The teacher’s union view of “Waiting for ‘Superman”’: Gripping but flawed. Casts teachers and unions as villains.

In addition to my piece on the new documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman,”’ here is a critical review by AFT president Randi Weingarten.  If you read her piece and mine, you’ll get a good sense of why this documentary is going to prompt lots of discussion. I hope we can have it some of it here when the movie opens in two weeks.

AFT president Randi Weingarten praises the filmmaking skills in "Waiting for 'Superman,''' but not the factgathering.

AFT president Randi Weingarten praises the filmmaking skills in "Waiting for 'Superman,''' but not the factgathering.

Is America ready to settle for a good education—for the few? That’s the unfortunate takeaway from a soon-to-be released documentary film, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” The film, by Davis Guggenheim, shows how tragically far we are from the great American ideal of providing all children with the excellent education they need and deserve. Yet, despite Guggenheim’s unquestionably good intentions, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete—and misses what could have been a unique opportunity to portray the full and accurate story of our public schools.

One can’t help but be moved by the stories of the five children and their families Guggenheim follows as they encounter a lottery system for admission to the schools upon which they are pinning their hopes for a good education. Their stories, in a very real and emotional way, drive home the point that the opportunity for a great public education should come not by chance, but by right.

But the filmmaker’s storytelling falters in other key areas. The film casts several outliers in starring roles—for example, “bad” teachers and teachers unions as the villains, and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The problem is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual. =

There are more than 3 million teachers working in our 130,000 public schools. Are there bad teachers? Of course there are, just as there are bad accountants, and lawyers, and actors. I wish there were none. There also are countless good, great and exceptional teachers working in our public schools every day in neighborhoods across the country—although for this film, they apparently ended up on the cutting room floor. It is shameful to suggest, as the film does, that the deplorable behavior of one or two teachers (including an example more than two decades old) is representative of all public school teachers.

Guggenheim has found ways to make facts and data interesting, even entertaining. But, when certain facts don’t advance his story line, he makes them disappear. The treatment of charter schools is one of the most glaring inconsistencies in “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” Guggenheim makes only glancing reference to the poor achievement of most charter schools, despite the abundance of independent research showing that most charter schools perform worse than or only about as well as comparable regular public schools. Nevertheless, he illogically holds them up as the ticket to a good education for disadvantaged students.

I wish all schools had the wealth of resources enjoyed by the charter schools featured in the film, which are part of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The charter schools in the HCZ have what we should be fighting to have in every public school—services that help eradicate the barriers to academic success, and funding to ensure that students and teachers have the tools they need to succeed. HCZ schools receive two-thirds of their funding from private sources and one-third from the government.

This private money funds staff and curriculum, as well as extensive medical, dental and tutorial services. We know kids’ needs are met when these wraparound services are combined with high-quality instructional programs. In the end, funding these programs will make a fundamental difference for all children.

“Waiting for ‘Superman’” misses two crucial points. First, we have to be committed to supporting a public school system that provides all  our children with access to a great education. And second, we must focus our efforts on the most promising and proven approaches—those great neighborhood public schools that work. I’ve seen such success stories across the country in schools that reduce barriers to academic success, as is done in the HCZ schools; schools that offer great curriculum, extra help for students who start or fall behind, and supports for teachers. Where the system has failed is to not take these proven models and scale them up. The solutions aren’t the stuff of action flicks, but they work.

Films like “Waiting for ‘Superman’” are gripping for a reason: They connect us to real life struggles. They may even call much-needed attention to the challenges confronting many students and schools. But the attention will be misplaced, if it centers on off-base solutions and denigrating good teachers rather than on what works to improve our schools.

Imagine a sequel to “Waiting for ‘Superman’” released a few years from now. Would we rather stick to the cinematic model of providing an escape hatch—sometimes superior, most often inferior—to a handful of students? Or would we offer a model in which we had summoned the will to do the hard but effective and far-reaching work required to make meaningful changes to entire school systems, providing all children with the best possible choice—a highly effective neighborhood school?

The most effective solutions didn’t make it into the film. In other words, Guggenheim ignored what works: developing and supporting great teachers; implementing valid and comprehensive evaluation systems that inform teaching and learning; creating great curriculum and the conditions that promote learning for all kids; and insisting on shared responsibility and mutual accountability that hold everyone, not just teachers, responsible for ensuring that all our children receive a great education.

