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is the new film by Davis Guggenheim (who won an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth).  It is already being heavily touted by those on the Educational right, including unfortunately some Democrats (as in Democrats for Educational Reform) and quite a few in the media.

It will not be officially released until September 24, but there have been selected previews already, in an attempt to build a buzz in its favor.

Let me be clear -  I have not yet seen it.  Thus the purpose of this diary is not to critique the film.  Rather, it is to provide some context as Guggenheim and his supporters attempt to establish a frame in support of the film.

For one review that is more than a little critical, you can read what John Merrow had to say at his Learning Matters blog.

Below the fold I will offer a snip from that, as well as something more extensive from another source.  Please keep reading.

From Merrow, who discloses at the top an ongoing conflict with Guggenheim so that readers can draw their own conclusions whether that effects this review, let me simply offer  

...the film strikes me as a mishmash of contradictions and unsupportable generalizations, even half-truth And while it may make for box office, its message is oversimplified to the point of being insulting.

The emphasis is in the original.  

From those with whom I have communicated directly who have both seen the film and read Merrow's review, while they may quibble on some details in his review they generally agree with it.   But then, those with whom I communicated tend to think very similarly to me on matters educational.

I am as someone well-known for writing about education online and occasionally in print on a number of press distribution lists.  That is true for the American Federation of Teachers, which earlier this week sent out the following, which is quoted in it's entirety, except I have xxed out the contact phone number:  

To:    Members of the Media

From: Randi Weingarten, AFT President

Date:  September 8, 2010

Re:     Response to "Waiting for Superman"

Is America ready to settle for a good education—for the few? That’s the unfortunate takeaway from a soon-to-be released documentary film, "Waiting for ‘Superman.’" The film, by Davis Guggenheim, shows how tragically far we are from the great American ideal of providing all children with the excellent education they need and deserve. Yet, despite Guggenheim’s unquestionably good intentions, "Waiting for ‘Superman’" is inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete—and misses what could have been a unique opportunity to portray the full and accurate story of our public schools.

"Waiting for ‘Superman’" has been screened by private audiences throughout the country and will be released for the general public on Sept. 24. In the event that you write about the film, I wanted to share my thoughts directly with you about it.

One can’t help but be moved by the stories of the five children and their families Guggenheim follows as they encounter a lottery system for admission to the schools upon which they are pinning their hopes for a good education. Their stories, in a very real and emotional way, drive home the point that the opportunity for a great public education should come not by chance, but by right.

But the filmmaker’s storytelling falters in other key areas. The film casts several outliers in starring roles—for example, "bad" teachers and teachers unions as the villains, and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The problem is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual.

There are more than 3 million teachers working in our 130,000 public schools. Are there bad teachers? Of course there are, just as there are bad accountants, and lawyers, and actors. I wish there were none. There also are countless good, great and exceptional teachers working in our public schools every day in neighborhoods across the country—although for this film, they apparently ended up on the cutting room floor. It is shameful to suggest, as the film does, that the deplorable behavior of one or two teachers (including an example more than two decades old) is representative of all public school teachers.

Guggenheim has found ways to make facts and data interesting, even entertaining. But, when certain facts don’t advance his story line, he makes them disappear. The treatment of charter schools is one of the most glaring inconsistencies in "Waiting for ‘Superman.’" Guggenheim makes only glancing reference to the poor achievement of most charter schools, despite the abundance of independent research showing that most charter schools perform worse than or only about as well as comparable regular public schools. Nevertheless, he illogically holds them up as the ticket to a good education for disadvantaged students.

I wish all schools had the wealth of resources enjoyed by the charter schools featured in the film, which are part of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The charter schools in the HCZ have what we should be fighting to have in every public school—services that help eradicate the barriers to academic success, and funding to ensure that students and teachers have the tools they need to succeed. HCZ schools receive two-thirds of their funding from private sources and one-third from the government. This private money funds staff and curriculum, as well as extensive medical, dental and tutorial services. We know kids’ needs are met when these wraparound services are combined with high-quality instructional programs. In the end, funding these programs will make a fundamental difference for all children.

"Waiting for ‘Superman’" misses two crucial points. First, we have to be committed to supporting a public school system that provides all our children with access to a great education. And second, we must focus our efforts on the most promising and proven approaches—those great neighborhood public schools that work. I’ve seen such success stories across the country in schools that reduce barriers to academic success, as is done in the HCZ schools; schools that offer great curriculum, extra help for students who start or fall behind, and supports for teachers. Where the system has failed is to not take these proven models and scale them up. The solutions aren’t the stuff of action flicks, but they work.

Films like "Waiting for ‘Superman’" are gripping for a reason: They connect us to real life struggles. They may even call much-needed attention to the challenges confronting many students and schools. But the attention will be misplaced, if it centers on off-base solutions and denigrating good teachers rather than on what works to improve our schools.

Imagine a sequel to "Waiting for ‘Superman’" released a few years from now. Would we rather stick to the cinematic model of providing an escape hatch—sometimes superior, most often inferior—to a handful of students? Or would we offer a model in which we had summoned the will to do the hard but effective and far-reaching work required to make meaningful changes to entire school systems, providing all children with the best possible choice—a highly effective neighborhood school?

The most effective solutions didn’t make it into the film. In other words, Guggenheim ignored what works: developing and supporting great teachers; implementing valid and comprehensive evaluation systems that inform teaching and learning; creating great curriculum and the conditions that promote learning for all kids; and insisting on shared responsibility and mutual accountability that hold everyone, not just teachers, responsible for ensuring that all our children receive a great education.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further. To learn more about the AFT’s work to improve teaching and learning, and about public schools that help students succeed despite great challenges, please contact Michael Powell, the assistant to the president for communications, at xxx/xxx-xxxx, or go to AFT.org.

Much of what is currently happening about education policy involves trying to control the terms of the debate.  We have seen this with the remarks of both Duncan and Obama on things like all the teachers being fired at Central Falls in RI, or of Duncan's comments about what the LA Times did with value added scores of elementary school teachers.  It has been very hard to get other voices heard, which has led to Duncan saying that he has encountered no opposition to the administration's educational plans while on listening tour.  If he did not, it was either because he was not listening or that such voices are excluded from public forums in which he appears.  I know that he has been challenged publicly by both Democrats and Republicans on the House Committee on Education and Labor.  We have had a joint statement by a number of civil rights organizations.  We have an alternative proposal for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act offered by Senators Feingold and Leahy.  We have Diane Ravitch's blockbuster book.  We the the policy brief on using value-added methodology to evaluate teachers put out recently by EPI.  We have had conference calls where Duncan has been in contact with National Board Certified teachers and with members of the Steering Committee of Teachers Letters to Obama.   In those two conference calls people tried to offer different points of view but those at the Department of Education, including Duncan, largely repeated their talking points.

