Film Review: Defies Measurement weaves together problematic purposes of ed reform

In Defies Measurement, Shannon Puckett expertly weaves together the problematic purposes of testing, Common Core, corporate reform, No Child Left Behind, Teach For America, The Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, charter schools, and privatization. The film begins with Chipman middle school and traces the inspiration and impact that the school had on a diverse groups of students over the long term beyond their experience at the Bay Area middle school. The core of the film traces the testing and accountability reform context from their birth in eugenics to their invasion of public schools in the 2000s. At each step, the movie has an acute sense of counter narrative to the common discourse and argument in favor of school reform.

DEFIES MEASUREMENT strengthens the discussion about public education by exploring why it is so important to address the social and emotional needs of every student, and what happens when the wrong people make decisions for schools.

Shannon Puckett ratchets up the tension and knowledge methodically by gathering an all-star cast of education policy experts, parents and others— Diane Ravitch, David Berliner, Linda Darling-Hammond, David Kirp, Karran Harper Royal, Mercedes Schneider, Jason France, Howard Gardener and many many many others (y yo)… These are the critical voices and expertise noticeably absent in Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman. Puckett’s filmmaking is markedly more imaginative and accurate than Waiting for Superman. She clearly improves upon that effort. It could be said that Defies Measurement is kryptonite for Superman’s attempt to discuss what is ailing our nation’s schools. The movie has an acute sense of the unnerving aspects of education reform agenda, the film Defies Measurement made me simultaneously disappointed, angry— and yet with the Chipman backdrop— hopeful for an alternative student and community centered era in public education.

Please click the link below to go directly to the film. For information on how to screen this film for others and for resources to learn more and take action, visit

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