Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Waiting for "Superman" Trailer



"Guggenheim's documentary 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.

17 Comments:

At 6/03/2010 6:24 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

"Requires demanding our teachers get deep in the trenches, be allowed to be flexible and innovative, persist, and to be held accountable."

Really, that's your solution? More centralized statism?

What it requires is for parents to have complete control. If a parent doesn't like the school or the curriculum, or the teacher, or whatever, then they walk away with their money to another school. The school districts don't matter. The teachers and their unions don't matter. Schools that don't work will not get money and they will die. Teachers that don't provide the education that parents want will have to find new jobs.

Until this country figures out that education has nothing to do with these day prisons we call public schools, we will not fix the problem.

 
At 6/03/2010 8:21 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

geoih said, "Teachers that don't provide the education that parents want will have to find new jobs."

How about this: Parents who don't provide students ready, willing, and able to learn will have to find new teachers.

 
At 6/03/2010 8:56 AM, Blogger juandos said...

How about this, dump the whole public education system?

People have something actually invested in their spawns' education with their own money might get what both geoih and Walt G want...

 
At 6/03/2010 10:51 AM, Anonymous grant said...

Juandos:
"dump the whole public education system"

How would you do that?

 
At 6/03/2010 11:03 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"How would you do that?"...

People need to elect public officials that'll quit funding the system on the local, state, and national level...

Better yet turn the present day public schools into privately held education centers...

 
At 6/03/2010 11:56 AM, Anonymous geoih said...

Quote from Walt: "Parents who don't provide students ready, willing, and able to learn will have to find new teachers."

Do we chastise the customers of Wal-mart for their deficiencies? Wal-mart takes their customers as they come. Why would education be any different? Or are you assuming that parents are incompetent at being parents and that the state must assume that role?

A (private) teacher or school should be free to turn away any student they wished, for whatever reason, the same as any college or university does.

 
At 6/03/2010 1:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If a parent doesn't like the school or the curriculum, or the teacher, or whatever, then they walk away with their money to another school."

"How about this: Parents who don't provide students ready, willing, and able to learn will have to find new teachers."

"How about this, dump the whole public education system?

People have something actually invested in their spawns' education with their own money might get what both geoih and Walt G want..."


"Better yet turn the present day public schools into privately held education centers..."

juandos Walt G. geoih, All of these suggestions make way too much sense.

Now, if only the teachers unions can be convinced...

As for politicians voting to commit political suicide, I don't hold out much hope. They know where their money comes from.

At the very least, if we are to have taxpayer supported education, the money should attach to each student in the form of vouchers, not to the school district.

Again, those pesky unions don't seem to favor this idea.

 
At 6/03/2010 1:56 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

geoih,

I am assuming if you take care of the root cause of the problem, which is at home, many of the problems we are blaming on the schools will disappear.

Why are seven-year-olds more likely to own a cell phone than a book? I am assuming the parents bought the phones for their children.

Ron H.,

Why are the highest rated schools in our county unionized suburban school districts if unions are the biggest problem? Are "pesky" unions only a problem in city schools? If so, how do unions in city schools differ from those in the suburbs?

 
At 6/03/2010 2:06 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Do we chastise the customers of Wal-mart for their deficiencies? Wal-mart takes their customers as they come. Why would education be any different?"

I suspect what Walt G. may be referring to the behavior and attitudes of students in class. Those who interfere with learning in the classroom should not remain.

A Wal-mart customer who is disruptive or who interferes with other shoppers will likely be shown the door also.

 
At 6/03/2010 4:08 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Why are the highest rated schools in our county unionized suburban school districts if unions are the biggest problem?"

Walt G., I haven't had that impression. Can you point me to some supporting info?

I agree with you that any problems with students begin in the home, and schools shouldn't be expected to fix them. Students who are disruptive or who otherwise interfere with others learning shouldn't be there. My children were my responsibility, and the school system merely helped me with part of their education.

My problem is not just with unions, but with a government monopoly system that has few of the incentives to perform well that a private business would have. Therefore, in my opinion, it doesn't.

This system assigns a school to my children based on where they live, and I have no choice unless I am willing to spend a lot of money on top of the taxes I already pay for education. This is just wrong. A voucher system would correct this problem but teacher's unions have consistently opposed it.

A well publicized experimental program with vouchers in Washington DC was recently killed, although it appeared to be extremely successful in both cost and student achievement.

John Stossel did a show on education in February. It is in 6 segments on YouTube. This segment covers the DC program. Watch @ 1:15 as White House Press Secretary Gibbs struggles to explain why his boss had killed the voucher program. Then @ 4:05 watch an exchange between Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform and George Parker, the president of the Washington DC teachers union. Even as a union supporter your blood pressure may go up when you listen this guy.

Another problem created by teachers unions, in my opinion, is their opposition to merit pay, which makes it difficult to reward good teachers. On the other end, it seems to be extremely difficult to fire a bad teacher.

The difference in the quality you mention between poor performing city schools and suburban schools may be due in part to the fact that problem teachers are so hard to fire. Instead they get moved from school to school until complaints cease. This is likely a poor inner city school.