You can, and should, draw your own conclusions about this film.  I will draw my own when I see it.

In the meantime, I thought it important to point people at the two most prominent critiques of which I am currently aware.  

Draws your own conclusions, yes.   But be aware that there are those trying to frame the conversation about the film in a way that excludes contrary opinions, the same way as such opinions are notably missing from the film, and far too often are not included in the conversations about education policy as presented in the mass media.

Peace.

Originally posted to teacherken on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 04:58 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  one quick note (16+ / 0-)

    since the Weingarten letter was an open message to the media, and she is seeking to have her side heard, and since there was nothing about its contents being embargoed, I felt justified in offering it here.  After all, in many ways we collectively at this site are the media.

    I will be happy, time allowing, to engage in discussion.  My sole reason in offering this piece was to make people aware of the contrary voices that so far seem to be being drowned out by the spin in favor of the film.

    Peace.

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:11:00 AM PDT

  •  I saw the trailer. That alone made me tear up. (15+ / 0-)

    So it's definitely going to pull some heartstrings as you share in the excitement (and presumably, crushing disappointment) of these kids and what they see as their lone hope for the future.

    But even from the trailer, I could tell that it was going to hold up the charter school system as the titular Superman. That alone seems to send a contradictory message, given that the film's climax appears to be a lottery where hundreds (if not thousands) of kids are waiting to see if their number will be drawn for a handful of spots.

    Ignoring the studies which show that charter schools DON'T really outperform public schools, what help are they if a majority of kids are left behind?

    Seems to me that if the charter schools provide such an excellent opportunity for a few, we should settle for nothing less than the full implementation of all those things which work so well for charters (medical and dental care, tutoring services, smaller classrooms) in our public schools.

    Regards,
    Corporate Dog

    -----
    We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

    by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:23:57 AM PDT

    •  Yes (5+ / 0-)

      Charter school test scores often lag the worst public schools in a city.

      "I've never believed that government's role is to create jobs . . . So this week, I've proposed a six year infrastructure plan."

      by Paleo on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:34:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The movie actually doesn't talk about that point (6+ / 0-)

      It ignores the private dollars that are funding the extra social services in the Harlem Children's Zone.  In fact the movie doesn't talk about the centrality of those services to addressing the achievement gap. I don't have a beef with Geoff Canada's work. What he does is very different from most charters, and is way more expensive than what traditional public schools and charters do. He doesn't like unions, but that doesn't mean he isn't doing good work. I do think the movie distorts his work and makes it seem like charter schools in and of themselves are good, when the research says they're not. And it says that they are good because they're non union.  

      •  There was a 60 Minutes piece (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ScienceMom, laborish, Corporate Dog

        There was a 60 Minutes bit on a private charter boarding school in DC that had a bit of this storyline to it.  The school itself has apparently done tremendously well, through a big endowment and small class sizes and strict rules.  But piling all these resources into a few kids, while wonderful for the lucky kids who get them, is bad for society as a whole.  

        I vaguely remember a study a few years back, about the most effective investment of education dollars in third world countries.  They found that some third world countries focused on getting the highest level of education for a few (politically connected) kids, and others spent the same dollars on raising the level of primary education.  Ten-twenty years later, the countries who taught the whole population to read and write were far better off than the ones who created a few technocrats.

    •  Charter schools. Grrrr... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      laborish, LWelsch

      I have a dear friend working for a charter school in LA Unified School District, who I encourage every time I talk to her to keep detailed notes on what she sees.

      It's appalling, and so, so illegal.  But nobody wants to speak up.

      Charter schools are for profit schools, at least the ones I have experience with, and for profit schools, like for profit insurance companies or hospitals or anything else providing a public service, is rife with conflict of interests.

      I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

      by coquiero on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:00:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem is lumping one charter with all (5+ / 0-)

      charter schools.  My son attended a charter school in Houston, and it was not the experience that we were promised in the brochure.  The class size was twice what we were told it would be, and the kids were out of control.  I got the feeling that the teachers were allowing the kids to maintain control of the school more than they were maintaining control of the kids.

      Either way, we left that school about a month after we enrolled.  It had its good points, more classes, a foreign language, more advanced curriculum than the public school - but I don't think it's worth the perverse incentive that it creates to make public schools worse in order to encourage parents to enroll their children in these corporate-owned profit centers.

      I haven't seen the movie, but from what I've heard about Harlem experimental schools and what I saw on the trailer, I don't think the school in the movie is at all similar to the majority of charter schools.

      Snarka Snarka Snarka!

      by Hunter Huxley on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:26:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  At least you were able to leave (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LWelsch, Hunter Huxley

        It's the disadvantaged kids who get really screwed over.  

        My two favorite horror stories were how a glorious new facility was built to house about 1/10 of the population of the "charter school district", which was shown to investors as an example of their facilities, when in fact the rest of the children were in poorly maintained, run down facilities.

        The other was how the principals husband's company got the uniform contract and so the children were forced to buy overpriced, fancy uniforms that they couldn't afford, or be out of compliance.

        The alternative for them was to go back to the highly unsafe "public" school in their area.

        I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

        by coquiero on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:38:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  About Central Falls High School (5+ / 0-)

    was just another exampled of the failure of the City of Central Falls.  All of the cities public institutions are a mess to include Fire and Police.

    Central Falls is a very, very poor city and should not be an example of an average high school in America.

    •  wow, that was horrible writing! (5+ / 0-)

      I still need to wake up.

      Central Falls has issues and it's high school is just another example of the city's many failings.

    •  Yep. These things have to be looked at... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Corporate Dog, Dichro Gal

      ...in a larger context.

      Why is Central Falls so poor? Because the rich and upper middle class people abandoned their responsibility to the community and moved to places with better public schools (or more accessible elite private schools) and better city services paid for by tax dollars.

      While there are exceptions to this general rule, in the aggregate, poor children cannot learn as well as the children of the middle or upper classes. Children who don't get a good breakfast, or don't get good nutrition in general, or are in houses where the parents don't read or aren't educated, or have family situations that are dysfunctional, insecure or broken, aren't going to learn as well as kids with the corresponding advantages.

      When we put the entire responsibility for "closing the achievement gap" on schools, we ignore the bulk of the problem: The achievement gap is the way in which the wealth gap expresses itself in education.

      What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

      by mistersite on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:07:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm sick and tired of the demonization (18+ / 0-)
    of the public school system and public school teachers.  They are being used as a scapegoat for the problems of many schools, when the problem is the socioeconomic conditions, including broken families.

