charter school reform in America. (15 min.)

Featuring: Kevin Chavous, Deborah Kenny, Irasema Salcido, Steve Barr, Jason Epting


In production. Planned for release in early 2015

This short film examines the evolution of Oakland through the eyes of social entrepreneurs who are determined that youth of color not be left on the sidelines as Silicon Valley spreads across the Bay and into the home of the second largest black community in California. Kalimah Priforce, whose first success as a social justice rebel was a hunger strike at the age of eight, and Kimberly Bryant, a successful electrical engineer turned founder of Black Girls Code, are organizing large-scale hackathons to prepare youth to redesign the future through the power of digital coding. Joined on the national stage by #YesWeCode founder and CNN Commentator Van Jones, their work represents the cusp of a growing movement to change both the face and use of technology in America. But is Silicon Valley ready to be hacked? (22 min.)
Featuring: Kalimah Priforce, Kimberly Bryant, Van Jones, Yes We Code, Qeyno Labs & Black Girls Code, Isaiah Thomas, others (tbd)

In this short film, we follow Tyzjae (Tie-zhay) Monroe from sixth grade to his junior year in high school as he and his mother struggle to find him a school that acknowledges—let alone nurtures—his obvious intellect. As a black male growing up in urban America, Tyzjae has already encountered his share of obstacles and set-backs in his quest to follow a direct path to college. When it is discovered in junior high that he is an exceptionally good quarterback, suddenly his value to area schools increases exponentially and the path seems all but certain. So what happens when a serious injury at the end of ninth grade keeps him off the field for a year?  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Tyzjae Monroe, Tequaila Monroe, Curtis Monroe, Catrina Brown, Marco Clark, Alisha Roberts.

On a Friday night after a long week at work, Calvin Davis joined his family in Southwest Washington, DC for an informal gathering. Still wearing scrubs from his job at Children’s National Medical Center, Calvin caught up with old friends while his two boys rode their bikes around the block. When police followed his fifteen year-old home, pulling on gloves as they approached the teenager, Calvin intervened to ask “Why? What did he do?”  How these questions escalated into a night in jail for a father with no prior record will make you “Think of Calvin” next time you question racial profiling or how America has become the world’s most prolific jailer.  (Coming soon)
Featuring: Calvin Davis, Carlet Harris, Montae Harris, C.J. Davis

Injustice in America

Dear Readers,

Most of my writing of late has been on my Facebook page, and in discussions with friends & colleagues who are as outraged and saddened by the verdicts in both the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases as I am. Below are a few of the things I have written plus suggested articles by others:

Dec. 6, 2014

I am really honored to be mentioned in this article by one of my favorite writers, RiShawn Biddle, in his must-read blog Dropout Nation(.net): Silence of Reformers on Ferguson is Deafening

I worked in education reform for years before the term became politically-loaded; it meant anyone trying to improve our public education system. The traditional public system was in dire need of improvement then, and it is today, especially with regard to education equality: urban, minority students continue to be blamed (along with their parents & communities) for lower academic achievement instead of given the same educational opportunities, funding and expectations as their peers.

The parallel second-class treatment by U.S. law enforcement and our judicial system via racial profiling, harassment, unwarranted violence and even lethal treatment, disparate sentencing patterns and the over-incarceration of males of color (black males in particular) is the other side of this coin. In our public institutions and policies, we -- the U.S. -- are systematically under-educating and over-incarcerating people of color, but especially black males. Given recent verdicts, it appears that a police officer can do anything to a black male-- including killing him with his bare hands, on video, in front of witnesses-- and there will be no consequences.  

Please read the article below and also this one-- Stop Bad Cops & Bad Teachers  - by RiShawn, which discusses the lack of accountability that pervades both the law enforcement and teaching professions. These are both difficult jobs. Police officers put themselves at great personal risk. We all know that. But for our institutions to protect individuals no matter what they do once they enter those careers is insane. Nobody is forced to become or remain a teacher or a police officer, but the "cultism" that RiShawn refers to includes a sense of entitlement to keeping a job regardless of the outcome in the classroom or on the streets.

