Starting at Zero parents guide

Starting at Zero Parent Guide

This feels less like a documentary and more like a presentation, but it's still highly informative.

Overall B

Digital on Demand: This documentary examines successful early learning strategies across the US.

Release date August 12, 2020

Violence A
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is Starting at Zero rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Starting at Zero Not Rated

Run Time: 63 minutes

Parent Movie Review

The early years of a child’s life are immensely important. High quality, accessible early childhood education is one of, if not the most, important factors determining high school graduation rates, incarceration rates, and community economic growth. This much is clear from decades of developmental, sociological, and economic research. But what are American state governments doing to address this issue? Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America aims to examine what is being done on a state level to fund, create, and administer high quality early learning programs.

I recently reviewed No Small Matter, a documentary on a very similar subject to Starting at Zero. Both documentaries look at early childhood education in America, though their focuses and intentions are quite different. While No Small Matter exposes the lack of options for families and the insurmountable problems that programs and teachers face, Starting at Zero takes a more positive approach, examining successful programs and policies and the role of state governments. This is framed around a case study of Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education, which has created the top ranked preschool program in America. Alabama’s program is examined from multiple angles, including administrative structure, funding, and teacher training. The interviewees stress multiple times that early learning is a bipartisan issue, with support coming from both major parties to improve both the quality and accessibility of programs across the country. The main focus of the production seems to be on the economic value of early learning, stressing that children are the future work force, and that investing in them now means more working, tax paying adults in the future.

Director Willa Kammerer chose not to make use of a narrator, but instead relies on title cards that list statistics, quotes, and graphs. I find this odd for a documentary, and I don’t think this choice works. Starting at Zero lacks cohesion and structure as it moves from one interview sound bite to another, even if they are only tangentially related. There is a lot of reading for the viewer, and it moves fast, so you may have to be prepared to pause sometimes. It feels less like a documentary designed to inform the general public and more like a presentation designed to influence politicians and policy makers. That said, the subject matter is incredibly important, so I do recommend it for American parents and educators but be prepared to feel like you’re being sold something, not taught something.

Directed by Willa Kammerer. Running time: 63 minutes. Theatrical release August 12, 2020. Updated

Starting at Zero
Rating & Content Info

Why is Starting at Zero rated Not Rated? Starting at Zero is rated Not Rated by the MPAA

Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Profanity: None
Alcohol / Drug Use: None

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Starting at Zero Parents' Guide

What kind of policies in regard to early childhood education do our local politicians support? How can we be informed about this issue, especially during local elections?