    It is part of a larger sought on the public sector, as typified by privatization.

    "I've never believed that government's role is to create jobs . . . So this week, I've proposed a six year infrastructure plan."

    by Paleo on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:32:40 AM PDT

    •  Honestly, I never hear people denigrate (3+ / 0-)

      teachers. I think people are naturally inclined to support teachers; we've all had great, influential teachers and we've seen our children experience them as well. What gets peoples' blood boiling is the mention of teachers unions. Whatever you want to say about them, the teachers unions have somehow earned themselves quite a bad reputation, a reputation for always asking for too much and never compromising. I have no idea if that's scientifically true, but I do know that people THINK it is true. The teachers unions are sorely in need of some good PR.

      I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

      by doc2 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:38:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Listen closer (11+ / 0-)

        I often hear about how teachers are overpaid, have the summer off, tenure, etc.  As for teachers' unions, it depends on what you call "compromsing."  Why should they compromise with bad ideas, or ideas designed to undermine teacher solidarity in the guise of "reform."

        "I've never believed that government's role is to create jobs . . . So this week, I've proposed a six year infrastructure plan."

        by Paleo on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:42:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That wasn't my point at all. (4+ / 0-)

          The point is that teacher's unions are so hated by the public that it is impacting the public's support for teachers themselves. My comment is not about the facts but about the perception. What are teachers going to do about getting the public to understand and be okay with their unions? Because teachers have a big publicity problem vis a vis their unions.

          I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

          by doc2 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:49:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What to do (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis, Dirtandiron

            I know in my state the NJEA spends a lot on puff piece commercials and newspaper ads.  That's about the best you can do when you are constantly under attack by politicians and the corporate media.

            "I've never believed that government's role is to create jobs . . . So this week, I've proposed a six year infrastructure plan."

            by Paleo on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:53:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, what I think they should do (0+ / 0-)

              better at is publicing the thought behind their positions when they are in the midst of negotiations. That is when they are in the public eye, and that is when they need to explain their positions to counter the politicians on the other side. They don't do a good job of this.

              I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

              by doc2 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:11:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  The Pie is no Longer Growing (2+ / 1-)
            Recommended by:
            doc2, SooperDem
            Hidden by:
            Dirtandiron

            In Chicago, the mayor had to dip into a 2B slush fund (courtesy of privatizing a Tollway and the Parking Meters), which was supposed to last 75 years, to plug a budget deficit of 1.3B over the last 2 years.  This year, the mayor may need to use the remaining 600M of that fund to plug another 650M deficit.  (Over the last three years, the deficit has been about 10% of the total budget, even after federal transfer payments).

            In NJ, Corzine had to increase the sales tax by 16% in part to come through for the service unions.  He lost.

            In LA, the mayor has said that the teachers union is being unreasonable.

            It's not the teachers union.  It's, regrettably, all the service unions which refuse to acknowledge the new normal.

            I ask the following.

            Instead of asking for the working and middle-class to pay higher taxes, why can't the service unions coalesce around a national effort to tax wealth?

            Why not have the Buffets and Ellisons of the US contribute 8% of their net capital each year to the federal government?

            Instead, many service unions send their members to state capitals to scream, "Raise my Taxes, Raise my Taxes", which inevitably means raise taxes on the working and middle-class.

            We saw what happened in NJ after Corzine did just that.

            In IL, the Dem Governor, Quinn, has promised to increase the income tax by 66% on every household.

            He's losing by 10% points to a GOPer in President Obama's home state.

            In CA, Jerry Brown told the SF Chronicle editorial board that he will ask the service unions to reduce their demands.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

            by PatriciaVa on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:10:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What on Earth are you smoking? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dirtandiron

              And are you certain it's not hallucinogenic?

              Instead of asking for the working and middle-class to pay higher taxes, why can't the service unions coalesce around a national effort to tax wealth?

              Why not have the Buffets and Ellisons of the US contribute 8% of their net capital each year to the federal government?

              Instead, many service unions send their members to state capitals to scream, "Raise my Taxes, Raise my Taxes", which inevitably means raise taxes on the working and middle-class.

              Find me one union that would send that nonsensical and contradictory message. Okay: maybe the Iconoclasts Union Local 578. Those crazy motherfuckers send lobbyists to Washington to pass on the message that they don't want or need anything from their legislators.

              But otherwise, I'm not sure where you're getting this from.

              Regards,
              Corporate Dog

              -----
              We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

              by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:17:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Made National Headlines... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                doc2

                ...and one of the reasons why the IL governor is polling so poorly.

                Ten years ago, with the median wage having grown over the last ten years, no problem.  The middle-class did not mind shouldering a higher tax burden.

                But as President Obama said during the campaign, the median wage has stagnated over the last ten years.

                http://articles.chicagotribune.com/...

                Thousands rally at Illinois Capitol — for a tax increase

                Teachers, union workers face lawmakers who don’t want to vote for increase in an election year

                April 21, 2010|By Ray Long and Michelle Manchir, Tribune reporters

                SPRINGFIELD — — Thousands of teachers and other union workers descended on the state Capitol on Wednesday and chanted "raise my taxes" to try to pressure politicians to avoid major budget cuts.

                The vibe was the exact opposite of what you'd find at a tea party rally. But the loud chants barely resonated inside the Capitol, where lawmakers are trying to exit Springfield in a couple of weeks without voting for a tax increase that could jeopardize their re-election chances in little more than six months.

                Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

                by PatriciaVa on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:22:55 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  A cute rally slogan... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Dirtandiron

                  ... isn't the same thing as a legislative imperative.

                  If they came out chanting, "Eat the rich.", I suspect the article would've had a different tone.

                  Likewise, if they came out chanting about fair taxation, their protest would've sounded little different from the tea-party rallies that are mentioned in the article, even if the substance behind their rally was markedly different.

                  The slogan was a calculation designed to get press. Nothing more. Across the board, unions want exactly what you're suggesting: fair taxation, with the wealthiest absorbing more of the costs, particularly since the increase in cost-of-benefits for the unions can be pinned directly ON the wealthiest.

                  Regards,
                  Corporate Dog

                  -----
                  We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

                  by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:31:02 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  In Illinois (3+ / 0-)

                  The union coalition was backing a proposal that would increase the income tax, increase the initial exemption and lower the property tax.  That would make the overall tax system much more progressive.  This is a good review of the plan. You're simply wrong on the facts here.

                  •  We just moved from New Hampshire. (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    laborish, Dirtandiron, coquiero

                    My wife still teaches there.

                    And this year they were forced to make some DRASTIC cuts to school district funding.

