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‘Waiting For Superman’

This afternoon I had the pleasure of viewing the new documentary “Waiting For Superman.” The title refers to a comment made by Geoffrey Canada that he cried when his Mother told him Superman was not real.

“…she thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Claus is not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.”

Much like the film “The Lottery,” parents seek to get their kids out of failing schools and into better Charter schools. “Waiting For Superman” however spends a lot of time trying to figure out what’s wrong with failing schools and what can be done about it. Not every child can attend a charter school, and not all charter schools are good, so bad public schools need to be fixed.

The central conclusion of the film is that you can’t have great schools without great teachers. The film says we need to do all we can to develop more great teachers, reward them, and get poor performing teachers out of the schools. The film shows some examples of just how hard it can be in certain places to get poor performing teachers out of the classroom.

New York has what they call “rubber rooms” where teachers who have been accused of wrongdoing sit, sometimes for years, waiting for their situation to be resolved. In Milwaukee, poor performing teachers are shifted from school to school in what they call the “lemon dance.” In both of those cities, as well as many others, it’s almost impossible to fire poor performing teachers. Georgia of course is a right to work State so no union protections exist for teachers. How this impacts things here in Georgia I’m not very sure at this point.

“Waiting For Superman” has drawn criticism for appearing to blame teachers for all the problems in education. I don’t think the film blames teachers but rather demonstrates how crucial teachers are to a successful education. Firing poor performing teachers is a controversial subject and a fight that will continue as the debate over education reform continues.

One final comment. DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee is featured in the film (as well as in the trailer below). Yesterday she resigned her position after the DC Mayor who had appointed and supported her lost reelection.

“Waiting For Superman” is in theaters now. We in the Atlanta area can see it at the Tara on Cheshire Bridge Road. I’d urge anyone interested in how to make our schools better to see this film.

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