“I thought, we can't want this system to be working this way,” she said. “We've got to start analyzing this with a lot of humility and honesty, because a lot of harm is happening.”
Documentary historian Alexandra Odom, who is a PhD history student at UNC, said the team wanted to connect the district’s current situation to a longer history of desegregation.
Many parents who were interviewed for the documentary said the way desegregation happened in the district is significant to how students of color are treated today.
“They thought that integration was going to mean a valuable advantage to their kid's education and better opportunities for their children,” Odom said. “But in some instances, it really just meant that they were in more hostile classroom environments.”
Odom said another theme from the documentary that stood out was gifted classrooms and achievement programs. Despite state legislation that mandates these programs can’t be racially biased, they are overwhelmingly white.
The documentary's website has a compilation of data and historical research as a resource for the community.
Over 180 community members attended a local virtual premiere and panel discussion Sept. 30.
At the discussion, CHCCS student V’tyia Hicks, who was featured in the film, said she thinks more awareness needs to be spread that this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
Hicks questioned the validity of categorizing students into being gifted and non-gifted.
“What exactly does the word gifted mean?” she said. “At the age of 13, I knew all the parts of the car, of a car engine. And I know most 13-year-olds don’t really know that so in that aspect, I’m gifted. But then when I take the test at school they tell me I’m not gifted.”
Another community member, Danita Mason-Hogans, who is a critical oral histories project coordinator at the Center for Documentary Studies and a long-time Chapel Hill resident, said at the panel she thinks the district is not prioritizing Black children.
She cited a statistic from the film that said only 30 percent of African American children in the district are prepared for end of grade tests.
"If we had 70 percent of white children who were underperforming in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, I do not think it would take 50 years to have those students prioritized and make their education specific to what their needs were," she said.
At the panel, Talikoff said in the process of interviewing for the documentary, a gifted education teacher told a story about how she came into a classroom to pull students out.
The teacher said one student paused her and said, “Stop, take me. I’m smart, too.”
Talikoff said that moment changed how the teacher viewed her career forever, because she realized the education system wasn’t fulfilling the needs of all students.
That’s the message Talikoff said the documentary team wants to bring to the community.
“We are under educating many, many children, and we are miseducating the majority with the messages that we teach them about what we're all capable of doing,” she said.
Another screening and panel discussion will be held Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. To sign up to attend, visit www.imsmarttoo.com.
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