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Friday, October 08, 2010

Critique of Waiting for Superman in the Times

The Seattle Times published a guest column discussing "Waiting for Superman" with a focus on what isn't shown in the movie.

5 comments:

seattle citizen said...

Of course, they published a critique by the president of the American Federation of Teachers....all the comments are the usual union-bashing. Nice trick, Times: Appear to offer an opposing opinion but set it up so it draws attack. Couldn't find any other people to write cogent op-eds on the subject, Times?
Lame. It is a good piece, though.

Jan said...

I found the comments interesting. Once one waded through (and tossed) all the ("I hate the unions and it's all their fault") comments, as well as the ("All teachers are heroes and if we just gave schools more money, all our problems would be solved") comments, both of which at some point devolve into ideological positions that can no longer be assailed with logic -- much of what was left seemed to revolve around the charter school statistics: 17% did better, 37% did worse, 46% did about the same -- and what conclusions people drew.
Some pointed out that the premises of charters was based on IMPROVEMENT -- and since 83% failed that test, why go further with this reform?
The main counter to this, which I found interesting, was based on choice. Even if it wasn't necessarily better choice, at least it was a choice. The writers seemed to be saying at least we have SOME choice -- and if we wind up in one of the 17%, well, we can "choose" again -- either another charter, or a public school. Not sure I buy the idea that you can safely lose multiple years of a child's education "choosing" here and there -- but they seemed to think so.

I don't necessarily believe in charter schools, and we don't have them in any case -- but we USED to have a different degree of choice than we now do. I am aware that the old "choice" system worked very badly for parents who wanted a comprehensive high school, but lived outside the "cookie cutter" of any good high school's geographic tie breaker area. They had neither choice nor certainty. Now, we have much more certainty, and we still have some choice -- but for folks living in areas with no option schools (or option schools with wait lists that are huge and never move), families who can "choose" schools but then have no transportation and no way to provide it themselves, etc., families who want Montessori or language immersion but do not live in the assignment areas of the few schools that offer them, etc. -- I think "choice" has gone down -- particularly when added to the quick demise of Summit, the slow demise of AS1, the failure to start up any NEW alt schools (schools where differences in pedagogy actually offer a "choice" in learning environments, not just schools designated as "choice" because Dr. MGJ didn't manage to fit them in as assignment schools,such as Addams, Queen Anne, etc.).

I also think that MGJ's entire top down approach to standardization is toxic to "choice," as well as to excellence in teaching and learning. Being driven out are things like the Montessori preschool program at Ballard, Ballard science options that do not follow the strict science path approved downtown, Garfield's tech academy, Garfield's marine biology, RHS's semester lit options -- I am sure there are more, but these are the ones most often mentioned. And most of what I have seen from the Ed Reform crowd is highly anti-choice. Standardized, mass-corporate produced curricula, standardized high stakes tests, cookie cutter charters with rigid curricula. If we think turning to corporate America will deliver any choice other than what "they choose for us," I think we are wrong.

wseadawg said...

And so much of the Ed Reform agenda is built on a "wouldn't it be great if.." philosophy instead of a "what worked really well in this school was..." philosophy. So, toying and experimenting with "new ideas" displaces solid, results based pedagogy. Anyone who lets that happen cannot call themselves educators, nor claim with a straight face that they support teachers. Yet, it's happening everywhere. The Wal-Martization of public education, smiley faces and all.

On a brighter note, my 6th grader's school had curriculum night last night, and her teachers are top-notch excellent, top to bottom.

But wouldn't they be even better if they were competing against, and not collaborating with their fellow teachers in an all out dog-eat-dog contest for merit pay?

No. That would suck.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Unbelievable. Davis Guggenheim , the director was on the Colbert report. Stephen said that his film seemed to say charters were the way to go so why not have all charters?

Guggenheim said, "You can't make enough charters for the full system."

Oh really? Quite a different tune from "not saying charters are the only way" on Oprah.

What a gasbag.

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