                    Because New Hampshire has a completely regressive tax system with no income tax, but high property taxes.

                    And the same sort of people who want to keep that system in perpetuity, ALSO managed to push through a municipal tax cap in our (then) hometown.

                    Meanwhile, over the border in Maine, my taxes are just a touch higher than they were (more property, significantly lower property tax, and a mostly fair income tax) but the school system?

                    Heaven. One of the best in the state, in fact. It makes me so happy for my kids, and so sad for my wife.

                    Regards,
                    Corporate Dog

                    -----
                    We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

                    by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:42:10 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Why not simply call for a graduated Income Tax? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    laborish

                    Why not have the union and the Governor call for a 5% excise tax on income over 250K a year.

                    Why not have the union and the Governor call for a 40% state tax on short term capital gains so that the Ken Griffins of Illinois (Citadel hedge fund, net worth over 3B) pay their fair share?

                    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

                    by PatriciaVa on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:44:11 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  You are spreading debunked right wing talking (0+ / 0-)

              points. The sales tax may have been raised by 16% but it is NOT 16% it is 7%, as your wording implies. The sales tax increase was under Governor Jim Florio in the early 1990s not Governor Corzine! You have been told this 10 times or more already. Please check out this "kudos to BP"gem from PatriciaVa before you uprate. Patricia's Greatest Hits

        •  Don't think I've ever heard someone say a teacher (0+ / 0-)

          is overpaid. I've heard that about admins, though.

          My personal experience is right with Paleo's...the Union seems to be a PR hindrance as much as it is a help to teachers.

          Yep, I'm a newb. Nope, pointing that out isn't worth anything other than an addition to your ad-hominem collection.

          by SooperDem on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:22:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Read the LTEs in my local paper. (5+ / 0-)

            You'd think teachers were whooping it up in swimming pools and limousines, the week after the paper decided to publish the names and "salaries" (pay + cost of benefits) of the district's teachers.

            Regards,
            Corporate Dog

            -----
            We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

            by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:32:38 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I certainly don't deny that it happens. (0+ / 0-)

              I try not to put too much worry in my heart from the opinions in newspaper LTE's though..no better than anonymous interweb rants from technologically-inept people, imo.

              Yep, I'm a newb. Nope, pointing that out isn't worth anything other than an addition to your ad-hominem collection.

              by SooperDem on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:39:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  Then I don't think you've been paying attention. (3+ / 0-)

            Don't think I've ever heard someone say a teacher is overpaid.

            This has been a right-wing meme for ages - and is only being amplified as the private sector cuts back. They're trying to present public servants - whose unions have won them the kind of living wages, due process, good benefits, and pensions that all workers should have - as a sort of "new aristocracy" to turn the public's attention away from the greed and avarice of the wealthy.

            What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

            by mistersite on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:11:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I do (6+ / 0-)

        I hear all the time what an easy job teachers have, how they get 3 months vacation, they only teach a few hours a day, they get home early, they don't have to work weekends, they don't care anyway, etc...

        Folks have a maddeningly dim view of teachers.

      •  It's a right-wing meme... (4+ / 0-)

        ...to rhetorically separate teachers from the teachers' unions.

        Teachers' unions are teachers. If you demonize the union, you're demonizing teachers. If you attack the union, you're attacking teachers.

        Everyone who hates the teachers' union hates teachers. It's really that simple. We need to proclaim it loudly and proudly. If you oppose the teachers' union, you really hate teachers.

        What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

        by mistersite on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:09:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The leaders of large teachers unions (0+ / 0-)

          are no longer teachers. They are full-time, highly paid union professionals. These people have an inherent conflict of interest between doing what is best for their constituents and what is best for themselves in terms of keeping their jobs as union leaders. That is a built-in problem with all large unions, but most other unions have been able to preserve better reputations for their members in negotiations. Teachers unions are the reason that so many people resent teacher pay and benefits. Perhaps it's totally unfair, but it is so.

          I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

          by doc2 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:34:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sorry, but you are simply wrong (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            laborish, Dirtandiron

            the #2 at NEA, Lily Eskelsen, was Utah's teacher of the year, and while she is now fulltime with the union, she has a laser-like focus on what matters to teachers.

            While I was not there because I was volunteering at the free health event in Wise VA, I understand those who experienced her at NN10 in Vegas were very impressed.

            "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

            by teacherken on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:36:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dirtandiron

            How does an elected official of a union have a conflict between doing what's best for themselves and their constituents?

  •  I tried to see it when it was at SilverDocs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, Only Needs a Beat

    but it was a big draw.  I know that Rhee was prominently featured in the trailer.  No doubt, that's how it will be billed in D.C.  Will see after Tuesday if that means anything.

    No, it's never just been in the South.

    by conlakappa on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:39:06 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, teacherken... (4+ / 0-)

    I wasn't aware of "Waiting for Superman" until reading your diary this AM. I look forward to seeing it, and I look forward to your comments after you've seen it.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:41:42 AM PDT

  •  Tearing Up (6+ / 0-)

    Ah--that's the point. The movie will grab hearts, using the desperate emotions of real kids who want to succeed.

    In tough urban areas, charters are often a good solution, if parents have the wherewithal to register kids, buy uniforms and supplies, and provide daily transportation as well as meet other parenting requirements set by the charter. Using artificial scarcity (only so many slots!) makes what amounts to merely OK schooling in many cases (using a revolving cast of novice teachers and Burger King working conditions) seem like the holy grail.

    Corporate Dog is right--the question is: why don't we have these amenities in all our public schools?

    •  But that costs MONEY, SLT! (0+ / 0-)

      And the private sector can do these things so much better and cheaper than the government can!

      Regards,
      Corporate Dog
      The DoD Contractor

      -----
      We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

      by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:53:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It occurs to me that my snark might not be clear. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        laborish, gulfgal98

        My point was that I'm right here, in the thick of the worst excesses of corporate and government waste.

        Regards,
        Corporate Dog

        -----
        We didn't elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one. -- Eugene Robinson

        by Corporate Dog on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:59:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Answer... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Corporate Dog

      why don't we have these amenities in all our public schools?

      Because it would make sense.  And there are some in positions of power who merely exist to ensure that things don't make sense--to maintain a status quo where only a few educated rise to the level of the Elites.

      "Grow up Democrats. Face the music. Do it alone. You're the majority." -- Rachel Maddow

      by cybrestrike on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 05:56:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  my brother is in a charter school now (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, coquiero, political mutt

    Just started 7th grade. I feel bad because I know the secret mission of the charter school movement is to destroy teachers unions and the public school system. What the charter school my brother goes to does is they only allow the smarter kids. That's what they say anyway, I'm not sure how that jibes with the stats showing grades at charter schools aren't better than at public schools. I think it depends on the public school. At my brother's old school they didn't let the kids take home the books to do homework with.

