I think we all can recognize that U.S. public schools are in trouble. They have been for years and every year, they get progressively worse. American students have some of the lowest scores in math and science in the industrialized world.
The new movie, Waiting for “Superman“, gives startling statistics about America’s school system. It talks about how our schools pass children through grades without having proficiencies in reading and math. The movie also shows statistics on why most of the children in our inner city schools drop out of high school and never make it to college.
Waiting for “Superman” focuses on five students from across the country.
- Daisy who lives in L.A. and wants to be a veterinarian.
- Francisco, a first grader from the Bronx, whose mother tries to get involved with the school, but the teacher never returns her calls. She desperately wants him to go to a charter school where he will receive more attention.
- Anthony, from Washington DC, is in one of the worst schools in the country. He flunked first grade and needed to repeat it. He lives with his grandmother. His mother left him and his father died of an overdose.
- Emily, an 8th grader, who lives in an affluent neighborhood in Silicon Valley, doesn’t want to go to the public high school because they track students and the ones in the middle often fall by the wayside.
- And Bianca, from Harlem, whose mother worked hard to pay the $500 a month to send her to a private Catholic School. When her mother lost her job and fell one payment behind, the school refused to allow her daughter to attend graduation. Her mother cries on the film saying, because she couldn’t afford one or two payments, why does the child have to suffer?
All of the children wanted better lives and wanted to go to a charter school where the teachers teach and the students learn.
The movie talks about how “bad” teachers in different areas go from school to school. They call this the dance of the lemons. In New York City, they have a “rubber room,” where “bad” teachers hang out during the day because they can’t be fired. And what does it cost us New Yorkers? $100 Million Dollars.
Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Schools in Washington DC, along with several other progressive educators from around the country try in different and dramatic ways to shake up their school districts and find a better way to teach. Unfortunately, they are met by roadblocks at every turn.
Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of an Inconvenient Truth (The Al Gore Movie), did an amazing job. Although the story bounced from one child in one location to another, the viewer was able to recognize the similarities between the children. I was particularly impressed with the camera angles and how Mr. Guggenheim captured so much emotion in each person.
I walked out of this movie crying. I started to reflect back on my middle and high school experience. I was also tracked, but I was tracked in the middle. Therefore, I didn’t get the best teachers and I wasn’t encouraged. As a matter of fact, I was discouraged by most of my high school teachers. Many told me I would never amount to anything. Thankfully, they were mistaken.
It seems to me that if your child is in the upper tracks, they do well. I remember my daughter had only 13 children in her class in eighth grade, while the middle tracks had 30 to 40 kids. Doesn’t a smaller class size make a better learning environment?
When my daughter was in elementary school she had a teacher who was crazy. If the children had a cold, they needed to sit in the back of the room. She would yell at the kids and tell them things that made them feel bad about themselves. I actually had another friend whose child was in the grade after my daughter graduated from this teacher’s class. Her daughter ended up getting pulled out of the school and transferred to a progressive school where the learning was more supportive.
I have a ton of friends who are teachers and I know they really care about their students and they try their best to get them to learn. But, there are still many terrible teachers out there who cannot be fired because they have tenure. It’s a sad fact, but it’s true. So what choices do we have?
The movie producer suggests that we all write to our school board of education and complain. They also offer a host of other suggestions on their website.Powered by Sidelines