Please also read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow if you haven't, and watch my first short film, The Path to Prison. In the coming year, maybe you will consider organizing a community screening of The Path to Prison and a new film Think of Calvin (coming soon) about a young black father unduly arrested in front of his two sons and the unbelievable no-win situation he is then presented by our law enforcement and judicial systems. Synopses of all the TEACHED short films are here Volume I and Volume II (coming soon). 


Dec. 3, 2014

For anyone who thinks I or anyone else is overly consumed with race issues in our country, I just want you to watch the Eric Garner video. An officer literally killed this man with his bare hands, while several other law enforcement officials looked on, and all over whether the man was selling cigarettes or not. It is hard to watch knowing that he is going to die. These stories make the news because the consequences were actually lethal (e.g. Eric Garner, Mike Brown & Trayvon Martin), but for every one of these stories there are, what, hundreds? thousands? millions? of stories of race-based injustice in America that you don't hear about in the news, and that don't involve any hint of criminality whatsoever on the victim's part.

"Strange Fruit, Eric Garner Edition" by Rishawn Biddle.


November 25, 2014

(from Omaha, Nebraska)

This is me, reporting from a corner of the world where the concept that you could be walking down the middle of the street in your own neighborhood, and a cop would pull up next to you and say "Get out of the f'ing street," is just not something you can fathom happening. Because it wouldn't. And where what happens next is your multiple-shooting death wouldn't happen (if you are white). Or if somehow it did, it would go to court. This is also where the media tells everyone (at least reading the primary newspaper) some parts of the story, but not all. Where the front page of this newspaper on any given day --- but especially today -- tells you all you need to know about race and equality in America. (And weirdly that paper is owned by Warren Buffett, who many people know is from Omaha....but somehow no one knows that Malcolm X was born here??....and there's no museum about it?! One of the most world-famous historical figures from the U.S.???). I'm just reporting at this point. It is easier and less frightening I guess to "believe in" the police, and "believe in" a race-blind and fair society (that doesn't exist in the view of many of us) especially when the media is making it easier for you to do so.



Posted on December 7, 2014 and filed under by Kelly Amis, Race Matters.

Getting to the Goal!

We are in the final three days of our Kickstarter campaign to finish TEACHED Vol. II. Please make a pledge today and help us get to the finish line!

We are asking for your help to:

-  Go to the TEACHED KICKSTARTER campaign and make a pledge,

-  Send a personal email to friends and encourage them to make a pledge,

-  Post your support on your Facebook page,

-  Make some Twitter magic happen (easy: retweet what we write as TEACHED)

Be sure to include the link to the campaign: kck.st/1CHKgUG and mention that pledges of $500 and up can be tax-deductible (choose "no reward" & email info@teached.org).

Some TEACHED facts you can share:

  • The TEACHED film series was created by Kelly Amis, a former South Central, Los Angeles teacher, Fulbright Scholar and winner of Teach for America's Social Innovation Award.
  • The first three TEACHED films, called TEACHED Vol. I, candidly examine the school-to-prison pipeline, teacher tenure, and public charter schools. TEACHED Vol. I premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival, won two film festival awards (Amsterdam and Williamsburg), was screened at SXSWEdu, the National Charter School Conference, the Black Alliance for Educational Options Symposium, the ASU-GSV Education Innovation Summit, and 70 more festivals and special events in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Since being picked up and streamed on SnagFilms.com about a year ago, TEACHED Vol. I and additional TEACHED online videos have received nearly 400,000 views.
  • TEACHED Vol. I was included as a trial exhibit in the historic Vergara v. California State Supreme Court case about teacher tenure and seniority, a case that may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. It was named as one TakePart's "10 Education Documentaries Not to Miss" and Online Universities "25 Best Movies About Education Ever Made," and also featured in such varied media as USAToday, the Harvard Law Review, the Huffington Post and One Day magazine.
  • The three new films, or TEACHED Vol. II, look at students both inside and outside of school to look at what urban minority youth accomplish when given the chance, and the forces that too often prevent black males in particular from fulfilling their potential.  The synopses of these new films, Code Oakland, Think of Calvin and Offsides, plus film teasers, are included on the Kickstarter page.
  • Questions? Contact us at info@teached.org. Need more background or details? Look at our website: www.teached.org. Now let's make this happen! Three days left and then we can get these films in front of audiences!
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Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under Supporting TEACHED.

