Friday, October 1, 2010

Waiting for "Superman" Film Released

"Guggenheim's documentary Waiting for "Superman" (released earlier in the week) focuses on aspiring students and their parents, mostly minorities, together struggling against the odds to get admitted into urban charter schools. Lacking the money for private schools, or move to the suburbs where the schools are better -- although not always good -- having only neighborhood high schools that are "drop out factories," these Americans have very few options. For many their only option is finding a decent charter school. But the odds for these young students to get selected in the lottery for a charter school is often worse than for students applying to Yale University.

And the film has villains. The clearly marked, cleared attacked villain that stands in the doorway to reforming our failing system of public education. The two major teacher unions! The two major teachers unions that together are the largest contributors to the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party that refuses to support legislation to require teachers to perform better and the Democratic Party that refuses to support legislation for the more innovative, less bureaucratic, effective charter schools.

What "Waiting for Superman" drives home is to improve our education system requires improving our teachers. Requires demanding our teachers get deep in the trenches, be allowed to be flexible and innovative, persist, and to be held accountable. This the teacher unions and the Democratic Party will not accept, even for the sake of our children."

From a movie review by Stewart Nusbaumer.

Obama Responds to the Movie "Waiting for 'Superman'" (7:40) and Whether His Daughters Would Get Good Education at DC Skools [sic] (17:27)

Everyone knows no sitting President would ever think of sending their kids to DC public schools, which are some of the worst in the nation in spite of some of the highest spending per student in the nation. In fact, the teacher's union was just successful in defeating the pro-education reform mayor in the latest primary to keep the status quo.

Personally, I think parents hold the key to kids doing well in school, and the lack of parental interest and supervision is one of the major issues contributing to the poor performance. I am also skeptical that the Federal Government's interventions have helped education, or the Department of Education is worth the price.


  1. A couple of observations. Several years ago a decision was made to allocate resources heavily in favor of housing. This takes away from education and today we are struggling partly because we have an undereducated work force. Education is given lip service but there is very little follow through.

    On the unions: I have talked with retired physicists from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (former clients) who would love to teach at a minimal salary but can't because they are not certified. These are brilliant men and women who tell stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat. They tell about collaboration with the Soviets, getting data from planets etc. Imagine this: people who have actually made a career out of what they are teaching! No wonder the unions are fearful.

  2. Being a teacher is a very difficult job, but if as a teacher you see that charter schools work, and produce results why wouldn't you want that for all children? Weren't teachers unions set up for the rights of teachers? Why then isn't the right to be educated with a program that works i.e, Charter schools, granted to only a few and not to all, don't all of our children deserve the best education possible?

  3. So much to say...

    Parents are a huge part of the success and downfall of the educational system. Supportive parents = good. Parents that justify their kid's behavior and don't listen to the teachers = bad. I think some parents are TOO involved with their kids and need to step back and let the teachers do their jobs.

    There are good teachers, and there are some tenured, terrible teachers that need some early retirement. Too much education here seems to be tailored towards kids taking tests. (It's the MEAP here in Michigan.) If a district gets great MEAP scores, then more parents move to that district, which means more money. Unfortunately, "teaching to the test" has somewhat eliminated the teachers to have any creativity and actually teach what the class is interested in.

    The school district I live in is in the top 3 in the state. I don't know that the teachers are any better here than anywhere else. But, the student population is full of driven kids with driven parents that demand results. Kids go to supplemental classes (Kumon) even when they already excel. Success is a requirement basically.