59 comments Add your comment

catlady

September 21st, 2010
11:56 am

Well said, especially the last paragraph. There has to be commitment by all.

V for Vendetta

September 21st, 2010
12:24 pm

Unions ARE evil. They serve a purpose–but only briefly. After that, they become mosters of insatiable demands. The unions response will do little to help the image of teaching in this country. Thanks for making us all look like greedy, incompetent fools.

Dr NO

September 21st, 2010
12:40 pm

I would say SuperMan has arrived in the form of Obama…The Ayetoolah Obama that is.

EnoughAlready

September 21st, 2010
12:41 pm

I agree that teachers are not the only people responsible for educating our children. And she made some good points, but she still comes across as someone filled with excuses. There are lots of effective parents and administrators who support good teachers. However, Ms. Weingarten seems to be incapable of seeing the obstacles’ for weeding out the bad. There is something terribly wrong with our education system and it’s not defective children. Yes, they need discipline and high expectations from home. But, they need caring and effective teachers to boot.

I take serious issues with this statement: “Nevertheless, he illogically holds them up as the ticket to a good education for disadvantaged students.” A teacher is the “ticket” to a good education for all students; disadvantage and the advantage. Why would we send our children to a place of “learning” and not expect the most from our teachers? I remember my first day of school vividly and I remember my mother telling me that I was going to school to learn new things. I remember my mother specifically telling me that my new teacher was going to teach me how to read and all the other wonderful things we were going to do in class. Now, you are saying that a teacher is not the “ticket” to receiving a good education. What should we be telling our children today?

What exactly should we be telling our kids about expectations for schools and our teachers?

SM Chandler

September 21st, 2010
12:44 pm

One inconvenient truth never voiced by the film of the same name is the utter avoidance of the system that produced the catastrophe of climate destabilization: capitalism. Combine over-accumulation, unearned profits from the increaseof commodification of everything from crops to war materials to home mortgages, and, as prices-value declines, the system continues the destruction of the poor, and near poor, which catagories include the nearly whole of the population of this country. (front page headline in the Los Angeles Times: ” 1 in7 Americans liveing in Poverty ” ).

Bill Gates funds one boarding school for the entrapped poor. What is his goal with this investment? Is he passionate regarding peoples’ achieveing their human piotential or is this another attempt to gain control of what Jonathan Kozol aptly terms, “the big enchilada,” that is the k-12 public school system? Is Gates in it for profit? And precisely where does the great Grizzly Bear deficate?

The genocides currently eviscerating Iraq and Afghanistan are being funded by the AmericanTaxpayer for 750,000,000 every single day, seven days a week. I am confused. Is that why we have so little to fund public education? Why is that not mentiond in waiting for Obama,uh,Superman?

Mo' Freddie

September 21st, 2010
12:53 pm

It takes a village to raise a child ~ African Proverb.

The accountabiliy has to spread through the village, not just onto the schools. Once the public understand this simple fact, the blame game madness will continue and the students will suffer the most…

V for Vendetta

September 21st, 2010
1:18 pm

SM Chandler,

If you’d prefer another system than capitalism, might I suggest communism? You can trace the economic success of that system throughout the history of soviet Russia. Begin with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and finish at the fall of the Berlin Wall. For extra credit, read up on how communist/socialist thugs still hold Russia’s new “free” economy in check and perpetuate the poverty and starvation that was rampant during the twentieth century.

barnone

September 21st, 2010
1:18 pm

There’s another movie that recently came out called ‘The Cartel’, wonder if anyone has seen it?

Pompano

September 21st, 2010
1:33 pm

The problem is that the Public Education Officials constantly contradict themselves and want to work both sides of the argument when convenient to them. On the one hand, they claim “all we need is more money to fix everything”. Then, after the money is delivered, squandered and no results produced, they fallback on the “it’s not our fault if the parents are not engaged” excuse.

