Saturday, September 25, 2010

Waiting for "Superman" Released Yesterday



"Guggenheim's documentary Waiting for "Superman" (released yesterday) 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.


Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim talks about the movie:



HT: Mike Carlson

21 Comments:

At 9/25/2010 8:52 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Hmmm, sounds like this movie is more a testament to the lack of parental involvement in all stages of education from the schooling to the school board members...

Mix in a strong dose of a 'lack of dicipline' on the part of both parents and children with an equally strong dose of 'political correctness' and we get what we have in the public school system...

Consider something as simple as school uniforms and how that might help...

No, in this country we're long on whine and short on 'elbow grease' to make schools shine...

 
At 9/25/2010 9:27 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

In our county the top performing schools are suburban unionized schools (Grand Blanc and Goodrich) and the poorest performing schools are the inner-city unionized schools (Flint and Beecher). Wouldn't that suggest the main problem is not unions?

Jaundos, although the suburban schools have a dress code, none of them have a school uniform policy while some of the inner-city schools have a school uniform policy.

If, as many studies show, the greatest indicator of a current student's success is determined by the parents' educational attainment/income level, how does focusing the attention on teachers' unions increase the chances of student's success? Conversely, this is nothing but a veiled attempt at union bashing that is undermining solving the real problems by diverting resources away from the real problem and the people who will have to eventually solve them (yes, that includes unionized teachers).

I am not saying teachers' unions can't share in the blame. Bureaucracies do move slowly. What I am saying is that there is more than enough blame to go around, and it will take everyone's efforts working together to solve the problems.

 
At 9/25/2010 9:32 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Vouchers for everyone. Free to choose. Average government school cost K-12 is $12,000 per year. We could give out vouchers for $7,000. Spec Ed students would need more, depending on each case. Catholic schools do far better for about half the cost - better discipline, performance, drop-out prevention, much better college enrollment and graduation.

Freedom. A new concept for liberals to consider.

 
At 9/25/2010 9:44 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Hello Walt G...

You'll note that I didn't mention a thing about school unions...

Your comment, "Wouldn't that suggest the main problem is not unions?" is absolutely valid in this case...

Now this comment of your's, "...none of them have a school uniform policy while some of the inner-city schools have a school uniform policy"...

Uniforms are a dipiction of a certain form of dicipline...

So Walt I ask you, how do those inner city schools with a student uniform policy compare to those that are also in the inner city that have none?

 
At 9/25/2010 9:59 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

I have to agree with Juandos' comments above but even more is the entitlement mentality that people who should be the parents insist that teachers and the rest of school staff be the parents instead. If the schools don't provide parenting then the genetic parents are convinced they are being deprived of basic rights.

Teachers need to be held accountable but cannot also be the parents in order to be effective.

 
At 9/25/2010 10:13 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Juandos,

You can't compare the schools that have uniforms and the ones that don't because the schools that require uniforms have an application and selection process. You would have to know how motivated/involved the parents who apply are and what the criteria that the school uses to select who can attend. I wonder how many parents can't/won't read or fill out a form to apply to a charter school.

You might have something about discipline. If students don't get that at home, maybe school can provide it. Makes you wonder, though, if the teachers are spending time on discipline when do they find time to teach? Would this be any different in a unionized or non-unionized school?

 
At 9/25/2010 1:25 PM, Blogger Donald_james said...

First off I was a teacher. The pay was excellent and benifits great. I am so tired of teachers whineing. God give them some cheese please. They get the newest working conditions, newest equipment and so much time off they still are not happy. So let me remind them that most of the private sector has had to take pay cuts. Most have to pay about half thinsurance cost benifit. You whine about a $500 drductable, get real! Trust me with the uprise against the government now wait till your next school referendum comes up. Seniors and the average worker pay your salary and they got cuts!!!!! Whe will the teachers take a cut. I am not anti union but I do believe the teachers union is too strong and neds a reality check. The teachers are a big part of our problem. Superman fly away with the teachers union please.

 
At 9/25/2010 3:46 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Donald james,

What subject did you teach?

 
At 9/25/2010 4:43 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

Unions oppose vouchers.

Vouchers allow students/parents who care about education to escape poor performing schools.

Those who don't care can stay.
Those who do care can leave.

Vouchers give people choices.

Why do the unions oppose choice?
Why do unions oppose freedom?

Why do unions insist on forcing children into a monopoly system that has failed?

 
At 9/25/2010 5:30 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

One of the best thing I've read in a while:

"Elitism isn’t defined by who benefits, elitism is defined by who decides."

Read the Chicagoboyz blog post here

 
At 9/25/2010 7:58 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Juandos, I think you've got this nailed pretty well, uniforms excepted.

School unions are part of the problem, but not the complete problem. Parents, their involvement and students peers determine the success of students. A poor teacher will make things worse, certainly - Just like an excellent cook with poor tools and materials cannot make a great cake, a great teacher in say, a Detroit High School (magnet schools excluded) will not have much success in producing a good student.

The Unions should be minimalized so that teachers with poor habits cannot be protected. But this fixation on unions and student success is a red herring.

Uncompromising evaluation of our public schools must occur and uncompromising solutions must happen before we fail another generation of children.

