Sunday, September 26, 2010

Education, News, and 'Waiting for "Superman"'

The documentary movie "Waiting for 'Superman'" hasn't opened here in Sacramento yet. It opens on October 8. It is already sold out opening day. It's been burning up on blogs and news shows all week, but most especially today, as MSNBC kicked off their Education Nation Summit in New York.

As a future educator, I feel that I need to see it. I've heard a lot about it from all the reviews and clips I've seen on MSNBC earlier today. I'm pretty sure I know what will happen, and that I'll leave the theater in tears and then get very angry. But I haven't seen it yet, so shouldn't comment too much about it.

I watched MSNBC's Education Town Hall twice today, and their review of "Waiting". I was so enthralled with the shows, that I forgot to sign on to Twitter and Facebook to join the online conversation. (bad blogger, bad!)

There's so much going on in education right now, just as I'm finally getting my certification, and I don't know what direction we are going to end up in. I also don't know if it is going to be a good thing or a bad thing.

The debate going public and mainstream is a good thing, but I'm worried. I don't have the answers and I don't know what the answers are.

I strongly believe in public education. I believe that to be a decent democracy, we must have an educated populace. I don't believe that people with money should have better access to education than those without.

There are good, innovative charter schools, and some of the things they are doing are very exciting. But overall, charter schools in general don't do any better than public schools.

The Harlem Children's Zone is an amazing project that is working. The story is inspiring, one of those "Stand and Deliver" or "Freedom Writers" stories. Cradle to college support. An amazing concept. Geoffrey Canada is indeed amazing. Teaching people how to parent from a young age (as the first five years of a child's life are extremely important for intellectual development). Making sure the buildings they live in aren't crumbling. An Asthma Initiative, an obesity program. . . Fabulous programs.

But how do we implement it?

When the high school my daughter goes to was started, it was innovative. They had a 4x4 block schedule with mini-schools of different vocational programs, musical programs, sports programs, college-bound education programs. They had 4 or 5 guidance counselors.

Now? The 4x4 block is gone, due to budget cuts. The sports programs are more limited. The award-winning choral program is gone. There used to be a day dedicated to math tutoring after school. Gone.

All gone due to budget cuts.

And the school is now a Year 2 Program Improvement school under NCLB.

that being said, my daughter is still getting a good education. This is because she was identified as Gifted in elementary school. She has had the best teachers available in her schools since 3rd grade.

Some of the other students in her schools aren't so lucky. For my Foundations in Education class, I had to research a local school and look at their standardized test scores, including a racial breakdown. The aggregate scores for African American students at her high school is 95 points below the aggregate scores for White kids.

95 points.

95 points.

Only 38% of AA students are proficient in English/Language Arts and only 39% of AA students are proficient in Math. This is compared to white kids which are 57% in English and 61% proficient in Math.

The school is a Title 1 school with more than 50% receiving free/reduced lunch, so poverty isn't the only answer here. The white kids are poor, too.

I'm completely stunned. Don't tell me these kids aren't smart. I know they are. So, what's happening?

Whatever it is needs to be fixed, but I have no idea how to fix it.

Michelle Rhee is a controversial chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C. She's pretty sure she's going to lose her job this year due to a new mayor being elected. She's controversial because she fired teachers, hired other teachers, and gave bonuses to great teachers. She has a reputation for being "anti-teacher".

But, is her approach working? I don't know, and I can't find solid info on it. Could her approach work long-term?

Should we move more toward treating teaching like other professions?

I don't know. My heart says, "NO!" but I need more data to make a better decision.

What do you think? Would 360-degree reviews, using not just administrator input, but other teachers, students, perhaps parents, too, be good or bad for the profession?

What do you think?

I'll have more to say on this later in the week.


  1. You might want to check out Deborah Meier's take on this. And if you don't know who Deborah Meier is, you might enjoy her book The Power of Their Ideas, about a small public school she created in NYC in the seventies, with the cooperation of the unions.

  2. Thank you for the link. I am slightly familiar with Deborah Meier, but obviously not enough. I will dive into reading as much as I can about her.

    Thank you!

    (Please allow me a fan-girl moment: OMG! Math Mama commented on my blog!)