JMC

September 21st, 2010
1:35 pm

Introduce COMPETITION into the education process. Give families the power to direct their tax dollars and children to the schools that excel. That is the solution to the problem. Quality lags when there is no accountability and no consequences of poor poor performance.

fairness for all

September 21st, 2010
1:42 pm

I saw the beginning of this taking place back when i was in high school. It has only gotten much worse as education (led by the unions and education’s overpaid administration –see previous AJC articles on school superintendants salaries) has become a black hole for taxpayer dollars. It is time for the excesses in education to be exposed and to finally allow the taxpayer to receive a break. Rest assured as evidenced by this article, the unions and school administrators have already begun to voice their opposition to meaningful change (and reduction in pay for administration) and will continue to do. I have several family members and friends who are in education and they too feel as though the bad teachers are getting a free ride and that the unions and administrators are soaking up valuable taxpayer funds that could and should be going to classrooms or back to the taxpayer. Georgia simply can not afford to keep paying county school superintendants on the same pay level as the President of the U.S.A.. Georgia and the federal government must be held accountable for every dime of taxpayer money that is wasted. It is indeed time for a change…….

Come on Now

September 21st, 2010
1:53 pm

So help me if i see one more article about so many Americans living in poverty i think i will throw up. The poverty pimp industry in this country is thriving and the definition of poverty is always a target that is defined in the most convenient way to keep them and their industry front and center. Give me a break from the incessant “research” that they keep trotting out for their own benefit.

m

September 21st, 2010
1:53 pm

The original intent for public education was to prevent totalitarianism. The founders knew that education was the only way to keep “the people” in power, and the powerful in check. (this is also why it was illegal for slaves to learn how to read). Its no wonder that the far-right conservatives & “libertarians” want to get rid of the department of education and put and end to public education. The uneducated are much easier to control and manipulate.

Teacher Reader

September 21st, 2010
1:56 pm

Until the government gets out of education, it will never get better for our kids. I am convinced that the government does not want our children to be educated. If they keep people uneducated, the people will want the government to take care of them. They do not want our schools to have competition, so that better schools succeed.

If teachers speak up about what is happening, they are considered trouble makers. This is not just in Georgia, but all over our country.

Change will not happen with in the Education System in America until parents focus on what their children are learning and rise up for change. It will take a huge movement for change and competition to take place in our education system.

Batgirl

September 21st, 2010
2:09 pm

@EnoughAlready, I like to think that we teachers are the ticket to a good education just as your mother said. Today, however, many parents don’t tell their children this. Many tell their kids that we are stupid and that their children don’t have to listen to us or do as they’re told. If a child feels he has been treated unfairly, parents rarely call to get both sides of the story, they come in to chew us out and let us know what horrid people we are. We don’t dare dish out to the parents what is thrown at us because that would be unprofessional, and we would get in trouble. This is another thing that parents and the general public know, you can beat us up, and we usually turn the other cheek.

Not so fast

September 21st, 2010
2:12 pm

I certainly would not like to get rid of public education in the USA. I think that it is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. However, i would get rid of the federal department of education in a heartbeat and send any federal assistance directly to the states (if federal assistance is really necessary. Did anyone ever take the time to consider what it costs an agency of the state or local government to manage a federal dollar and measure the results of that federal dollar?
I contend that federal aid to education results in a lot of money being spent with few results other than providing jobs for some who could not make a living if they had to work in the private sector.

V for Vendetta

September 21st, 2010
2:15 pm

Not so fast,

I would be willing to bet one could come up with BILLIONS in wasted money if one were to eliminate the meaningless government positions at ALL levels. Many of us have said it before, and I’ll say it again: how many dollars are actually finding their way into schools and classrooms? How many are being wasted at the “office” level?

FCS Teacher

September 21st, 2010
2:21 pm

If Teacher Labor Unions are the main cause of current problems in education, then why do we still have these problems in Georgia? We don’t have unions for teachers in Georgia. Please quit claiming we do.

TruthSayer

September 21st, 2010
2:31 pm

The filmmaker acts as if it is a great discovery that the public schools are not functioning. I for one could not care less about the public schools. I send my kids to private schools where they will be adequately educated. As for the village etc…”the world needs ditch diggers too”

God Bless the Teacher!

September 21st, 2010
2:32 pm

Bill from Cobb – Our country and way of life is sure to implode with morons like you spewing your drivvle, breeding and raising your young to perpetuate the same idiotic belief you just shared. God help our country and may you and yours be the first to be spayed or neutered under the new regime people like you will bring upon this country.

williebkind

September 21st, 2010
2:38 pm

Who will dig the ditches and make mud for the bricks? The only way to insure all kids get a good education is to make college like high school-a requirement. Make it a law! Many kids would have attended college but their parents could not afford or did not see high incomes as a must. I guess greed is not so prevalent as some think.

T

September 21st, 2010
2:46 pm

@batgirl….Is this one of the reason we have bad teachers?