What you can do

We have less than two weeks to go in our Kickstarter campaign to finish TEACHED Vol. II: three new short films about race, education and equality. You can watch the trailer for two of themon Kickstarter: Code Oakland and Think of Calvin.

Many independent film projects like ours rely on crowdfunding: lots of people giving what they can.

Please make a pledge today and share the news with everyone you know.

Other ways to help:

  • Send an email to 10+ friends! Copy, paste and send:
  • I made a pledge to this Kickstarter campaign for the awesome independent film project TEACHED, because I believe we need more ways to bring communities together for candid discussion around issues of race, equality and opportunity. TEACHED short films, produced and directed by former teacher and long-time education equality activist Kelly Amis, focus on the experiences of urban youth in America today. Please join me in helping TEACHED finish three new films; you can watch the trailer for the first one, "Code Oakland," and read more about the project, HERE.
  • Tweet for us! Copy, paste and tweet:
  • I made a pledge 2 @TEACHED Kickstarter b/c I believe in #edequality & the potential of all children. Pls join me! http://kck.st/1CHKgUG
  • Like us on Facebook and join our mailing list if you're not already on it; go to www.teached.org and fill out sign-up form on the right column.

Everything you do helps us one step forward. Have a great day and thank you for your support. We can't do it without you!

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Dear supporters and education equality warriors,

We have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help us finish three new short, cinematic films about urban minority youth in America. We are very excited about these films, which share stories that are inspiring, candid and sometimes outrageous. These are stories of typical black boys and men in America who face what should not be typical for anyone: institutions and policies --- not to mention portions of society as whole -- that treat them in significantly different and unjust ways, bringing into question our most basic principles of democracy and equality.

Please check out our Kickstarter campaign for more information about the films. Each week we will premiere a new trailer for one of the films, starting with Code Oakland, which you can watch now!

It takes a village to raise a child, and we've learned it takes a HUGE crowd of supporters to make a film about that child! TEACHED films are independent, non-profit and intended to be shared with communities across America to get more conversations going and bridges built between diverse populations. So please join our effort to put more stories like these "on the loudspeaker" and support our Kickstarter campaign today (and pssst -- please pass it on)!

Posted on October 3, 2014 and filed under Supporting TEACHED.

Why More Men Aren't Teachers

by Kelly Amis

I think this op-ed in Sunday's New York Times was really interesting; it's almost as if the answer to the title's question "Why Don't More Men Go Into Teaching?" was right there on the page, but writer Motoko Rich isn't quite ready to see it.

Here's the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/sunday-review/why-dont-more-men-go-into-teaching.html

Below is a quick Letter to the Editor I wrote in response. Two things I left out of the letter for brevity's sake were:

  • OF COURSE more women go into teaching because they are still the primary caregivers in families and the schedule aligns with their children's; that's not a "maybe."
  • The New York Times itself (although I adore it!) plays a role in safeguarding the current policies and structures around teaching that keep lots of qualified people out if it. How? The NYT has provided the nation's 2nd largest teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers, with paid-for, "faux" op-ed space in its Sunday opinion section since the 1970's. To my knowledge, there is nothing else like it (there were some faux-peds by a testing company awhile ago but they didn't last long, can someone confirm who had those?). I wonder what the AFT pays for these and why it receives such special privilege? I wonder if anyone can buy the same faux-ped space (and yes I just coined "faux-ped"!). I would love to see someone investigate this, because this is prime policy analysis real estate and it doesn't seem to follow journalistic ethical standards that it be sold to only one special interest group. Hmm.