    Think about that, how can you study without the book? They were worried the kids wouldn't bring them back I guess. That's a big problem if the parents aren't around to make sure the kids bring the books back to class. That hurt my brother's ability to do homework and learn. At the charter school he can take the books home and to me that made going to the charter school a no brainer. But I'm torn because I know in the big picture charter schools will only make the education system worse.

    •  Wow (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, joycemocha

      They're not really supposed to only allow the smarter kids. Generally the charters that game the system are slyer about that.  Some only allow kids to come in at the entry grade point (say 6th grade for a middle school) and then they counsel out kids along the way, so that each successive year the cohort is a little brighter and more engaged.  Others will have placement exams not for admission but to place you in grade, so that they might take you but they'll move your third grader down to second.  That's a discouragement for parents. Of course, there are also many that play things straight up.  

    •  Let's see how your brother does, first. (0+ / 0-)

      Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

      by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:17:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because one student is indicitive of a system's (0+ / 0-)

        success?

        Yep, I'm a newb. Nope, pointing that out isn't worth anything other than an addition to your ad-hominem collection.

        by SooperDem on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:25:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  When you string enough successes together, yes. (0+ / 0-)

          Let's see how the experiment plays out.    It can't be any worse than the school where his brother went last year.  

          Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

          by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:26:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Definitely (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joycemocha

        I think one big factor is him being able to take books home. So many times I would try to help him with his homework, last year in sixth grade, there were things that you need the book to do. I'd tell him to check the internet, wikipedia, but a lot of times it would be better to just have the book. I'm not sure how the teachers at the public school expected kids to learn like that. So just by that fact I bet my brother will do better. It's really based on economics though. As soon as the charter schools kill off the public schools, watch how quick the charter schools stop letting the kids take home the books too. Just to save money. It's a slippery slope, I'm glad my brother will do better in a microcosm of this issue but in the big picture I see things getting worse.

        •  Who says that is their purpose, or that this (0+ / 0-)

          will happen?

          As soon as the charter schools kill off the public schools

          Where I live, our public schools are excellent, and get great results.  Charter schools can't compete here.  

          Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

          by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:30:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  charters are a right wing idea (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blueoasis

            To me I just assume the worst. The public school system here is very poor. I went to a public schools in the city here that is poor from k - 8th grade myself, then a more affluent public high school in high school, and the difference is as you say it is. Blue ribbon, kids going on to ivy leagues and such. Main reason is money. Unfortunately.

            Cities are going bankrupt so there's even less money for their already poor public schools. Charter schools are exaserbating the problem by siphoning off the smarter kids like my brother, which I know sounds egotistical but he was getting some of the better grades in his old school. So that will make the charter school's have better test grades, make them look like they are better at teaching the kids when really it was just having the smarter kids there. Charter schools get public money just like public schools so calling them private is funny. It's just a way to kill teachers unions, and I am very pro union so that is a big problem with me.

            •  Yeah, that Albert Shanker was a real winger. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Meteor Blades

              Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

              by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:48:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  not originally (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Meteor Blades, laborish

              charter schools as proposed by Al Shanker and Ray Budde conceived of teacher-run schools to meet specific needs of students.   When Shanker saw the direction charters were going, he changed his mind about them.

              That said, there are charters that meet specific needs not otherwise being met.

              The idea of for-profit chains running large numbers of charter schools, or of charter boards paying themselves and key staff exorbitant amounts of money was not part of the original conception.

              At least one chain of charters, Green Dot, is open to a unionized work force.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:38:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of times in the public school (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis

          setting, the main reason kids can't take books home is that the district only ordered a "classroom set."  No extras, and if they lose even one book, they're short a text for the classroom.

          Charters, on the other hand, usually get access to much more material, and if they want to have a book for every student (so that student can take the book home) instead of a single classroom set, they can.

          •  That's what I figured (0+ / 0-)

            So why do charters get access to more material, is it because their teachers aren't union so they get paid less?

            •  It's because they're usually funded... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              laborish, House of Gin

              ...by big foundations like the Gates Foundation or any number of hedge fund groups. They take a bunch of private money to give them resources far above those of public schools, covertly get rid of any kid who would drag their school's test scores down, and then crow that they're better than the public schools.

              This is a total victory for the greedy CEOs and hedge fund managers: they not only get to hide their money away in tax-deductible foundations and look like heroes for doing it, they also get to do so in a way that pushes an anti-public-education agenda - which creates a less-critical citizenry that won't question future wealth and power grabs.

              Why the hell do we think Bill Gates, who's never spent a single day running a classroom, knows a single damn thing about education? What qualifies him to set education policy - as the Gates Foundation does - rather than the experts who actually know about education?

              Further, why is the agenda of teachers' unions - which exist to represent the people who actually know what it takes to educate a child - constantly under question, while the motivations and agenda of the rich hedge fund managers and CEOs who fund and run charter schools are never given any scrutiny?

              What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

              by mistersite on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:21:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Grades are subjective (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis

      You can curve grades, so that kids get a grade relative to the rest of the class, or you can grade on a "straight percentage," essentially relative to the teacher's idea of what level is an A, a B, etc.  Even on a percentage scale, teachers' opinions differ.

      In addition, student grades depend on all of the components of the grade, homework, class participation, in class work, exams, lab procedure, lab reports, and the makeup of grades stated in the syllabus may or may not reflect the strengths of an individual student.

      On top of that, exam questions may or may not be phrased in a way that cues a given student what approach is needed to answer the question, or they may inadvertently reward incidental knowledge (for example, facility with math by a math major taking a chemistry class) rather than subject matter knowledge.

      In giving partial credit, how much do you give?  If a student has one bad exam but otherwise uniformly good work, do you decide to weight the bad exam less?  Suppose it was the first exam, and s/he's improved steadily to solid A work in the second half of the course?

      At least, these were some of the things I struggled with in trying to assign fair grades during my three years of teaching.

      •  not with no child left behind tests (0+ / 0-)

        the teachers aren't able to curve those. And those tests decide what schools get closed down.

        •  I was responding to a comment about grades, (0+ / 0-)

          not tests.

          But I disagree.  Standardized tests are made for finagling.  That's why, IMO, NCLB is a boondoggle.

          Create a new test instrument, and administer it.  You'll get a baseline level of scores.  Apply motivation to teachers and administrators to raise scores.  They will.  Just watch.  They can teach to the test (and any curious student who is engaged with the subject matter and asks a question will be told, "you don't have to know that, it's not on the test).  They can drill students on the test question format.  They can teach students statistical strategies to improve scores on multiple-choice tests.  They can play with promotions and holding students back, even with assigning better students to favored teachers, if they want (not that I personally have evidence of anyone's doing this).

