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WTTW Chicago, Scrappers Film Group, and PBS Digital Studios present the groundbreaking digital series CENTRAL STANDARD: ON EDUCATION®

Premiering on YouTube on April 14, 2014; new episodes in nine-part series to be released weekly

For immediate release
Chicago, IL - April 21, 2014

CHICAGO – April 14, 2014 – WTTW Chicago, Scrappers Film Group, and PBS Digital Studios have created a new short-form documentary web series, Central Standard: On Education®, presenting everyday experiences within Chicagoland’s institutions. This dynamic and groundbreaking web documentary series focuses on education in Chicago and the surrounding region as seen through the eyes of five 8th grade students attending five very different publicly-funded schools as they strive to make it into one of the region’s top public high schools. The series is designed to provide a close-up view of issues important to local communities within Chicago and across the country. Because we often only hear what policymakers have to say in the media, a goal of the program is to give voice to real people in the system – to provide insight into the causes of educational disparities and an on-the-ground perspective. Watch the series at and on the PBS Digital Studios YouTube Channel.

The inaugural season of Central Standard: On Education®, consisting of nine 15-minute episodes, is scheduled to launch on the PBS Digital Studios YouTube Channel on Monday, April 14, 2014. Each week, a new episode in the nine-part series will be released.

The students and their schools are:

  • Robert – Creative Communications (District 149 S.T.E.M.) Academy (Calumet City)
  • Gina  –  Marquette School of Excellence, Chicago Lawn (Chicago)
  • Natalia  – UNO Esmerelda Santiago, Humboldt Park (Chicago)
  • Kyle  – Walt Disney Magnet School, Buena Park (Chicago)
  • Emma  – Wilmette Jr. High (Wilmette)

Along the way, we watch them deal with factors that may affect their educational experience, such as participation in extracurricular activities, challenging financial situations, testing, social pressures, and more. The series will also include the perspectives of their parents, their teachers, and other individuals involved in the education sphere, in order to provide a window to the on-the-ground reality of education across our region. The nine episodes will unfold as follows:

Episode 1: 5 Eighth Graders
Episode 1 introduces five 8th graders. Hear Robert’s, Emma’s, Natalia’s, Gina’s, and Kyle’s hopes and concerns, see what they do for fun, and how they feel about school. The drama builds as the highly competitive process of getting into one of Chicago’s top high schools is introduced.

Episode 2: 5 Schools
Episode 2 profiles five schools. Each school’s underlying philosophies are revealed through the way that principals, teachers, and administrators set the tone and interact with students.

Episode 3: 5 Communities
Episode 3 contrasts five communities. The stark demographic differences between the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, the North Center neighborhood, the city of Dolton, the Humboldt Park neighborhood, and the Wilmette suburb become apparent through the five students’ home lives and the concerns of their parents.

Episode 4: 5 Classes
Episode 4 examines five classes. S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) curriculum is used as a case study for examining different teaching styles, uses of technology, and concerns over testing in the schools.

Episode 5: 5 Ways to Get into High School
Episode 5 follows five ways to get into high school. Guidance counselors, parents, and students navigate the complicated selective enrollment process in Chicago, which is contrasted to suburban districts and boarding school options.

Episode 6: 5 High Schools
Episode 6 presents five high schools. See the best that Chicago Public Schools has to offer as students attend open houses and shadow days, and how these schools compare to suburban and charter schools. The drama grows, as the hyper-competitive stakes to enter the top high schools are seen first-hand.

Episode 7: 5 Administrations
Episode 7 analyzes five administrations, focusing on the effects of privatization on five different schools and communities. See how school administrators work to fund their schools, close the achievement gap for low-income students, evaluate teachers, or simply prevent their school from being closed.

Episode 8: 5 Futures
Episode 8 reveals five futures. The story comes to a climax as the students open their notification letters. Find out where the students will attend high school, and gain insight into the stresses of the process, on top of the emotional challenges of becoming a teenager.

Episode 9: 5 Reflections
Episode 9 facilitates five reflections. The students participate in a roundtable discussion, posing questions about their schools and communities, and reflecting on the experience of being in a documentary.

Central Standard: On Education is produced by filmmakers Ben Kolak and Brian Ashby of Scrappers Film Group in collaboration with WTTW Chicago.

“At a time when education models are in the national spotlight daily – with closures, strikes, and privatization – Central Standard: On Education examines how students and families highly invested in their children’s futures navigate the public system,” said Anne Gleason, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Interactive Media at WTTW. “The digital format allows the filmmakers to present stories as they happen, and allows the audience to experience the content anywhere and at any time,” she added.

“The series has been shot with DSLR cameras with 2-person crews at each location,” said Kolak. “We hope we have captured situations and nuances in the most natural way.” “The cinematography lends itself to effective storytelling through attention to composition, light, detail, and movement,” added Ashby.

This innovative new digital series aims to go beyond the clichés that define class and geographic difference between rich and poor, urban and suburban, to provide fresh and useful insights into the contemporary education experience.

The series is made possible, in part, by PBS Digital Studios, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and supporters of the initiative via Indiegogo.

About Scrappers Film Group
Scrappers Film Group and its award-winning documentary filmmakers Ben Kolak and Brian Ashby provide film production work aimed at educational, business, and socially motivated clientele. The company uses cinéma vérité and naturalistic techniques to best portray our customers’ visions. Its services include documentaries, promotional pieces for institutions, video installation, shooting, editing, sound recording, interviews, and original scores.

About WTTW
The Midwest’s premier public media organization, WTTW is committed to creating and presenting unique television and digital media content. WTTW is dedicated to bringing Chicago and the world together to explore the arts, sciences, humanities, and public affairs across four distinct television channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, the Spanish-language channel WTTW V-me, and WTTW Create/WTTW WORLD, and on, where visitors can connect with others in the community and access a full library of local and national video content for kids and adults, interactive features, event and membership opportunities, and robust microsites and blogs dedicated to WTTW series and specials. Each week, WTTW reaches an audience of 1.8 million over a four-state area, making it one of the most-watched public television stations in America.

About PBS Digital Studios
PBS Digital Studios produces and distributes original web-based content. Working with creators from across the web, its network of short-form video series showcases the best of the Internet while also celebrating the best parts of public television. Its YouTube channel has almost 53,000 subscribers.