Anyway, here's the letter:
"Why Don't More Men Go Into Teaching?" asked Motoko Rich on Sept. 7, 2014. Good question. More men are entering nursing and becoming stay-home dads; for the latter, it should follow that more would like the school schedule of a teacher's job. As a former teacher and long-time education equality advocate, I have an explanation. Teaching requires a college degree, knowledge and talent that not everyone has, but it is unionized along the lines of a factory job. Why should teachers have such strong job protections that even abusive or chronically absent teachers can not be fired? Until that changes neither prestige nor compensation will increase considerably, and men--having relatively better-paid and more prestigious options available to them--will continue to look outside of the classroom for work. If we want men to rethink teaching, we need to transform it first.


Posted on September 9, 2014 and filed under by Kelly Amis.

Seeking Interns

Know the right young person for our internship? Bay Area residence is preferred but not required. Please pass it on!


Posted on September 2, 2014 .

Transforming Teaching = Transforming Education

by Kelly Amis

We were honored to be included as a trial exhibit in the historic Vergara v. Californiacourt case which, in essence, declared that the unique and powerful job protections that California's public school teachers have long enjoyed ultimately hurt the very kids who could most benefit from great teachers, especially low-income students and students of color, who 60 years later still have not received the equal education promised to them by Brown v. Board of Education. Read more about our small role in this hugely important case here.

In our short film, The Blame Game: Teachers Speak Out, several public school teachers explain these policies (tenure, seniority-based placements and "LIFO") and how they negatively impact students, good teachers and school systems alike. We have long needed a transformation of the teaching profession and Vergara could be the turning point that gets us there. Many national leaders, like Washington, DC's Chancellor Kaya Henderson (watch our interview with her on our Youtube channel, TEACHEDTV) have been successfully transforming the profession in innovative ways in their cities and states; Vergara could provide momentum to make those exceptions the norm.

Of course those that have been building these job protections and policies into what they are today -- especially our teachers' unions -- are not happy. They will have you believe that making teaching more professional will somehow turn even more qualified people away from the profession; I believe it is the opposite. I know so many professional people who would teach if the work environment were better and more professional. ie, if it required and inspired every teacher to do a great job every day, and held those accountable who are not up to the task.

There was a time when the teachers unions fought for job protections that made sense, namely to protect women and teachers of color from discrimination. Federal law now provides those protections to everyone, yet the unions have continued to fight for ever-stronger job protections uniquely for teachers to the point where now, in 2014, it is nearly impossible to fire any teacher without spending thousands of dollars and hours in legal battles, even when there is proof of student abuse! This is insane. But the teachers unions are uniquely powerful, for one, because of their numbers: 3.2 million members in the NEA alone, making it THE largest professional organization in the nation. Secondly, while teachers may not be well-paid compared to lawyers and doctors, compared to many other unionized jobs (farm and factory workers, for instance), they are relatively well paid--they are college graduates after all. This means that teachers unions have enjoyed a lot of steady money coming in from teachers' pockets year after year, and the political influence that money buys (one of the most interesting examples to me is the faux "Op-Ed" the AFT has bought in the New York Times editorial section since the 70s, I believe). And they are not happy when anyone else brings money to the education policy table to fight on behalf of students.

As Star Parker explains in this article: Kids Captive of Nation's Teachers Unions, a successful entrepreneur from Silicon Valley funded the legal team behind the Vergara case. The unions say he "bought it" and criticize the support. But if David Welch hadn't had the foresight and generosity to fund this effort, who would have? The poor kids it will benefit? The unions, for far too long, have been able to dictate policy exactly because those who receive the brunt of any negative consequences lack the political power and funding to fight back. I, for one, believe Vergara will usher in a new era of education transformation to turn our system into one in which both students and teachers experience success and joy on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It is time!


Vergara v. California Verdict


In a historic ruling yesterday, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge declared California's laws around teacher tenure, seniority and related policies to be unconstitutional. We are very proud that TEACHED Vol. I was included as a trial exhibit in this case--Vergara v. California--because urban minority students are dramatically impacted by the indirect consequences of these laws.

   We are also proud that we were able to educate more Californians about the Vergara case through TEACHED interactive screening events, introducing audiences to Students Matter lawyer Joshua Lipschitz, great teachers who explain the policies in question in our short film The Blame Game: Teachers Speak Out, and other courageous leaders like principal Bill Kappenhagen, who became a witness in the case as a result of participating in TEACHED screenings (go Bill!).