LLL

September 21st, 2010
2:56 pm

I think most of the posts here clearly indicate the familings of our education system…

LLL

September 21st, 2010
2:56 pm

I forgot to add, “mine, not excluded.”

Dr NO

September 21st, 2010
3:02 pm

“It takes a village to raise a child ~ African Proverb.”

Well this isnt africa and seems those in africa didnt listen and take heed to their own silly proverb.

BehindEnemyLines

September 21st, 2010
3:04 pm

More excuses and begging for dollars by the hogs at the public trough. Gosh, never seen that before. News flash for the AFT: too much money has already gone down the increasingly dry hole of public education, the last thing on Earth that makes sense is to throw even more money into the same abyss.

Great Education for All

September 21st, 2010
3:15 pm

The comments here, sadly so repetitive of every other post about education on this blog since its inception, are completely inaccurate as to the role of unions in education in our state of Georgia. Teachers can and do get their contracts non-renewed for poor performance. Those teachers who refuse to get on board with teaching in ways proven to achieve excellence for students regardless of ethnicity, language barriers, and socio-economic status are non-renewed in the best schools in the best districts in our state. The union has no control over whether a teacher is non-renewed whatsoever, at least in our state. For proof, look at the many teachers that were non-renewed in Cobb due to budget restraints. Unions could not prevent that or keep those teachers in their jobs. Unions certainly have no power to prevent a teacher who is not teaching as instructed by their supervising principal, from receiving a non-renewal for the following school year, or even being terminated in the middle of the year, as long as poor performance is well-documented and the appropriate attempts at bringing the teacher up to standards have been taken.

No, the real culprit in aiding and abetting poor teaching in public schools is laziness and a culture of non-accountability. Principals and other school leaders who are not spending time in classrooms and in the achievement data can’t see poor teaching and intervene. Principals and other school leaders who are not committed to doing the hard work of documentation and intervention for struggling teachers can’t create a school culture of excellent teaching. And district leaders who do not visit buildings and hold principals accountable for their school culture and teacher performance can’t do what they are charged with: ensuring excellent instruction for every child in their district, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the school.

Several of our local districts are saddled with a culture of laziness, style over substance, and lack of accountability, in the midst of which quality teaching can not thrive on any consistent basis. This shortchanges the students with the most challenges, whose equally challenged parents may not have the know-how, time, or ability to get them into a charter or transfer them to a better school.

If you want all children, no matter the often tragic circumstances they are born into, to be able to contribute to the future success of our communities and nation, place your efforts into holding school boards, district leaders, and school leaders accountable for poor instruction in their schools. Blaming unions only deflects attention from the truly guilty, those district and school leaders who are responsible for our current educational failures.

Booklover

September 21st, 2010
3:19 pm

FCS teacher is right on!

There are no teachers’ unions in Georgia… so who’s the scapegoat here? Who can we blame?

No one is denying that there are some teachers who don’t do a very good job… just like there are bad apples in every profession. I will say that I am a little disappointed in some of the teacher preparation programs in Georgia, as I don’t think they are as good as they should be. At a school where I previously worked, I did work with several teachers who were quite incompetent, and they all taught high school math, science, or special education. One result of comparatively low pay and respect is that some positions will be difficult to fill with qualified personnel.

Beyond the teachers, we also must consider the students themselves and the community. The first year I taught in Georgia, a parent came up to me at open house: “Now, you won’t assign too much homework in this class [11th grade American Literature, the year students take graduation tests in Language Arts and Writing], will you?” I was flabbergasted; I guess I was sheltered because I had never before met a parent with such a negative attitude toward hard work and studying (I knew they existed, but I couldn’t imagine the type of person who would make the effort to come out to the open house to say this, and only this, to his child’s teacher!)

Good education is an equation, and if one part of that equation (teachers, students, parents, community) puts in zero or little effort, the result is going to be less than stellar.

