Last night I had the privilege of attending a screening of “Waiting for Superman” (my second time seeing the movie) sponsored by Educate Our State and the San Francisco Education Fund. Michael Krasny, host of KQED’s highly-rated “Forum” program, also attended, and this morning he devoted the first hour of his radio program to the movie.
This is a long but very worthwhile post on the WaPo’s Answer Sheet blog; it debunks, point by point, many of the claims in the edumentary “Waiting for Superman” (my own review is here). A sample:
*Waiting for Superman says that lack of money is not the problem in education.
Yet the exclusive charter schools featured in the film receive large private subsidies. Two-thirds of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone funding comes from private sources, effectively making the charter school he runs in the zone a highly resourced private school. Promise Academy is in many ways an excellent school, but it is dishonest for the filmmakers to say nothing about the funds it took to create it and the extensive social supports including free medical care and counseling provided by the zone.
In New Jersey, where court decisions mandated similar programs, such as high quality pre-kindergarten classes and extended school days and social services in the poorest urban districts, achievement and graduation rates increased while gaps started to close. But public funding for those programs is now being cut and progress is being eroded. Money matters! Of course, money will not solve all problems (because the problems are more systemic than the resources of any given school) – but the off-handed rejection of a discussion of resources is misleading.
Wednesday evening I’ll be on a panel (moderated KQED’s Michael Krasny) discussing the film after a special screening hosted by the San Francisco Education Fund. Should be interesting!
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).