Reviews and Press Kit

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PRESS KIT: photos
PRESS KIT: film maker information


We must keep a vision of what else is possible, otherwise we will all march in lockstep with the testing mania.  Good Morning Mission Hill gives us that vision.”  Diane Ravitch research professor at New York University‘s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education.

“One measure of how much I loved this film is that after about five minutes I was wondering whether I could have your permission to show it to a group of Teach for America students I’ll be speaking to in September – and to other groups as well. It captures what schools can, and should, look like better than anything I could say in a lecture. ...Thanks for another splendid piece of work, one that will be immensely useful to the cause of progressive education.” Alfie Kohn, award winning writer on children and school, featured on hundreds of TV and radio programs, including the “Today” show and “Oprah”

“After watching Good Morning Mission Hill, one sits back and says, “Wow. Wouldn’t this be a different country if more schools were like this?” The Mission Hill captured in this fine film is serious, joyful, experiential, warm, interdisciplinary, loving, rigorous, play-rich—the kind of school we would like for our own children and grandchildren. But, more than that, it’s the kind of school we’d like to teach in. Teachers make real decisions. They collaborate. They make mistakes, but talk honestly about them. They support one another…this is a wonderful and needed film portrait. As too many schools become test-prep academies, Good Morning Mission Hill reminds us that we have alternatives.”  Bill Bigelow’s review in Rethinking Schools Magazine Vol 29 winter 2014-15

“Good Morning Mission Hill is as lovely, joyous and wise as is the school itself. The film catches children in glorious variety as their teachers shepherd them toward adulthood by collaborating deeply with the students in meaningful work and sharing their daily pleasures and pains.

Permeated with a deep ethos of caring, both school and film show an urban school and its largely low-income community can refuse the ‘training in passivity and obedience’ demanded by the standardized testing regime and top down authority, as Principal Ayla Gavins puts it.  It can flourish by promoting democracy, inclusion, going out in to the world, deep and project-based learning, and an educator community of learning. The film reveals that urban schools can deliver the education of the whole child, just what parents and communities have long said they want, just as the film makers’ first wonderful film, August to June, revealed about a rural community. This contradicts the harsh rigidity of “no excuses” schools now touted by elites as the educational “solution” to problems facing schools in low-income communities. The film also shows that assessment can contribute in important ways to teaching and learning when done thoughtfully, as are the performance and portfolio assessments at MHS.

Mission Hill was first presented as an excellent series of short clips. With the full film, we are able to immerse ourselves in the daily feel of the school and its journey through the year, and thereby come to know, at least a little, many of its wonderful students and educators.”   Monty Neill, Executive Director of The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) and chair of the Forum on Educational Accountability

“Good Morning Mission Hill is a remarkable and inspiring film. In this repressive era of mandated standards and testing, we see a whole school community of children, teachers, and parents thriving in an atmosphere of collaboration, trust, and kindness. We see students actively engaging with materials of all kinds. They are taking initiative, asking questions, thinking creatively, solving problems, and collaborating with each other and their teachers. What you see in this film is real learning: Kids make meaningful connections they won’t forget. I wish that every politician and policy maker could see this film so they would understand what real teaching and learning are.”  Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor Emerita, Lesley University, author of many books, most recently “Taking Back Childhood,” and one of the founders of  Defending The Early Years


I can’t tell you how moving I find the sense of community in these films—the way the teachers work together, the rich communication that is being modeled in so many situations, as well how the school opens onto the world, and also invites it in.”  Catherine Despont, Co-Director of Education at Pioneer Works  (referring to the internet series, A Year At Mission Hill)

“The film is a wonderful example of what is possible in today’s schools.” Carol Darcy
OMEP-USA FILMedia Co-Chair

“…a reflective video that earns a 9.5 on a scale of 10 for meeting or exceeding multicultural educational standards in terms of expressing social conditions; engaging dialogue; promoting self-reflection and transformational education; using refined cinematography, pacing, sound, background music, and site selection; and careful editing.” Dr. John Caruso read the complete review in the International Journal of Multicultural Education

I love it. It’s totally intimate. Intimacy between teachers, between teachers and students and between them and us. The audience (I’m a representative) is engaged in everything that happens.  Allie Light, Oscar Award winning documentary filmmaker

“Against a backdrop of accountability-obsessed policies and test-stressed schools that unfortunately characterize the American educational landscape, “Good Morning Mission Hill” offers a more evolved vision of what’s possible for all children.”  Dr. Emily Gasoi, Washington Post Answer Sheet  read the complete article here.