LLL

September 21st, 2010
3:41 pm

kaab

September 21st, 2010
4:34 pm

All states do not have teacher unions!!!! Georgia in particular. The unions are not to blame for ALL the problems. Student and parent apathy are somewhere in the mix.

rosie

September 21st, 2010
5:29 pm

I watched Oprah yesterday and was very upset she choose not to share information on real public schools doing really good things. Instead she decided to highlight charter schools. These school require an application process and parent meeting. Many say they do not discriminate, but admission is based on a lottery process. While this is try so is the fact parents of children attending these charter schools must sign a contract committing to transport children to school on Saturday and after school programs. Parents also vow to support the schools with time and money. These contracts detail attendance as well as dress code. My favorite portion of the contracts states the school officials can dismiss the students if he doesn’t carry out his committments. Public schools don’t have the option of offering a contract much less allowed to kick students to the curb if they don’t do as directed. Look at any quality charter school and you will find a parent contract as part of the student’s admission to the school.

If Oprah, Gates, Rhee, and Guggenheim wish to put down public school please come spend a month or two with the teachers you are judging. Teachers in many schools are bombarded with meetings about the latest educational craze. Most teachers don’t get needed support to take care of discipline issues, but instead get blasted by administrators for their poor classroom management styles. These same administrators tell teachers they are too busy to deal with discipline problems and instead spend time teaching workshops on discipline.

Tell it like it is!

September 21st, 2010
6:51 pm

Parents and the public don’t know the REAL story! I teach public school 5th grade. In 2005 my students were 100% in all areas. In 2008 my class in Social Studies was one of three schools in Georgia with a 100%. You would think success, right? Wrong! Next year I was forced to change everything I do. No rhyme or reason! Just stupid politics and administrators who want to move up the ladder. So even if you are successful it’s not enough and nobody gets it. Now with the new curriculum There’s no focus on the children, but more on window dressing and making superiors look good. Oh well, I guess it gives someone at the state department something to do.

ScienceTeacher671

September 21st, 2010
7:41 pm

Here’s what Oprah said 3 years ago when she opened her girls’ school in Africa:

“Winfrey has said she opted to build the school in Africa rather than in a U.S. inner city out of respect for the anti-apartheid leader and because she felt the need was greater abroad.

‘Say what you will about the American education system—it does work,’ she told Newsweek. ‘If you are a child in the United States, you can get an education.

“‘I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.’”

(Read more: http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/b54067_Oprah_Opens_African_School.html#ixzz10CuE9SE8)

Teacher Reader

September 21st, 2010
9:01 pm

Tell It Like It Is! is spot on.

Everyone is trying to always reinvent the wheel. The ideas come and go as to what is in vogue. The names may change, but the ideas basically remain the same. All too often ideas that have been proven ineffective are continued to be taught to our future educators in college course work and to practicing teachers in workshops.

Oprah gave the Angel Network money to charter schools, because they do not have the bureaucracy of a regular public school. She knows that 100% of the money will be used on the betterment of the children and not squandered away on things that the district doesn’t really need or on salaries for people who are not necessary. Most charter schools run a bare bones program, and use what little money they have as effectively and efficiently as possible because they have to. I totally understand why Oprah gave her money to charter schools, and don’t blame her for her decision. In fact, I applaud it.

JacketFan

September 21st, 2010
9:14 pm

Education needs to return to the local level – and I don’t mean county mega-high schools, I mean neighborhood/community/town K-12 schools. Our inner-city mega schools are like prisons and the kids who go there face a lot of the same dangers. Busing kids 10 – 20 miles to school destroys community and perpetrates rival neighborhood gang fights and violence. How can we stick between 1500-2000 kids in a building and expect them to learn. We have to down-size our schools and put them back into the communities if we can ever hope to improve our education system.

Kwanza

September 21st, 2010
10:12 pm

@Jacket Fan

Why do you think students have to be bused? They are getting AWAY from their communities so that they can actually learn…Such is the case with Boston’c Metco, which has seen huge success and, like the SEED school movement, is extremely competitive. I know a girl 23 yrs old who was put on the waiting list before she was born in 1987. Why? Because city schools and communities were just that bad. Making schools local will only be good for some students, and worse for others. Perhaps we really nned to look at replicating the SEED schools around the nation in “disadvantaged” areas. In this way, students are taken out of the crappy homes with parents that don’t care or can’t afford to care, or don’t know to care, taken out of the crappy communities where there is no sense of security, and put them in local boarding schools with high security and teachers that are paid to stay until 8,9, 10pm to help students learn. THAT is what will work, but we are too decentralized, too disorganized, too distracted with political agendas, personal bias, the television, etc, to make it happen. I am working under a fiscal sponsor to give a handful of students access to a world-class curriculum. I would like to ultimately put my resources to replicating the SEED school model.

