Tag Archives: media

‘Waiting for Superman’ — a review

Last week I was invited to a screening of “Waiting for Superman,” a new education documentary that has attracted a lot of attention — it should be released in theaters in late September.  2010 seems to be the year of the “edumentary,” with several films documenting various problems in the U.S. educational system.

I’m torn about how I feel about “Waiting for Superman,” which is the highest-profile of the year’s documentaries. Made by Davis Guggenheim, a filmmaker who won an Oscar for the climate documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” it’s entertaining, with great characters and subject matter that I, at least, find riveting.  It’s an open question whether the moviegoing public will find education reform as compelling as melting polar ice caps, but based on the early buzz and the reactions of the audience I saw, it should do well. The man sitting next to me actually cried out in disbelief at several points; as the lights came up, many people pulled out their cellphones to text the word “Possible” to an address displayed on the screen. (Some kind of pledge to recommend the movie to friends, I think).

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A post-private school city?

In this month’s San Francisco magazine, local writer and parent Diana Kapp has written an article profiling the popular SFKfiles blog and noting a turnaround in San Francisco public schools in recent years (if you can get a copy, the print version is more complete than the online version). My friend Caroline Grannan, a longtime public school parent, activist and education blogger, got a bit breathless at the positive coverage — entirely forgivable after what seems like decades of negative and unfair media coverage that seemed to convince many middle and upper-class families to steer away from San Francisco public schools. (I keep a file of the most egregious examples, so I share her enthusiasm over Ms. Kapp’s article — also, full disclosure: both Caroline and I were interviewed for the piece).

So is this the tipping point? Is “going public” cool and relevant again for middle class urban dwellers?  I hope so, and yet we also need to remember that attracting middle-class families back to our schools is only part of what we need to do here in San Francisco. We need to remember that our African-American students, our Latino students, our low-income students, our special education students and our  English Learner students are all lagging behind where they should be in academic achievement and graduation rates. My middle-class child is doing well in her public school, but other children are not.  And all children in San Francisco would be better served by schools that are adequately-funded.

Remedying this situation will take a community effort – reaching out to parents, policymakers and other community members to make sure that everyone understands the goal and is working together to achieve it.