   You can watch Joshua, Bill, Kelly Amis and TNTP's Aleka Calsoyas in this panel discussion at a screening organized by Education Pioneers alumni.
If you would like to host your own TEACHED Vol. I screening, go here. We will help you plan a high-impact event.

SF Panel TQ

We thank Students Matter, the plaintiffs and witnesses for your courage in fighting for education equality for all students and for letting TEACHED be a small part of this historic effort. To learn more about the case, read these articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Dropout Nation and the Los Angeles Times, and peruse some of our relevant blog posts here, here and here. For more information contact: info@teached.org

Posted on June 23, 2014 and filed under Education Reform, by Kelly Amis.

60 Years Since Brown v. Board of Education

by Kelly Amis

Tomorrow is the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that required public schools to integrate. Despite the ruling, districts by and large didn't make it happen and by the 70s were ordered by courts to create complicated busing schemes.

We know now that this did not work. White parents fled in huge numbers to the suburbs to avoid busing/integration for their children, leaving many cities with high percentages of minority communities.

The public school system has mostly failed to provide those urban minority communities with the same quality of educational opportunities as their white peers, and in the early 90s policy leaders of both parties said enough was enough and began to support the charter school concept: public schools that would be independent from school district bureaucracies, free to innovate and more accountable for results.

When you hear the charge today that charter schools are responsible for *segregating* students, please question that logic. Charter schools are serving more minority students because that is their mission: to open in under-served neighborhoods to provide a better education for kids that are not being served well by traditional public schools. Our cities are still remarkably segregated; charter schools reflect, but did not create, that truth.

See what some of the best urban charter school leaders have to say about why they do what they do (and how they achieve such great results in their inner-city schools) in our short film Unchartered Territory; click on the photo to watch this short film on SnagFilms.com for free. And join us in supporting schools that know and believe every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin.

Posted on May 16, 2014 and filed under Education Reform, by Kelly Amis.

In Honor of Teachers

In so many ways, the TEACHED film project is about the importance of teachers: the crucial role they play in the lives and futures of our children at the individual level and, when you zoom out, the role they play in the nation as a whole in maintaining and imparting the values and dreams of our democracy and beautiful melting-pot of our citizenry.

Think this is overstating it? For some perspective, there are more than 3 million public school teachers serving our children and youth today. This is more than TWICE the number of active military personnel in all the U.S. armed forces combined (1.4m)! Looked at this way, teachers represent an "army" of citizens who have taken on the responsibility of protecting the American Dream and our shared values of equality and justice via knowledge. From the inside out!

Lofty words for a Thursday morning, but sometimes given today's heated debates around the how/why/who/what of teachers in America, we might need a reminder of what an important job this is -- the power and responsibility that teachers have! We believe it should be a difficult job to get and keep, and it should be compensated and honored as such.

For National Teachers Appreciation Week, some of us here at TEACHED wanted to share our thoughts about the teachers who impacted our lives the most. Feel free to add your own teacher-appreciation-story below!

Honoring Joel Plummer 

by Ashley Johnson

My life would be completely different had it not been for the influence of Joel Plummer, a teacher at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. Mr. Plummer was my U.S. History I teacher, my African American History teacher, and my basketball coach. Inside the classroom, I will never forget how he instilled in me a sense of confidence and pride about my culture. He was adamant that his students, nearly all of whom were African American and Hispanic, understood their heritage and past and were able to think critically about racial and social issues. However, my bond with Mr. Plummer grew much deeper. He became my mentor, and I looked to his advice on everything from family issues, work issues, and relationships.

Neither of my parents, or any of my siblings, made the choice to attend college. I was determined that I would be the first in my family to do so, but was quickly overwhelmed by the process. Mr. Plummer was instrumental during this time, helping me look at schools, editing my admissions essays, and helping me apply for financial aid. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to attend New York University.