          They can even play with categories, resisting acknowledging students' disabilities so as to reduce the number in the SWD category.

          Apply motivation to schools and teachers to raise scores, and scores will go up.  It won't have anything to do with quality of education, unless the attention to test-taking means less attention to things that count.  But it gives politicians fodder for patting themselves on the back and waving around numbers and charts that purport to show they've accomplished something.

          •  you can teach for the test (0+ / 0-)

            but that's not the same as grading on a cuve. Grading on a curve can be a good thing, as long as it's a good teacher. Teaching for the test is never a good thing. I thought you were saying grades are subjective meaning that is a bad thing. Of course we know that grades don't 100% accurately describe what a student knows and has learned.

            •  What I meant (?) (0+ / 0-)

              Initially, I responded to a statement that grades were the same at two different schools, which seemed to be taken as evidence that the student bodies were at the same level.

              I don't believe that the same grades from two different institutions means the institutions are at the same level, or that their respective students are at the same level.  The standards at the two institutions might be different.

              My experience having to give grades that were a factor in students' admission to professional schools is that there are a whole lot of things confounding the effort to do so fairly.  This is a different issue than institutional standards, but IMO important in any discussion of grades.  However hard we try, they are not some kind of objective measure of the quality of a student's work.

              Grading on a curve means a student's grades depend on who else is in the class and what they do.  Given the extent to which my class makeup varied in only three years of teaching, I have serious reservations about grading on a curve.

    •  At least he had homework. (0+ / 0-)

      All they did at my kids old public school was teach TAKS testing.

      It wouldn't have been fair to send home homework, the teacher said, because some of the kids were poor and their parents couldn't help them with it.

      Snarka Snarka Snarka!

      by Hunter Huxley on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:27:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The fact that the AFT lobbied for funding cuts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HamdenRice

    for charter schools in urban areas is, to me, disgraceful.  That's like voting against some types of medical research because it might reveal a cure that threatens your job.  

    I have taught, albeit at the college level, and it was always my understanding that the role of a teacher is to set the hearts of youth aflame with a desire for knowledge and not protect my job.  

    I will be sure to see this movie, and look forward to Randi Weingarten's post movie viewing comments.   Thanks for sharing this story with us, teacherken.  Good job, as always.  Tipped and rec'd.

    Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

    by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:12:57 AM PDT

    •  Is that quite right? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Corporate Dog

      If you're referring to NY?  My understanding was that they lobbied to have the funding cuts be applied equally to both charters and traditional public schools, while all the while lobbying for new revenues that would minimize the cuts for everyone. The story that they did any more than lobby for everyone to take the same pain, once the pain was coming, is I think part of the union busting message that's being put down there.  

    •  sorry, but few charters are providing research (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coquiero

      they come in with a model that in some cases is more rigid than what exists in the public schools.

      And despite all the glorification some make of charter schools, the large study at Stanford found a higher percentage of charters performing worse than percentage performing better than public schools, while most perform about the same.

      To date no one has demonstrated why in order to be successful in a meaningful academic way it is necessary to allow charters to bust unions.   Since the intent of many advocates of charters includes busting unions, along with those at hedge funds who have figured out a way to make a profit for their investors, maybe just maybe the unions are correct in saying it is inappropriate to take funds away from public education to benefit privatized interests?

      Please note -  I know some charter schools that address specific needs.  Yet the ones I know the most about are able to do what they do because they spend significantly more per student, often taking advantage of funds from foundations etc. run by people who for whatever reason want to increase chartering and cut back or eliminate regular public schools.  

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:44:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For me, charter schools in urban areas serve a (0+ / 0-)

        very good and limited purpose.  They provide a well needed incentive for making public schools systems more competitive.  

        In New Jersey, unlike in some other states:

        *Charter schools may not charge tuition.

        * A private or parochial school may not convert to a charter school.

        * A charter school is open to all students on a space-available basis with preference being given to students from the district of residence or region of residence of the charter school.

        *  All classroom teachers and professional support staff must hold appropriate New Jersey certification.

        A 2007 Rutgers University study finds that the "competition effect" created by charter schools is positive, where the NJDOE weeds out poorly performing charter schools, as has been the case.   I commend the following to you for your study.  

        http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/...

        I little healthy competition never hurt anyone.  Once the impetus provided by competition elevates the results in all districts, charter schools, being a means to an end, will no longer be necessary.  They are now.  

        Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

        by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 09:49:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  PS: I will find the NJDOE comparative cost data (0+ / 0-)

          You would surprised how much money our Abbott Districts piss away, and how well charter schools can do at a modest per pupil savings.  

          Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

          by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 09:50:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We can go dueling studies all day (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SpamNunn

            There's this and this and this to start on whether charter schools do any better.  And there's this and this indicating that they don't make other schools better.  And there's  this, indicating that they've contributed to the "downward spiral" of the Detroit public schools. Having said all that, I don't think they're all bad. I just think if you cherrypick the research you're doing exactly what Ken is criticizing Guggenheim for doing in the film.

            •  In NJ, some of the charter schools have been (0+ / 0-)

              great.  Some have sucked eggs.  I ain't cherry picking.  The study I cited says as much.  Where they are good, they pull up performance across entire districts, and cost less per pupil.   I picked an academician at Rutgers as my source, not the NJDOE, the NEA, the AFT or charter school advocates.  

              I think they deserve a chance, as do the kids.  

              Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

              by SpamNunn on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 10:03:43 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  charter schools and privatization (6+ / 0-)

    The basic scheme of privatization/deregulation, practiced coherently now at least since the Reagan administration, is the following: an existing public institution, be it electrical utility, hospital, school, etc..., is targeted; criticism is leveled against the existing public institution from a whole variety of directions (to see which will get traction in the media); funding to the public entity is reduced and its infrastructure is allowed to decay (that is not renovated as it should be) - often staffing is allowed to stagnate as well; some pilot private projects are financed - typically they are sold as remedies in contexts of great need, e.g. regions poorly served by the current infrastructure (e.g. schools in poor areas) - often the infrastructure is publicly financed (e.g. the school building is publicly financed, or subsidies are given for its construction) - by monies not being directed to the corresponding public entity - but the control and administration of the resulting infrastructure is put in private hands; public finances are said to be better and the superior performance of the subsidized, well-funded pilot private entity is compared to the declining performance of the underfunded, decaying public entity (at any rate, this is the picture that gets painted, whether it is accurate or not); this is used to justify further privatization, and on it goes. The final stage, which we are living now with respect to health care, for example, is that the public entities are badly neglected and less functional than they should be, viewed dimly by many, and the private entities are administratively bloated profit machines that provide service substantially inferior to what the public entity had provided before, usually at a greater cost.

