After learning about the racial achievement gaps in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, a group of students, filmmakers and educational leaders joined together to produce “I’m Smart, Too,” a documentary that aims to highlight disparities in a system of integrated schools and segregated students.
In CHCCS, white students in 3rd through 8th grade are nearly three times more likely to demonstrate career and college readiness than Black students, according to the 2019 Racial Equity Report Card produced by the Youth Justice Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for equity in education.
Kim Talikoff, the lead producer for the film, said the team aims to send the message that schools need to be intentional in the messages they send to kids in early grades to avoid reinforcing misconceptions. She said the film explores “how the seeds of the disparities are cultivated in the early grades and the lasting impact of these experiences.”
Talikoff said kids make meaning out of the world at a young age and tracking practices may shape the way students understand themselves and others as learners. These tracking practices can include grouping students according to IQ, test scores or other achievement metrics. However, she said phasing those tracking practices out would require significant support from teachers and the community.
She said even at a young age, children make meaning of race and racial identity, and they give significant weight to the messages they are receiving from the adults around them. When younger children see students of certain demographics being tracked into accelerated groups and others being held in slower-paced groups, they may seek to make meaning out of that.