 
At 6/03/2010 4:57 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Here's from our county. Goodrich and Grand Blanc are unionized suburban. Flint schools are city unionized and charter schools are whatever they are. This is 2009 data from our local newspaper--and common knowledge among educators here. A better judge of how well students will perform other than unionization measures free lunch programs (which is the same as measuring parents' income or two-parent households)


Goodrich
Oaktree Elementary - A
Reid Elementary - A
Goodrich Middle School - A
Goodrich High School - A

Grand Blanc
Perry Kindergarten - NG
Anderson Elementary - A
Brendel Elementary - A
City School - A
Cook Elementary - A
Indian Hill Elementary - A
Mason Elementary - A
McGrath Elementary - A
Myers Elementary - A
Reid Elementary - A
Gr. Blanc Middle School East - A
Gr. Blanc Middle School West - A
Grand Blanc High School - A

Charter schools:

Academy of Flint - C
Burton Glen Charter Acad. - B
Center Academy - C
Chatfield School - A
Grand Blanc Academy - B
Holly Academy - A
Int'l. Academy of Flint (K-1) - B
Int'l. Academy of Flint (2-12) - B
Linden Charter Academy - C
Madison Academy - B
Northridge Academy - C
Richfield Public School Acad. - B
Woodland Park Academy - B

Flint
Central Foundation Academy* - D-alert
Central High School - D-alert
Cummings Elementary* - B
Holmes Gender Based Female Academy* - NG
Johnson AAA* - D-Alert
Merrill School - C
Mott Middle College - D-Alert
Northern Foundation Academy* - D-Alert
Northern High School - D-Alert
Northwestern Foundation Academy* - D-Alert
Northwestern High School - D-Alert
Schools of Choice - D-Alert
Southwestern Academy Annex* - C
Zimmerman Center - NG

The hard to fire cartoons don't impress me at all. It makes you wonder who hired and is managing all the misfits. Did they promote the most incompetent people who worked there? Show me a place with employee problems and I will show you a poorly run organization.

Does merit pay get awarded to the teacher who will spread her legs or the bosses' son, too? I think merit pay is a great idea if it is done right. And I also agree that large organizations like unions are slow to change with the times.

 
At 6/04/2010 2:26 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G., it looks like the government schools in your area are doing a good job.

"The hard to fire cartoons don't impress me at all."

What cartoons? Did you follow the links I gave you?

"It makes you wonder who hired and is managing all the misfits. Did they promote the most incompetent people who worked there? Show me a place with employee problems and I will show you a poorly run organization."

That's exactly my complaint about the government monopoly schools. The incentives for excellence aren't there. Then, the near impossibility of getting rid of incompetents means the system as a whole is degraded. Tell me if I'm wrong but I think union rules make it hard to fire teachers.

"I think merit pay is a great idea if it is done right"

As in when someone "merits" it?

Again, tell me if I'm wrong, but I believe unions oppose merit pay, and it seems wrong. I have to believe good teachers get discouraged knowing that they can't make more than the bozo in the next room.

 
At 6/04/2010 9:19 AM, Blogger Tom said...

This is simple, folks. Vouchers. Every parent gets a voucher for $8,000 (whatever) to find the public or private school they want. Freedom. A free market. Then the school tax rate can be cut drastically because we're paying way more than $8,000 per public school student now. No more unions, no more school districts which employ as many bureaucrats as teachers. The public school union monopoly system has priced itself out of job, just like airlines, autos, and steel.

 
At 6/04/2010 9:52 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Tom,

I don't have kids. Can I get a voucher for the cash equivalent of the average 1.3 kids in a household sent to me ($10,400)? Why should I pay for other people in a free market?

 
At 6/04/2010 8:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're all forgetting what this documentary is really about: charter schools. Most have good ambitions: to educate students in a safe, nurturing environment. But others are completely corrupt. They're run by people who have no interest in education, who are running a school to kick back money to "managing corporations" that, lo and behold, they own! They drain money away from public schools, at least in my home state of PA. In PA, the school district in which a student lives "transfers" the per-student-spending on to the charter school they attend. BUT, charter schools get TWICE the per-student-spending money by labeling students as needing "special education." So, of course, there's a lot of "special education students" in charter schools. Also in PA - charter schools don't have to report to the state HOW they used that extra money to provide special education services. Charter schools are leeches on taxpayer money and the public school districts they "steal students from." They're simply not all they appear to be.

 
At 6/04/2010 10:30 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Anon @ 8:54 said: -

"[charter schools] They're run by people who have no interest in education, who are running a school to kick back money to "managing corporations" that, lo and behold, they own! They drain money away from public schools"

"Charter schools are leeches on taxpayer money and the public school districts they "steal students from." They're simply not all they appear to be."

Anon, this sounds like an outrage. I would think parents would question their children being reclassified as "special education", and notice that they weren't getting an education.I can imagine them heading to these schools with pitchforks. Can you document any of this? Do you have references I can link to? I would like to learn more.

 
At 6/07/2010 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron, I read that piece about labeling students as special ed. to receive more money a few months ago. I tried finding it again, but no luck. However, I'm linking to an article about charter school legislation reform and how charter schools DO get paid more money for special education students, but there's no oversight into how they use that extra money. http://www.thenotebook.org/summer-2010/102555/politics-swirl-around-efforts-revise-charter-law?page=3

 

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