‘Waiting for Superman’ — How do we rescue education in America?

Waiting for Superman has sparked more conversation about our public schools than any other event in recent memory.  While there’s much food for thought, at All Kinds of Minds we are interested in the reactions people are having to how the core business of schooling–LEARNING–is portrayed.  Tell us what you think about this controversial movie and the discussion it is spurring.  How can we collectively introduce a stronger focus on learning into these conversations?

As the movie becomes more broadly available, we’ll continue to post blogs by others we find thought-provoking.

Check out the following:

We invite you to add your comments and perspective.

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6 thoughts on “‘Waiting for Superman’ — How do we rescue education in America?

  1. I have not seen the full movie yet, but I watched the two shows that Oprah did on it. I too was concerned because there was no discussion about how children learn or about how poorly many teachers are prepared to help children with varying learning needs. There was no discussion at all of the cycle of measuring the teachers’ performance by standardized testing of the students followed by state-mandated curriculum that teaches to the test. There was no discussion of state requirements for teachers to get post-graduate degrees before they have even had a chance to pay off student loans for their undergraduate degrees – and then the graduate programs are often diploma mills offering no real value to the teacher.

    I have taught for about ten years in private high schools and I see a disturbing trend toward private schools aligning themselves with state mandated curriculum and preferring state-credentialed teachers. I believe there is great value in having a variety of choices for families, and recreating a private school in the image of the public school seems pointless to me.

    I was also bothered that the discussions on Oprah seemed geared towards pushing children harder in traditional academics, especially in math and science, but there was no talk of designing an education system that would allow students to grow in the direction of their strengths rather than put enormous effort into remediating their weaknesses.

    It’s great to open up awareness and discussion, but I a can’t agree with what I saw of the proposed solutions.

  2. I feel that teachers are so overwhelmed right now with trying to adhere to the current standards of teaching that it’s hard for them to address the unique needs of each child. Changes have to be made so that each student can feel like they are cared about in the classroom. This will boost their self-esteem and ultimately their success in school. We live in California where the student population is booming, primarily from the growing illegal immigrant population. Teachers are faced with students who don’t understand the English language and the teachers don’t understand the Spanish language. The California coffers are being drained dry. Teachers can be gifts to children; let’s help them by offering more support and resources. I look forward to seeing the movie!

  3. Just because I have not (yet) seen the film doesn’t stop me from having a opinion on the lack of focus on actual “learning” in the many versions of the debate on education reform, or the lack of consideration of the effect the broken education system has on individual children!

    I want to urge everyone to pay attention to the kids we expect to be leaders for the next generation. They rely on adults to teach them how and we are failing them. I see students as individuals eager to learn and looking at adults with hopeful faces, only to be disappointed as they endure the endless debate on test scores and teacher blaming. What are we doing to this entire generation?

    As a long time education advocate I see and hear those children who have lost hope and see no future for themselves. They hear the politicians and other interested parties who seem to think that if they can jack up test scores, all will be well. If anyone would bother to listen to students and to really get to the root of why children are not learning, we can stop blaming teachers or class size and actually start doing something about the problem.

    There is plenty of readily available material that indicates that about 50% of students will learn how to read without any particular teaching method. The problem is that there is another 50% out there who need help learning to connect sound to print – and we’re simply ignoring them and hoping that eventually they’ll get it on their own.

    The interesting correlation between the statistics above are the most recent test scores of New York City’s standardized test results: 47% of students read below grade level! Coincidence?

    It is not rocket science to understand that when a child cannot read, he cannot learn! Sight words will get a child only so far – as a 20 year old student, reading on a second grade level, recently told me: there are too many words for me to memorize – I need to know how to decode! (Incidentally, this student just graduated from a NYC High School!). Failure, whether perceived or real seriously affects our students and is turning this country into a generation of depressed and pharmacology dependent citizens.

    Rather than attacking social issues individually, we need to examine the roots of obesity, depression, crime, drug abuse, drop-out rates, etc. etc. and starts recognizing that what all those problem issues have in common is a lack of basic education skills that result in shame, low self esteem, and no hope of a future.

    If we don’t stop blaming, whining, and finger pointing, we’re in for wasting vast amounts of money on “reform,” but more importantly, we are wasting a generation of human beings.

    Teachers need support to teach, not bullied into pushing kids into performing like pet monkeys to satisfy political interests and motivation. Academic achievement and the ability to compete of the country is steadily moving toward the bottom of the list when compared to other industrialized countries. Is there where you want your kids to be?

  4. I too have not seen the movie but have watched clips on some news programs. I am frustrated that they never look at the positive things schools are doing and the hard work being done by teachers to discover researched based initiatives to use in their classrooms. I work in a system that embraces Professional Learning Communities, where teachers work collaboratively to determine the enduring understandings students need to understand and then continue to work together to ensure all students achieve to their highest ability. It seems that the movie makers select inner city schools where they have a multitude of issues facing the students. This is not all that the United States has as schools for our young people. I believe that those of us that have given our lives in an effort to provide the best for our students need to keep in mind that it’s our kids that get us up every morning to go at it again. It’s our kids that makes it worth it to be degraded by the press and remained un appreciated by the communities we serve. I am fortunate to work in a great system that has it’s focus on the students we serve. I am not ashamed to be a teacher and am proud of the 32 years I have been working for the students and families I serve.

  5. There’s a lot of talk about what exactly we need to do to fix our schools. Real change requires more than talk. We all have to open our eyes and challenge an education system that has become, bit by bit, a bureaucracy about adults. We absolutely must look at education through a new prism. We must put students first. The federal government can make states, localities and schools do things, but not necessarily do them well. Since decades of research make it clear that what matters for evaluating employees or turning around schools is how well you do it, rather than whether you do it a certain way, it’s not surprising that well-intentioned demands for “bold” federal action on school improvement have a history of misfiring. They stifle problem-solving, encourage bureaucratic blame avoidance and often do more harm than good.

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