One of my good friends suggested that Brian and I watch the documentary Waiting for Superman. So we did. And doing so made me want to write a review not just to share my feelings about it with her, but also with you, too, in case you saw it. Please bear with me...

We also did a little research of our own - check out this article from the Wash. Post that critiques this movie -

It also has a link to Diane Ravitch's original article with some good points about the stats used, etc.

I think the best thing I can say about this film is that if it makes people ponder and discuss the issues in education, then that's a good thing. That said, it certainly left out a lot. Here are a few things that struck me while I was watching:
- movie harps a lot on good teachers vs. bad teachers. However, it needs to better define what that means. And evaluating teachers is not an easy task - if you use test scores as a gauge, then teachers of honors classes are going to look like stars and the teachers struggling to teach special ed students or remedial classes are going to look like failing teachers.
- the movie totally ignored the issue of class size. I don't care how good a teacher you are - if you have 45 kindergarteners in your room, how are you going to get them all dressed to go out for recess? Take them to the potty? how do you give them enough individualized attention to make sure they're learning to read, etc.?
- one expert in the film said the number of "bad" teachers is like 5-10% - but the movie glosses over this and makes it seem like 90% are bad.
- Brian and I agreed that we have never seen teachers who just sit around reading the newspaper, etc. Teachers do not have enough time in the day for all they are required to do - teach to fulfill IEPS for special ed kids, plan lessons, grade, email/call parents, run extracurriculars, cut out craft projects, etc. I regularly worked before school, through my 20 minute lunch period and stayed at least 2 hours after school plus worked at night at home and on weekends. Let's say I had an avg. of 28 students in 5 classes and each of their papers takes 20-30 minutes to grade properly - you do the math on how many hours that takes....bear in mind that in some of my classes, such as Advanced Composition, those kids turned in 1 essay each week plus other writing and grammar assignments.
- the movie didn't deal deal with the importance of parental involvement - the inner city parents they showed here were not typical - they were supporting their kids by helping with homework, one was college educated, etc. If only they all supported things would be different. Poverty and crime are real issues that play a role in kids' home lives and their success at school.
- the movie argues that there's a fallacy that some kids can't learn - well, I don't think it's a fallacy entirely - if your mom was in prison (as was one of my own student's mothers), wouldn't you have more on your mind than what was going on at school? How would you be able to concentrate on learning? and that doesn't even touch on kids who come to school unfed or without a winter coat, etc.
- What about the issue of classroom and/or school-wide discipline? If you have an administration that does not support the teacher with discipline or keep order in the halls, things are a mess. At one point when I supervised the halls, I tried to reprimand a student and he shoved me down - then what? I didn't know his name and there weren't any other kids nearby - I told the principal I'd stick to the area outside my own room from then on and unfortunately he couldn't do anything to reprimand that student b/c I didn't know his name, etc.
- re: the focus on charter schools - again, not all charter schools succeed - some fare worse than public schools. And if a child does not behave or perform well, they can kick them out - so they automatically get higher test scores then, etc. Same is true of parochial schools. Public schools have to educate EVERYONE.
- as a BA in journalism, I'd like to say that to be an actual creditable documentary, this film needed to interview more teachers, principals, and others who are in the line of fire - not just news people, "experts" and others who have spent little actual time in the classroom.
- unfortunately, not all kids WANT to soak up learning like the kids in this film. If school is derided or not valued at home, kids pick up on that. Then they don't want to be there, and guess what? Discipline problems ensue.
- on a personal note, my kid's public school lost more than $400,000 last year and is slated to lose more than $500,000 for next year - a school can't fundraise a million to make it up. Class sizes for next year are predicted to be in the 40s. Ironically, while Milw. German Immersion is actually one of the best schools in the district, if not in our state, using the ever-popular test score gauge, it may have to close b/c it does not benefit from the title funds poorer schools get. And while supposedly MPS gets $12,000 per pupil, somehow that translates to MGIS getting less than $4,000/pupil next year. Helena is loving learning German and we're hoping to host a German intern to help provide additional adults at the school, but we're not sure what will happen next year. The forecast of a principal, one secretary, and the classroom teachers with little aide help will put an ever-increasing burden on the faithful parent volunteers who are already doing bus, recess, and lunch duty with little help.

If you're still reading after my tirade, go to - there were some thoughtful user reviews from teachers that might help balance the perspective this movie lent you.

While things certainly need to change, I don't think scapegoating teachers is the end-all, be-all. We need to support their efforts - most love students, love what they teach, and give 110% every day in spite of a myriad of frustrations and now public scrutiny. If we take away their benefits and continue cutting salaries, etc. then you'll end up with more and more retiring or leaving and fewer "good" teachers even entering the profession or going to school to teach. What will that do to our schools??