“Tom and Amy Valens paint a beautiful, inspiring picture of how human, how compassionate, how much fun, and how effective progressive education can be.”  Don Schwartz, Spotlight on Documentaries complete review here  listen to a BlogTalkRadio segment with Dr. Schwartz and Carole Dean talking about the film here

Good Morning Mission Hill is a rare film that paints an intimate portrait of a very special educational community. The images, sounds, and stories of the Mission Hill School offer wonderful challenges to many contemporary assumptions about what a school is and can be. This documentary is essential viewing for conversations about realizing our core educational commitments.” Dr. Winston C. Thompson, University of New Hampshire 

We are already planning more screenings of the film.   The Cambridge Education Association is interested in co-sponsoring more forums with us. It’s a wonderful documentary.” Ann Barnes  Co-chair Cambridge Citizens for Public Schools

“We had a great free-flowing conversation afterwards and it felt like a good battery recharge.  There were a few specific things about the Mission Hill experience that our parents were inspired by and want to raise with our larger school community: the inclusion of students in the governance of the school (we only go through 5th grade so how would that look?), the purposeful work students seemed to be doing at recess (the big blocks), the farm experience.  It is such an impressive and thoughtful group of teachers, and what a film!”  Rachel Birdsall, parent Neighborhood School

“Good Morning Mission Hill beautifully portrays a diverse, urban public school at work, educating its students according to common sense principles lost in the high stakes testing and privatization fads of the moment—teachers’ knowledge of and caring for each individual student, helping the students be kind to one another and work together, teachers’ and principal’s respect for and trust in one another. In the largely evidence-free terrain of current “education reform,” this film movingly provides “data” we need to get schools and teaching back on track.” Lawrence Blum, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Education, University of Massachusetts, author High Schools, Race, and America’s Future: What Students Can Teach Us About Morality, Diversity, and Community. In High Schools, Race, and America’s Future

“The Mission Hill Film is not ‘spin’. It doesn’t promise that you have provided something perfect. We saw a number of kids who need comfort or prodding or ‘just a hug’. We aren’t promised that all these problems are solved, just that very smart, creative, loving and patient people are working on them.Nancy Faust Sizer, professor emerita Harvard Graduate School of Education, co-principal Frances Parker Charter Essential School, co-author The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract

“‘Good Morning Mission Hill’ is moving, inspiring, educational, and thought-provoking as well as being an anthem, a hymn, a poem, a song to learning through what Freire called ‘a humanizing pedagogy’.

“I am in awe of what is being done in this school. Lives are being enriched, even saved, I daresay, in some cases. The threat of standardized testing that rears its ugly head towards the end of the DVD is ominous, though, in a culture of personalized and individualized tuition that supports learning and growing organically in life affirming and sustainable ways. One has to ask: who benefits from standardized tests? Follow the money…..” Mary Roche, Senior Lecturer in Education at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, Ireland.  author Developing Children’s Critical Thinking Through Picturebooks

“Tom and Amy Valens have crafted a beautiful film. One of the questions students are heard discussing is this: “Is there a difference between being smart and wise?” Educators at Mission Hill know the difference, and their wisdom comes shining through. They do not have all the answers, but keep pushing themselves and their students to ask the right questions.
Some pearls:
“I am compelled to shake it up every year – for them and for me.”
“You have to really know them to teach them well. You naturally become their advocate.”
“It is so important that the ideas come from the kids and they see them actualized.”
“At this school, you keep questioning everything.”
This film is both smart and wise, and a joy to see.Anthony Cody, co-founder of  Network for Public Ed, host of Living in Dialogue

“Your film is a mighty contribution to education justice in America today.”  Shanti Ellliott, on behalf of Francis Parker School and Chicago’s The Teachers’ Inquiry Project

This film dramatizes and proves that positive alternatives exist to the education reform stressing accountability, top-down mandates, and standardization enforced by testing. Good Morning Mission Hill, like the school itself, is a cause for celebration.”  Christopher Nye, Director, Educate the Whole Child


There are powerful schools and programs across the country doing incredible work to unite research and practice and help young people engage meaningfully in their education.  Young people, educators, community leaders, and other key actors are ready for this different story to be told.”    Scott Nine, Executive Director, Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA)

Monty Neill’s full article about A YEAR AT MISSION HILL “Assessment That Supports Education”