There are those who blame government. Government in and of itself is not the problem. In fact, inthe area of education, we could use a more centralized model (dare I imply that we can actually alternate between big and limited government depending on the sector?! Dare I say that both models are useful for something?). We just need to change course. Conservatives who say that we should have limited government when it comes to education are simply selfish. When it comes to a child, we need to do what we can to ensure that they have access to a quality education, to ensure that they are fully equipped with the tools to contribute to society…to assume the responsibility and challenges of the next generation. Those conservatives are selfish and will end up cutting their own selves at the knees with that kind of foolishness. Of course I’m not for being too liberal with the nation’s money. If we can nationalize the problem (say, set up SEED schools across the nation for students whose communities are marked by low achievement and really put forth a concerted effort to close the national and global achievement gap) we should give up something…maybe cut welfare, eliminate the tax cuts for the rich…and earmark it specifically for education. It’s really that dire of a situation…and we can’t really afford to keep borrowing from the Chinese…so something’s gotta give. Some rich conservative may feel as though this is not their responsibility. What they don’t realize is that they are adversely affected by this crisis…now and even moreso in the future. Sometimes I wonder if people truly care. After all, the solution is there…and it’s not just in hiring better teachers or firing horrible ones. It’s changing a mindset, changing a paradigm, creating a controlled environment where students can get help and thrive. WE WILL HAVE TO SPEND MONEY ON THIS INITIATIVE…THERE IS A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO SPEND MONEY ON EDUCATION…but I think the key is to have a more centralized, concerted and focused effort.
An alternative is to make parents do their part with penalties, incentives, etc, but the more I work with communities and families, the more I realize that, while the most draconian, it is not necessarily the smartest way of going about the solution.

Thanks

Furthermore,

Mary

September 21st, 2010
10:52 pm

Why are we blaming teachers because of a few bad apples when we should blame the bureaucratic public school districts? Those standardized tests that the children must take are a waste of time. A lot of kids are really intelligent, but poor test takers, therefore the tests aren’t accurate. Growing up, I hated taking those tests so I would just fill in the bubbles with whatever answer I wanted to because my attention span was limited and I was bored. Testing only benefits the districts as it takes away time from teaching and learning. Also teachers aren’t free to conduct the class however they want to. Instead they have to follow strict guidelines. Not giving enough teaching autonomy restricts and limits their capacity to teach as well as children’s capacity to learn.

ScienceTeacher671

September 21st, 2010
11:12 pm

Mary, they’d have to be really really really poor test takers to not be able to pass the Georgia tests.

On most of the Georgia tests, you don’t even have to get half the questions correct to “pass”, and you can “exceed expectations” with less than 70%.

Or as one of my students commented, “They don’t expect much of us, do they?”

Emily

September 22nd, 2010
12:17 am

Enough Already wrote-using a quote from the article wrote “Nevertheless, he illogically he holds them up as a ticket to a good education for disadvantaged students.” and goes on to say that her mother told her that teachers are tickets to good educations and that they still are. I had to do a double take since I didn’t recall the article stating any such thing (the article discounting teachers as a ticket to education). Sure enough-the writer was referring (not to teachers but) to charter schools. Enough Already needs to read more carefully and check what the pronoun “them” refers to. It clearly refers to charter schools and not to teachers. Hone up your reading skills.

ScienceTeacher671

September 22nd, 2010
6:15 am

Note: I do agree with Mary that Georgia’s standardized tests are largely a waste of time, because the standards are set so low you could trip over them.

JacketFan

September 22nd, 2010
7:01 am

Kwanza – removing community schools is just one of the reasons behind the disenfranchisement of lower-income, minority communities – it often represents the final nail in the coffin for a community. And while you’re taking kids out of their “crappy” homes to “learn,” those same kids have to go back to those homes every evening and face the realities of a community falling apart. Investing in strong, localized schools is a step towards revitalizing a community. Creating something positive in these communities could do much to changing the direction of the communities and can bolster the chances of community and economic development.