Mr. Plummer has inspired a lot of students at Plainfield High School, but the effect he’s had on my life has been immeasurable. Today, more than 7 years since I’ve left his classroom, I still call him at least weekly to chat, catch up, or ask advice. I cannot let Teacher Appreciation Week pass without honoring the man who has impacted my life so greatly.

Honoring George Evans

by Vanessa Mehaouchi

My outlook on writing and my education in general was certainly enriched by my professor George Evans. Professor Evans frequently introduced me to the beauty of writing and sharing ideas, developing a voice and respecting the right and ability to write whatever we want for everyone to read and, as a result, respecting and cherishing our literacy. Prof. Evans always encouraged us to write in a way that we would be proud of seeing published. Keeping that idea in the back of your mind changed the way I wrote everything.

Prof. Evans is with the times, encouraging us to blog our ideas and read other blogs, and understand that our right to a lack of internet censorship should not be taken for granted (we may have to fight for it someday!) Anyone anywhere in the world can now post pictures, videos, and ideas from anywhere exposing the truth and documenting the whole 
truth. Evans encouraged us to read broader news and be aware; staying away from too much partisan news like CNN and FOX and consider other large scale news like Al Jazeera and BBC. Awareness and the ability to share go hand in hand, so thank you George Evans for not only being an excellent writing professor who never wasted a minute of class but also for putting my university experience into a different perspective with new feelings of anger, frustration, appreciation and curiosity. 

Honoring Ogden "Yogi" Martin

by Kelly Amis

Today is a very special day: I'm taking my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Martin, to lunch. I have not seen him since I was in junior high in a small town in Nebraska, so I am really looking forward to telling him in person what an impact he made. The timing of National Teacher Appreciation Week makes this even more special.

Mr. Martin was one of those teachers who was so clearly and perfectly made for the job. He was smart, entertaining, fair, hard-working and fun. I remember many of the lessons he taught distinctly, mostly in science because he made it come alive (sometimes, almost literally: we dissected quite a few critters that year). I appreciate so much that Mr. Martin pushed me to my limits in math. Especially realizing now how rare that was (and sometimes still is, sadly) for girls to be pushed to achieve in math, I credit Mr. Martin with the fact that I ultimately reached AP Advanced Calculus in high school (yes I'm bragging a bit - that was probably my greatest accomplishment in high school)! It also helped me to believe I could and can do anything I put my mind to, even in areas traditionally dominated by men.

Living in a small town with one elementary and one jr-sr high meant that everyone pretty much knew everyone, especially all the teachers. They weren't just part of the community -- they WERE the community. They were our heroes and they were like family. When I became an elementary school teacher, I looked back to my own-- at the top of the list was Mr. Martin--to try and be as good as they were.

Thank you Mr. Martin - I know I speak for MANY others when I say, you are an exceptional teacher and we love you!



Posted on May 8, 2014 and filed under by Kelly Amis, TEACHED Interns.

Where Your Money Goes When You Donate to TEACHED

TEACHED is a not-for-profit project produced by Loudspeaker Films, an independent film company with a social justice mission. TEACHED addresses some of today's most challenging education issues, from the under-education and over-incarceration of minority youth to the fight over teacher tenure.

The first set of TEACHED short films, TEACHED Vol. I, has been screened over 60 times across the country at interactive, community-based events that bring people together for candid discussion, response and action-planning. These screenings have featured speakers ranging from teachers, former gang members, parents and local leaders to national figures including BAEO Founder Howard Fuller, former Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and Dropout Nation's RiShawn Biddle. TEACHED Vol. I won two film festival awards and was named by TakePart as one of 10 Education Documentaries Not to Miss. The TEACHED Vol. I films plus our ancillary video content (such as our "On the Loudspeaker" interview series and videos we've produced with students) have been viewed online nearly 300,000 times.

When you support TEACHED with a donation, your money goes towards:

  • Production and post-production of the films. We currently have six new short films and our first feature-length film in production. Donations we receive right now will help us finish TEACHED Vol. II before the end of the year.
  • Organizing interactive screenings of TEACHED Vol. I for university students, teachers, parents and other audiences seeking education action in their community. We require a modest screening fee from groups hosting a TEACHED screening, but provide them with much more than the fee covers, including collateral art and planning assistance to ensure a successful, high-impact event.
  • Outreach. Your donations support staff to update our website, social media and marketing; develop relationships with targeted groups; and build a strong foundation of support for TEACHED now and into the future.