    So far I've not explicitly mentioned charter schools. However, I think they are like private medical insurance - a counterproductive solution to a problem that would not have existed in their absence. Let's not Reaganize our schools.

    None of this is meant to question the motivations of all involved in charter schools. I know well motivated people who sincerely think they are a good idea. Unfortunately, the general panorama, and how the charter schools fit into the US political landscape, reminds me far too much of electrical utilities, phone companies, medical insurance, etc... from bygone days. No entity is better prepared to make quality education available to all than is the government. Perhaps the educational system needs to be more directly controlled by educators, and better insulated from overtly political influences, but it is hard to see how its other problems will be resolved by subsidizing the construction of private educational entities.

    •  excellent comment in the whole (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, angry marmot

      These last sentences really stand out.

      No entity is better prepared to make quality education available to all than is the government. Perhaps the educational system needs to be more directly controlled by educators, and better insulated from overtly political influences, but it is hard to see how its other problems will be resolved by subsidizing the construction of private educational entities.

      The politicization of our public education system is exactly why our public schools are struggling.

      There's no such thing as undead. Either it's dead or it's not. Either it's plugged or it's not. It's not.--Fishgrease

      by gulfgal98 on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 06:46:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  you are on target- there's more (0+ / 0-)

      There is another aspect to this media blitz against public schools and teacher unions. It is following a similar pattern to how the tobacco industry co-opted scientists into publishing "research" that they interpreted favorably than the independent studies showing smoking's harmful outcomes on our health. The research outcomes supported the financial interests of the tobacco industry.  

      The goal is to cast public doubt on science and generate internal debates in the scientific community over methodology. The same tactics were used with the climate change deniers.

      Read "Merchant's of Doubt" by Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway. The playbook is the same in this debate over public education and charters. We need to pay more attention to the original sources of funding behind education white papers masquerading as independent research.

  •  OT-ish (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry marmot

    In exchange for a pledge to see the movie, the producers will give you a $5 gift card to use at www.donorschoose.org, where donations fulfill teachers' requests for classroom supplies.  If you plan to see the movie anyway, may as well do the pledge and donate the $5.  Go to the movie's website to pledge.  

    (DonorsChoose just got a huge boost by the way!)

  •  Flaming Lips - "Waiting for Superman" (0+ / 0-)

    I asked you a question
    I didn't need you to reply
    Is it getting heavy?
    And then realize
    It's getting heavy
    Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be

    Is it overwhelming
    To use a crane to crush a fly?
    It's a good time for Superman
    To lift the sun into the sky
    Because it's getting heavy
    Well I thought it was already as heavy as can be

    Tell everybody
    Waiting for Superman
    That they should try to
    Hold on the best they can
    He hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything
    It's just too heavy for Superman to lift


    'The great religions are the ships. The poets are the lifeboats. Every sane person I know has jumped overboard.' - Hafiz

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:09:07 AM PDT

  •  Public education is absolutely essential... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grimjc, blue jersey mom

    ...to the functioning of a democratic society with a critical and engaged citizenry.

    No wonder the right wing wants to destroy it.

    If I had my way, I'd close all private schools and put a law in place that spread out the children of the rich and well-connected, so that you'd have some of them in the very worst public schools.

    Our schools are not going to get better, our society is not going to get better, until the rich and greedy are put in a situation where their fortunes and their childrens' fortunes will sink or swim with the fortunes of the poor and the worker.

    The right-wing agenda to destroy public education is part and parcel with the selfishness of our society, with the individualism of our society, with the desire of the greedy to insulate themselves and their fortunes from the overall fortune of the people.

    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

    by mistersite on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:16:53 AM PDT

  •  Head start, child nutrition & sports programs, (0+ / 0-)

    art & music supported with fed dollars  would do far more for CF schools and improving education for kids in CF than anything Arne Duncan has suggested or supported.

  •  Media/PR blitz in high gear for privitizing (0+ / 0-)

    Guggenheim posted a diary on HuffPo yesterday full of silly platitudes. The message frame was Charters can "save our poor kids". There was another hack on HuffPo making a case against classroom size and another from DFER in support of Fenty, Washington, DC mayor and Michellee Rhee benefactor.

    This media blitz intends to divide and conquer by pitting poor and disenfranchised communities against public school teachers, public teacher training at universities, and teacher unions.

    Party affiliation is irrelevant- both parties support a neo-liberal, randian paradigm for schools. A corporatist utopia.

  •  I remember when the charter school movement (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laborish

    was getting going, in the 80s I believe, the great selling point was that they would have the freedom to experiment with innovative approaches, and then the successful innovations could be incorporated into the traditional public schools so all would reap the benefits...WTF ever happened to that idea? Charter schools seem to have become an end in themselves, or for Republicans, a weapons of choice for eviscerating public schools.

    On the other hand, there is one key weakness of public schools that may be why charters and other alternative approaches are appealing: that public schools are so often tied to residential address (and the tax base that goes with it).

    "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

    by Alice in Florida on Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 07:55:40 AM PDT

  •  Why is Davis Guggenheim so wrong? (0+ / 0-)

    Well what else has he heard in a nation where teachers have become the new scapegoats. Who has their backs? What can any person ever learn about the situation as such a false debate rages on?

    In the national education debate unionized teachers have been framed as lazy state and municipal workers, placed in a category similar to the presentation of pre-Perestroika factory workers back when tarnishing the Russian worker seemed in the interest of industrial leaders. Almost everything I read and see on TV portrays the Union teacher as the only problem in education today.

    There was a huge debate here in New York over race to the top funds and New York's ineligibility because we did not have enough annex schools. It was hard to find anyone anywhere who was not saying "it was all the fault of the teachers union." The media marched up to Harlem to find parents clambering for privatized education. Everyday you could hear about how tenure dosen't work in a modern world and teacher regulations prevented the work hours necessary for proper education. I never heard a thing about what teachers gave up to get those securities.

    During that whole debate I never learned a key point about that race to the top money. It was constantly presented as "needed funding for public education" but then Randi Weingarten came on either The Brian Lehrer show or Leonard Lopate and told an inconvenient truth, the money that everyone was arguing about could only be used for privatized education.  

    As much as I follow the news I was amazed that a debate had raged on for weeks, a debate about how easy the life of softened teachers has become because of Union intervention. I had never learned that race to the top money was never even intended for public education but the help the formerly recession proof job of public school teacher to feel the burn.