Furthermore, part of the reason why parents can’t take more of a proactive role in their child’s education is because those same parents are having to work two or three jobs to supplement an income decimated by the economic collapse. In a perfect world, every child would have a stay-at-home parent, but I’m afraid that reality is most often reserved for the most affluent, not for the majority. I believe that it does, in fact, “take a village;” however, I recognize that this paradigm isn’t really possible unless we reduce the size of the village. This country needs to get back to the “community model” as opposed to our insistence on running things on a large scale – rather than saying I live in Atlanta, I rather say I live in the Poncey area of Midtown or some-such and that my kid goes to the Poncey Midtown school and that he will go there from kindergarten until his senior year. Across Ponce, my friend’s kid attends the Old Fourth Ward School. My other friend’s kid attends East Atlanta Academy. Etc. Etc. Such a paradigm builds Community, provides kids with a consistent learning environment, surrounded by teachers who know them from 5-18 and friends they can grow up with. It means I see the same parents every week at the PTA meeting and their kids come over for sleepovers and vice versa. Stop the mega-school insanity. It has failed. I continues to fail. It will always fail.

LLL

September 22nd, 2010
11:36 am

@ST

I think it is more accurate to say that cut off scores are set too low – which is a policy decision. The standards themselves (GPS for various subjects) may be fine. Now, all of this is if we use the EOCTs for graduation tests, instead of the current graduation tests, which do not seem to reflect the standards.

jwr

September 22nd, 2010
1:58 pm

A return to community schooling won’t matter if we don’t get away from the maddening idea that you can focus on the lowest possible denominator and expect some miraculous result by 12th grade. Schools really need only 2 things, which can happen if the parents demand it:

1. A safe and stable learning environment, meaning children get expelled from the system for bullying, sexual assault, etc, etc and they never gets returned to the public school system. Yes, that will mean home schooling for that child until they turn 16. Quit making other children pay for our lack of courage.

2. Education tailored to the goals of the students, meaning general, technical and college prep, with the only “crossover” classes being things like band and phys ed. Not everybody wants to go to college, and there is no reason not to appropriately challenge those that do.

Perplexed2

September 22nd, 2010
2:37 pm

Isn’t it interesting that when a school makes AYP and exceeds in many areas, unlike the public sector–no bonuses–no accolades–no more respect given than in the past by parents and/or comunity–and -no community applauds. Teachers are human also and we not only desire, but we deserve to be treated with compassion, respect and to be paid accordingly

Kwanza

September 22nd, 2010
3:33 pm

@Jacket Fan

I am not trying to ignore the reality of these kids’ family lives. In fact the fact that they have poor families lives is the greatest reason why we should do more to replicate the SEED School model where kids are taken out of their homes and placed in a controlled environment…where there is a culture of education. If we can’t do that (or until we do that), the we really need to look at changing the situation with parents, and changing culture. We need to figure out how to do that and work with communities.

ScienceTeacher671

September 22nd, 2010
5:52 pm

LLL, thank you for the correction. I should not even try to post before coffee has kicked in! :)

JacketFan

September 22nd, 2010
6:19 pm

@Kwanza – that’s the point. We can’t just take the kids away from their homes. We have to change the culture of our society and get back to something resembling community to improve the general welfare of everyone. I think that begins by refocusing our efforts in every aspect – economic development, community development, public policy, health care and education – at the local level.

RealityCzech

September 23rd, 2010
10:03 am

The single most important factor in a child’s education is the direct involvement of that child’s parent(s) in his/her education. Along with other support mechanisms from the private sector, most charter schools demand parental involvement or the students are asked to leave. When children in public schools miss weeks of attendance, are moved from school district to school district, are sent off to school with no breakfast or lunch, many times are not adequately dressed, are not prepared with the necessary school supplies, and not required at home to have their homework completed by their parent or guardian, is it any wonder that our public schools are not working? Mandating good teachers is a reasonable expectation but so is having all children receive the proper support mechanisms at home for supplying them with needed basic tools to learn. Teachers alone cannot be expected to shoulder the full responsibility of educating an American child, the parents and community must also share equally in that responsibility.

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Kwanza

September 23rd, 2010
4:48 pm

@Jacket Fan

I think we obviously have the same goals: creating a culture of education in homes and communities. This is what I have always said in my posts on this blog…I agree that ultimately communities must change their educaiton culture, but in the meantime, why not send those critical need students to a boarding school controlled environment where the distractions–which cannot be eliminated immediately–and work on rebuilding communities so that they can accomodate OUR high expectations? Anyway it all sounds so ideal when we say it….what can we do now to make it happen? What can we do to bring about a cultural revolution? What are you doing to help change family values in the communities that are on a downward spiral? I don’t think it’s too presumptuous of a feat. Sensitive, yes, but it can be done/