When I first heard about this documentary I was eager to pledge for it to be able to see it. While I am not a big movie person, I really like watching documentaries and this one, being about the current state of education in the U.S., seemed to be right up my alley. Well, I went to see it with a friend of mine last week and the beginning enthusiasm about this documentary quickly faded.
Waiting for Superman does what most people do anyway - without needing a movie to encourage them - it blames the teachers for the bad results on standardized tests and the overall lack of education in this country. Their solution: Get rid of tenure, fire all the bad teachers and everything will magically get better. To prove their argument they point to charter schools which, according to the movie makers, are getting better results through better teaching than most public schools. What they fail to tell you is that these schools also get better funding, kick out students with behavioral problems and the parents, who send their kids to these charter schools are usually highly involved in their education. So how can you change multiple factors in the equation and then conclude that the one factor you picked, the teachers, is what makes the difference at a charter school? - You can’t!
If public schools had more money, more parent involvement and no students with behavioral problems they would do better as well. I agree that there are some bad teachers, we all know them and many of us have experienced one as our teacher in school. As a future teacher I even agree that there is something wrong with the tenure system. While I think it is hard to measure good teaching and it should certainly not be measured on how many students pass the many standardized tests that are given, it is also hard to measure good nursing or other traits, yet they are evaluated and can get fired. So, yes, I agree the tenure system needs an overhaul, but even with that the students' results might not change too much.
If you make a movie about the great effects of great teaching and the detrimental effects of terrible teaching show teachers in the same environment and contrast them. Show what a great teacher can do with small funds, little parental involvement and having several students with behavioral problems. Don’t show a charter school and pretend that all you did was to replace bad teaching with good teaching to change the end result. There are enough people who are blaming teachers for their kids’ failure. No Child Left Behind was implemented to make schools and teachers responsible to attain impossible goals, it wasn’t the solution then and it isn’t now. While the spending per student has risen and NCLB did put money into education (less than 10% of the funding of public schools comes from the government and that is AFTER NCLB), the amount of money spend on education is still a joke compared to the amount of money spend on the war industry. I wonder why THAT wasn’t mentioned. I wonder why this movie had the message that more spending wasn’t the answer. It probably didn’t want to come off as socialist, which is the new favorite insult of many Americans, who are afraid of change.
If you want to blame the teachers, make a good case for yourself. Waiting for Superman is giving a weak argument at best and a solution that is unrealistic.