Earlier this quarter I had the opportunity to see Waiting for Superman with Honors. I have to admit, the movie was not as much as it hyped up to be. I think they oversimplified many issues in education.
Things I liked:
- Their response to teacher quality and union involvement: I whole-heartedly believe that our nation's teachers need to be of higher quality. For too many people teaching is a back-up plan. Too many teachers make the old saying "Those who cannot do, teach" believable. Some of this has to do with teacher-edu, some with the standards already in place, some with lack of support or development, and a lot is because of teacher burn-out. Irregardless, our nation needs higher quality teachers. While I believe unions are necessary for contract negotiations and legal support, I do not believe that unions should have so much power that schools cannot get rid of bad teachers. We have all had them. Those teachers who make us hate class, hate learning, and at the worst not even believe in ourselves and our abilities. Anyone who has been a student recently knows they exist. Other professions are held to standards in which their job security is based on performance, and even ability. Why should teaching be any different?
- I like that they showed alternative education models. Education should not be black and white---there should be options. I think that they should be commended how good schools can help close the achievement gap--that students deserve a high quality education regardless of zip code or income.
Things I didn't like:
- I did not like that they disregarded public schools. There are great public schools, just as there are great charter and private schools. To disregard magnet schools and high performing neighborhood schools for being on an unreachable tower of sorts is not right. There are schools making a difference. Public, private, or charter we need to help other schools meet the same standards. The charter schools shown are to be commended, but they do not excuse the thousands of sub-standard charter schools.
- The issue of parent involvement was almost completely ignored. Schools are not islands! Let me say it one more time, SCHOOLS ARE NOT ISLANDS! Teachers and schools have a huge responsibility for education, but parents, families, and communities need to be a part of the equation. I am sorry, but you do not have to be well-off to care about your child and teach your children that school and education are important. When I worked at Wynn Center, almost all of the families were on vouchers. The students who progressed the most were not always the more financially advantaged (advantaged is a VERY relative term) students---they were the students who had parents, siblings, or guardians who cared what happened in school. They had the families you could count on to help problem solve when there was an issue. Family involvement is crucial! The children profiled in the documentary will likely be okay regardless of where they go to school. Yes, they will probably do better in a higher quality school, but their families have shown them that they care---that doing well in school is important. This value system, in my opinion, is more important to student success than the school.
CNN had a guest opinion editorial on parent involvement from the perspective of not just parental involvement, but the involvement of dads. Read it yourself. I believe it makes a very strong point. My favorite part (and quote to summarize my feelings of the documentary) is below:
"The film makes a persuasive case for how to fix the system, and it needs fixing. But the system is only part of the equation. Parents are the other part, and from that perspective, parents, especially dads, should not be waiting, but getting more engaged, focused and involved."