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  • The Truth Behind Superman

    The documentary film Waiting for Superman follows five children and their families as they struggle to find educational opportunities.  Fed up with the ineffective public schools in their communities, but unable to freely transfer their tax dollars to a school of their choice, the families enter lotteries for the few available slots in private and charter schools.  As an unapologetic denunciation of the American educational system, the film features families openly weeping at the prospect of losing the lottery and returning to the public schools.

    Opinions will vary about the movie’s dramatic style and presentation.  Some viewers are themselves moved to tears, while others chafe at the what they see as an overly emotional message too high on idealism.  Put Ross Douthat of the New York Times in the latter category.  The film is “manipulative, simplistic and more than a little bit utopian,” he wrote in a recent column.  He was quick to add, however, that the director’s “prescription—more accountability for teachers and bureaucrats, and more choices for parents and kids—deserves all the support his film promises to win for it.”

    Douthat’s point is well taken.  No educational intervention can magically make every student above average, and people who leave the theater in search of a panacea will inevitably be disappointed.  But utopianism aside, school choice programs have led to significant positive outcomes that justify the public’s strong support.

    Take charter schools.  They receive public funding but are allowed to operate without the regulatory burden faced by ordinary public schools.  The U.S. Department of Education recently published a rigorous evaluation of charter schools nationwide.  The report’s authors found that parents are by large margins more satisfied with charter schools—and with the academic and social development of their children who attend—than are public school parents. For example, charter schools were rated “excellent” by 85 percent of parents, while non-charter schools received the “excellent” rating by just 37 percent of parents.

    The overall impact of charter school attendance on test scores was insignificant.  In other words, students of similar ability scored about the same on tests whether they went to a charter school or to a regular public school.  This is the dose of realism that Douthat has referenced—test scores are notoriously hard to raise through intervention.

    But given the higher levels of parental satisfaction produced by charter schools, test scores are clearly only one factor parents consider when deciding which schools are best for their children. In fact, parents probably understand the limitations of social policy better than most academics and policymakers. Rather than obsessing over elusive test score gains, parents seem to have a more nuanced and child-specific set of criteria: They want schools that are safe, cultivate a positive attitude about learning, and best fit their children’s abilities and interests. Only school choice programs can satisfy these diverse preferences and expectations.

    Whether a viewer’s reaction to Waiting for Superman is one of passion or skepticism, the real take-away from the film should be that school choice programs benefit both students and their families, and that expanding the programs will expand the benefits.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to The Truth Behind Superman

    1. Thomas A. Coss, Las says:

      There's an old joke about how Germany took Poland during WWII – 'They marched in backwards and said they were leaving'. The evidence is clear if one wishes to see it, that unions have "marched in backwards" and taken over our schools.

      A union is like any other large corporation, they sell influence for the purpose of advantaging themselves. The product union's sell is membership and the value of that membership is in its influence. Unfortunately because all teachers must pay union dues, unions are both tax collectors to their membership, as well as tax benefactors to population in general. It's the perfect business, but like any parasite, runs the risk of killing off its host bringing us to where we are today.

    2. Kelly says:

      You should do a side by side comparison of this fil with the documentary, The Cartel. Another depressing take on the subject that is not getting as much play but shows vividly the unions and their stranglehold on education.

    3. V. Postelmans says:

      Hello, I am a christian mother and grandmother who recognizes that there are a lot of poor children who need a chance for a better education but it bugs me that the people who want to help these children favor the blacks and latinos. While I'm aware that there are a lot of those kids who need help, there are a lot of white children who are poor and/or disadvantaged in one way or another who also need help. I know some of them personally. Could it be that too many want to be politically correct or is there something else going on here?

    4. Pally says:

      For what reason is he ignoring all that "works" for the people? Especially the children. Did the president mean all that "works" for him? Obviously his and those who follow him have core values in conflict with America's. President Obama is provoking Latinos to "punish their enemies." The LEADER OF THIS COUNTRY is promoting violence amongst the citizens, innocent or not.