 
At 9/25/2010 9:03 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Hey Jason, the deal about the uniforms in and of itself isn't really all that important...

Its an indication of a certain bit of dicipline and it tends to level out students (socially while on the school campus) regardless of whether the student is from a rich family or a poor family...

I know when I was a kid (black & white TV was king!) getting a uniform messed up by fighting or doing something stupid was tantamount to carrying a sign saying "beat me for being stupid" as far as my parents were concerned...:-)

Your comment: "School unions are part of the problem, but not the complete problem"...

That's exactly the way I feel about it...

Truly involved parents can actually call the shots on a local level even to the point of turning down any sort of federal funding and the the strings attached with said funds...

The same involved parents can also mitigate the actions of a teachers' union (somewhat) by who they parents put on school boards and commissions...

Its a lot of effort and a heck of a lot of work but once the initial work is done everyone knows where everyone else stands...

"Uncompromising evaluation of our public schools must occur and uncompromising solutions must happen before we fail another generation of children"...

Amen sir! Words of wisdom, words to live by...

 
At 9/25/2010 10:53 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

If the teachers are to blame, how come in LA City schools, Asian students excel?

Oh, could it be they actually try?

 
At 9/26/2010 10:00 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


If the teachers are to blame, how come in LA City schools, Asian students excel?

Nobody called them on their cheating.

 
At 9/26/2010 10:05 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Superman fly away with the teachers union please.

He isn't going to come, and it is assured he will be DOA if he tried.

 
At 9/26/2010 11:49 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

bob wright,

Public schools need the excellent students with engaged parents that tend to leave for the same reason the health care plan needs the 18 to 35-year-olds paying into it--to lower the risk pool and raise test scores.

How many charter/private schools accept and provide the resources for disabled students with IEPs? The public schools also have to legally provide services to those students that leave such as physical education and drivers' education that are offered to the students that are in the public schools. Although some charter/private schools use a lottery for admission, a lot of cream skimming and cheery picking happens. That's normal and expected for a profit making operation.

We need to focus on the higher-order educational problems such as class size, poor and old facilities, and lack of parental involvement in urban school districts before spending time worry about unionized schools that have proven highly effective through standardized testing scores in the suburbs.

 
At 9/27/2010 4:31 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

Our schools haven't done such a good job when the word "discipline" has been misspelled several times. I'll give credit for acknowledging that the teachers lost control of their students and classes long ago when the unions and P/C entered the world of public education.

 
At 9/27/2010 6:38 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Public schools need the excellent students with engaged parents that tend to leave for the same reason the health care plan needs the 18 to 35-year-olds paying into it--to lower the risk pool and raise test scores"...

Well Walt G why should the excellent students and the 18 to 35 year olds squander their future just to enhance life conditions for others?

"How many charter/private schools accept and provide the resources for disabled students with IEPs?"...

Why should these schools provide for the 'disabled' especially considering how the definition for 'disabled' becomes a moving but ever increasing in size target?

"We need to focus on the higher-order educational problems such as class size, poor and old facilities..."...

Whoa! What did the school systems do with the billions of dollars already received for those very problems?

From the Cato Institute: They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools

 
At 9/27/2010 10:00 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"Well Walt G why should the excellent students and the 18 to 35 year olds squander their future just to enhance life conditions for others?"

Practice for the future :)

"Why should these schools provide for the 'disabled' especially considering how the definition for 'disabled' becomes a moving but ever increasing in size target?"

The law.

"Whoa! What did the school systems do with the billions of dollars already received for those very problems?"

I don't know; however, I am looking forward to teaching my classes of 8 and 13 students this fall after teaching classes of 40 and 42 students this summer. Anyone who has ever taught will tell you class size is more important than union or non union (I am not union or tenured at my teaching job, and each class paid the same amount of money for the 10-week contract!).

 
At 9/27/2010 10:16 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Practice for the future :)"...

Oh dang walt g! That one nearly had me drowning on my coffee...:-)

"The law"...

A law that should obviously be challenged when its imposed on 'private' entities but alas the state has the wealth that the citizens involuntarily give it to pursue a vendetta against those the governement doesn't agree with...

"I am looking forward to teaching my classes of 8 and 13 students this fall after teaching classes of 40 and 42 students this summer"...

Hmmm, interesting point of view and the reason I say that walt is that I had a chance to talk to my high school math teacher (who is a saint for having put up with me in his classes) and what struck me was that Brother John (Marist brother) thought the optimal size for a class was 25 to 30 since it allowed for a certain amount of teacher to student face time but since there were other students, a single student couldn't get more face time than any other...

 
At 9/27/2010 11:04 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

No offense to Brother John, juandos, but that ignores the fact that some students require more individual time with the instructor than others because it is not a one-size-fits-all world. The trick is to give each student what they need whether they know what it is or not. For example, one student brings up a question, and you can gauge from the class and experience that it is a good road to go down. On the other hand, some students will not "get it" or will attempt to divert you from your plan or even have you answer their homework for them to waste time so they will not have to take notes or work at home.

You have to be in control and know when to cut your losses and move on. Students can eat an instructor alive if you let them. Have you ever seen how piranhas attack?

I know I can teach to 15 students much more effectively than 30 simply because I have more options to use and adjust as necessary each day.

 

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