We have been overwhelmed by the response to TEACHED Vol. I and the incredible support we have received from parents, community leaders, donors, film and marketing professionals (providing their services pro bono or at reduced rates), and non-profit groups of all sizes. Because of this support, we know the time is right for TEACHED: for putting new voices "on the Loudspeaker" and for helping the public understand why and how education in America must be transformed.

We thank you for your support and helping us share the stories of students, parents, teachers and education leaders on film. If you'd like to make a donation today, please click below.

Posted on April 14, 2014 and filed under Supporting TEACHED.

TEACHED at BAEO Black Alliance for Educationial Options Symposium 2014


We are proud to be presenting TEACHED and our interactive screening model at this year's Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) Symposium being held in New Orleans. We will be showing clips from our films and talking to the Emerging Leaders of BAEO's Bailey-Sullivan Leadership Institute on how to organize communities and advocate for educational equality using our short films. 

BAEO’s Annual Symposium has convened for 14 years to inform, inspire, and empower emerging leaders (age 16-35), parents, educators, elected officials, community leaders, and clergy from across the country as they work to increase access to high-quality educational options for Black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies and programs that empower low-income and working class Black families. The Symposium remains the largest gathering of Black education reform supporters in the nation, drawing as many as 1,000 participants.

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BAEO was founded by 

Dr. Howard Fuller

, an inspiration to the TEACHED series and a star of our short film 

The Blame Game: Teachers Speak Out

.  He has also just announced the publication of his new book "No Struggle, No Progress" coming out in the fall.  We send our congratulations and can't wait to read it!

On the Loudspeaker: Vergara v. California

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Court resumed this week in the Vergara v. California case, a statewide lawsuit of nine California public school children looking to strike down the laws that limit schools from often doing what’s best for kids when it comes to assigning who is teaching them.

The case is being lead by the organization Students Matter, a non-profit founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, which is dedicated to promoting equal access to quality public education.

The Students Matter goal is to see a transformation of the teaching profession in California so that hard-working, effective teachers are rewarded and retained, and others who are not up to the job are not kept in the classroom and on the payroll. Ultimately, Students Matter seeks to create an opportunity for lawmakers, teachers, administrators, and community leaders to rethink the current system so it works rationally for teachers and students alike.

We are honored that the TEACHED Vol. I short films are included as trial exhibits in this potentially game-changing lawsuit. We have seen far too many amazing teachers booted from the classroom due to lack of seniority while others who are not able to manage a successful classroom remain for years, sometimes decades. We have even seen teachers who have abused children (with clear evidence to prove it) paid to leave because the system we currently have in place makes it nearly impossible to fire even them.

Some argue that efforts to rethink tenure and seniority are really about making it easier to fire older teachers (who are farther up on the salary scale) and replace them with younger "less expensive" teachers. Ironically, the polar opposite is the reality: when California's economic woes required laying off teachers over the last few years, teachers were pink-slipped according to seniority only, and because those who have been in the system for fewer years are lesser-paid, i.e. the newer, younger teachers, many more of them had to be laid off to save the required amount. For kids, that is a lose-lose situation.

Not only did California push out thousands of new-ish teachers who had devoted themselves to teaching (unlike many other professions, new teachers must pay for their own training in the form of a teaching credential, so it is a time and financial commitment before you ever get hired), it also convinced college students here who had been thinking about going into teaching to look elsewhere.

There is much to read on the Students Matter website to better understand this case; don't miss their timeline, trial tracker, short clips of the teacher's testimonies, their blog and their Twitter account for the lastest updates. People say that "as California goes, so goes the nation". If this case succeeds here (my guess is it will reach the U.S. Supreme Court), it could spark a national movement to transform the teaching profession.