    5. Linda says:

      I have seen much on TV about the gal who WAS the one doing a lot of cleaning up in DC schools…but as one lady said in comments..there are many white poor children who are as discriminated against as MINORITY's. The greed is so rampart in the administration levels of schools at state and local school districts…The unions that are allowing tenure to teachers who are inept-so reminds me of yrs ago when I was in a community college and the teacher who led the Medical Assistant groups had NOT been in a doctor's office for over 20yrs..we have teachers who are so antiquated or shoving their beliefs down our children and grandchildren is frightening.

    6. IWO V 26 says:

      What is tragic is that we once knew what the formula for success was. In 1950 the American public education system could compete with any system in the world. It produced a generation of highly innovative, capable successful people. It did this in classrooms that frequently numbered more than 50 students. It did this while taking time to instruct students in topics like "civics", "ethics" and even "penmanship" (Anyone remember the 'Palmer Method' ?). It did this while instilling a sense of pride in our country, its history and achievements. (When Sputnik was launched our teacher told us it was up to us to study, become engineers and scientists and insure America remained great – - heck of a challenge to give a 7 year old – thank you Miss Adams where ever you are). WE lost our way when we decided that Education was about social agendas and maintaining Union power.

    7. KLMN says:

      IWO V 26 … well said

    8. Delite, Mesa, Arizon says:

      After 40 years of trying to reform the public schools, I have come to one conclusion that this film backs up. The Public/District Schools cannot be reformed for one simply reason. They are a government-controlled monopoly!!

      In 1970, I found out as a young mother of five children that my voice was too small, unwanted and unheeded because I was just one mother against this monopoly of elites. I was intimitated by "their EDUSPEAK." I was just a mother, I knew nothing, they supposed. But, I did know my children in the public school were learning little to nothing. I became a "mama grizzly bear" in defense of my children and their education.

      Forty years later, my husband and I have an Excelling charter school. Two of our adult children own charter schools and our family have taught thousands of children over the past 15 years in charter schools. Currently, we have 2800 students in our schools this year. We focus on the three "Rs–Reading, Riting and Rithmetic." Character is taught and practiced. The Founding Fathers are appreciated and praised.

      Give parents back the tax money they are forced to pay to support this government monopoly schools and they find the school of their choice. We will then be able restore America's greatness. Let freedom ring!!

    9. George Matthews says:

      Publicly funded yet privately managed – Charter School fraud is an easy concept. Charters can be succesful it depends on the “agenda” of the the managing company. Accountability has not caught up to the growth of the Charter movement. In the USA we have an Islamic Imam – Fethullah Gulen (Gulen Movement) that manages over 130 US Charter schools they have taken over $1 billion in Educational monies in the last 10 years and are growing like rapid fire.

      The Gulen schools have a network of foundations and instutitions layered over the schools and much of our educational money is going to non-educational expenses such as: Turkish Olympiads, trips to Turkey for the students and local politicians, H1-b Visas of over 2,000 uncredentialed teachers from Turkey (while American teachers are handed pink slips) this money is to fuel the grand ambition of Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile (for a reason) in the Poconos, PA area with his $25 billion in wealth from inflitration in: education, media, police, poltics and military. Seems the same model works very nicely in the USA. Do your research!!!
      http://www.charterschoolwatchdog.com http://www.charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com http://gulencharterschools.weebly.com

    10. Cynthia Allen Schenk says:

      After many failed attempts with our local school district I have become an advocate of homeschooling. My children get one on one attention, we also get more in depth on our courses. We combine this with trips to the library and other other museums 2 times a month.

      I am glad there are choices.

      Cynthia Allen Schenk


    11. Larry, Tennessee says:

      Education has went down in this country ever since Jimmie Carter, in his infinite wisdom, establisheed the Department of Education, usurping ywt another state duty. The next president needs to abolish the Department of Education on his first day in office, and watch the shools improve.

    12. Mike Taylor says:

      Gulen Charter Schools, they are all good schools, and doing very well education. If the only thing that they care about is money, than why all parents are very satisfied ad the results are very good. They are good people and they are doing good.

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