    Ever since hearing that "hidden news" I've been looking at this administration and asking myself if this in the new definition of modern Democratic president. Now that the unionized worker in the private sector has been decimated because of a long standing allegiance with the Democratic Party, it seems the time has come for them to address the unionized workers in the public sector.    

  •  Harlem Children's Zone (0+ / 0-)

    As researchers confirm that the early-childhood years are key to building a strong foundation for future educational success, HCZ has been bolstering its work with children and families in these critically important first years. Like all of HCZ’s programs, our early childhood programs provide their services free to the public, which is possible thanks to the generosity of people like you. Please consider making a donation today.

    The Baby College offers a nine-week parenting workshop to expectant parents and those raising a child up to three years old. Among other lessons, the workshops promote reading to children and verbal discipline over corporal punishment. Over the past two years, more than 870 people graduated from The Baby College.

    The Three-Year-Old Journey works with parents of children who have won the HCZ Promise Academy charter school lottery. Held on Saturdays over several months, it teaches parents about their child's development, building language skills and parenting skills.

    The Get Ready for Pre-K program brings in new Gems students before the start of the school year. The six-week summer session runs for extended hours during weekdays like the regular Gems program, helping children acclimate to the new schedule and readying them to start school in the fall.

    Harlem Gems is an all-day pre-kindergarten program that gets children ready to enter kindergarten. Classes have a 4:1 child-to-adult ratio, teach English, Spanish and French, and run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. HCZ runs three pre-kindergarten sites, serving 200 children.

    http://www.hcz.org/...

    Since their creation in 2004 and 2005, Promise Academy I and II elementary schools have done well enough to lead Harvard economist Roland Fryer to conclude that the students had actually closed the black-white achievement gap. The schools have a longer school day and year, and feature wide-ranging, enriching after-school programs. In 2009, the third-graders from both schools were 100 percent on or above grade level in the statewide math program. At PA1 the third-graders were 94 percent on or above grade level in English Language Arts, while the third-graders at PAII were at 86 percent.

    http://www.hcz.org/...

    The Promise Academy middle school program began with 100 sixth-graders in 2004, many of whom were far below grade level. Despite some initial struggles (chronicled in the book "Whatever It Takes"), the school has coalesced and the students have been thriving. In 2009, 87.3 percent of the school's eighth-graders were on or above grade level in math on the New York Statewide exam. The middle school has a longer school day and year, and offers students a wide-ranging education as well as many "wrap-around services" such as free medical and dental care, freshly made healthy meals and an enriching afterschool program.

    A Cut Above is an after-school program serving over 560 students in the critical, and difficult middle-school years. Supporting students who are not in the Promise Academy charter schools, it provides academic help and leadership development, as well as high school and college preparation. Students participate in weekly discussions and activities around subjects such as lifetime decision making, identifying values, communication and critical thinking, resume building and interview techniques, social etiquette, conflict resolution and community service, among others.

    Additionally, each child is assigned a student advocate who works directly with one of two dozen different middle schools that our students attend. Student advocates work directly with teachers, guidance counselors and parents to ensure that children are succeeding academically and socially. In addition to serving as tutors and mentors, student advocates also develop individual student plans for at risk children.

    Peacemakers' Boys to Men Leadership and Girl Power are gender-specific social development programs for boys and girls. These two efforts provide guidance and support for students as they strive to become productive and positive young men and women, as well as influential contributors to their community. Sessions consist of a combination of reading materials, discussions, workshops, trips, films and teambuilding activities conducted by private consultants, teachers and HCZ staff. The goals of the program are to prevent drug use, reduce gang involvement and reduce school violence, as well as to confront other relevant issues. As part of our leadership focus on civic responsibility, students also engage in various community service projects and educational trips.

    http://www.hcz.org/...

    Learn to Earn is an after-school program that helps high school juniors and seniors improve their academic skills, as well as prepare them for college and the job market. The program is a component of the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Learn to Earn provides job readiness training and summer employment opportunities for high school juniors and seniors. Program participants receive life skill workshops that assist them with job readiness, conflict resolution, social development and financial planning. During the school year, the focus is on improving participants' academic standings and developing life skills, while during the summer months, the focus is on gaining summer employment.

    http://www.hcz.org/...

  •  Programs (0+ / 0-)

    From Cradle through College: Using Evidence-Based Programs to Inform a Comprehensive Pipeline.

    At two separate locations, one in a public school and the other in a storefront, Harlem Gems prepares four-year-old children for entry into kindergarten.

    Harlem Gems features an extended day and extended year program. All 140 children attend from 8 am to 5:45 pm....Students learn their numbers, days of the week, and other basic vocabulary words in English, Spanish, and French. Each classroom of 20 students contains one master’s level certified teacher, one bachelor’s level teacher, and three Peacemakers (college-aged Americorps interns) or teacher’s aides.

    http://www.hcz.org/...

    HCZ Promise Academy Charter Schools offer a high quality, extended day, extended year education to elementary, middle, and high school students. HCZ Promise Academy combines structural reforms with wraparound supports.

    Strong Academics: A comprehensive college preparatory educational program within an extended school day and school year allows PA to have a strong focus on literacy and math within a safe, structured, and personalized environment. Each school has reading and math coaches and all classrooms are staffed with one lead teacher and a Peacemaker or paraprofessional.

    More Time on Task: The school day runs from 8 am to 4 pm, an increase of 20% over a typical school day; the school year consists of 210 days, an increase over the 180 days required by law; and the school year includes a summer program. The summer program is designed to prevent the summer learning loss that affects low-income students as well as to continue to advance students’ skills and knowledge.

    Management tools: By providing our school leaders with merit pay and bonuses, our principals have more tools to reward staff for top-quality work. At the same time, to ensure that all PA students have access to top-quality staff, principals can terminate underperforming staff when necessary.

    Data: Several times each year we administer age-appropriate tests to all students to gauge their progress. Teachers, after-school staff, and students review the results within 1-2 weeks of the test in order to assess progress and to focus on group and individual challenges. This also enables management and the board to track progress and ensure accountability.

  •  Unfortunately (0+ / 0-)

    The unions are sometimes on the wrong side of an issue; it's happened during the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam.  The film does point out that there are bad teachers, but the AFT likes to ratchet this up to an attack on all teachers.  It's alright for Randi to say that her job is to protect all teachers, but it's not alright to continue with the "we should eradicate poverty and then people can be educated" myth.  That's low expectations of the highest order.  

    Even if you agree with Randi's letter, please watch the movie and then have this conversation (and I'm not saying that your opinion will definitely change).

    There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones. ~Anwar Sadat

    by villagepark on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 02:45:17 PM PDT

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