TEACHED Vol. I at South-by-Southwest EDU


We are thrilled that TEACHED Vol. I will be screened at the innovative SXSWedu Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas this year.

If you are attending, please join us on March 4th at 2pm at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to watch the TEACHED Vol I trilogy of short films and hear from Producer/Director Kelly Amisand our amazing lineup of guest speakers including former Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty:

Pearl Arredondo is an amazing teacher and star of our film The Blame Game: Teachers Speak Out, who received much acclaim for her candid Ted-Ed talk last year.  

Pearl grew up in East Los Angeles, the daughter of a high-ranking gang member. Explaining that she was written off by teachers when she was a student, Pearl is now inspiring both other teachers and students with her work as the founder of a teacher-run pilot school and education advocate.

RiShawn Biddleis the Publisher and Editor of Dropout Nation, a website of commentary and analysis of American public education that is required reading for anyone who believes in education equality for all children.  

An acclaimed reporter and current columnist with The American Spectator, RiShawn now has over 20,000 unique readers visiting Dropout Nation each month to learn about the policies and practices that contribute to the achievement gap, the depths of our nation's dropout crisis and related issues including juvenile justice.

Adrian Fenty, recent Mayor of Washington, DC, has much to be proud about for the reforms he ushered into a long-dysfunctional and failing education system, reforms that have proven effective and are still evolving today under Mayor Vincent Gray and DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

On his first day as mayor, Adrian introduced legislation to assume control of the public school system; once approved, he brought in founder of The New Teacher Project Michelle Rhee to serve as Chancellor. Together, they pursued a difficult but necessary reduction of the system's central office staff and underused school facilities as well as a new performance-based compensation plan for teachers. 


Kalimah Priforce runs Qeyno Labs, which works with local schools and partners to make "career day" an everyday experience for the millions of students that cannot afford private college and career guidance.

An Echoing Green/Black Male Achievement Fellow, Kalimah is committed to empowering the minority-led startup community throughout the country and is also educator-in-residence for the Oakland-based "Hidden Genius Project", a program that trains black male youth in entrepreneurial thinking, software development, and user experience design

We hope to see you in Texas with plenty of questions for our esteemed panelists. For more details about our screening event at SXSWedu go HERE.

The Many Ways to Host a Successful Interactive TEACHED Screening

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Since its premiere, TEACHED Vol I has been screened more than fifty times coast-to-coast by groups and individuals committed to educational equality.  Education champions are using this trilogy of short documentary films to engage their communities and provoke thoughtful debate around education issues, especially the school-to-prison pipeline, teacher quality and charter schools.

Whether your screening is for 8 or 800 people, we can assist you in making sure your event has maximum impact. Here are some ways you can use the TEACHED Vol. I films to raise awareness around education inequality nationally or in your community: 

Show All Three Short Films At Once

TEACHED Vol. I includes three short films, all under 15 mins, which allows you to host one screening interspersed with guest speakers and panel discussions after each one.

We can assist you in securing speakers at your event and help you create an agenda to possibly include a reception, live entertainment, audience Q&A, information tables and more!

Screen Each Film Individually

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Screening the films individually gives you time to more deeply immerse your audience in the issues each one addresses and discuss how they effect your community locally.  

Interactive screenings are effective ways to group together and find solutions for education equality within your hometown.  Consider ending your event with time for group brainstorming and action-planning.  

Have Your Local Library Purchase the TEACHED DVD for Screenings

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Ask your local library to purchase the DVD for screening use and encourage your colleagues and friends to (literally) check it out.  You can have the screenings in your home, in your dorm or practically anywhere!

Your library might even help you host a screening onsite as well. This is an excellent way to really get the word out and host many intimate screenings.

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Be sure to take advantage of the many resources we have including staff to help you plan your event, marketing materials such as posters and flyers, our email and social media community where we can promote your screening and even tee shirts and swag for you to purchase.  

We have met a lot of amazing people through TEACHED interactive screenings and we look forward to connecting with you and your community.

For more details and information please see our Host A Screening page or contact us directly at screenings@teached.org.

Posted on February 12, 2014 and filed under Screenings, Supporting TEACHED.