Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reflections on Waiting for Superman

by Mallory Widell

Tonight I watched the screening of Waiting for Superman as a part of Education Week. Some of the statistics and facts presented in the film are astounding. The movie lists countless problems in the American education system but two of the biggest problems that stood out to me were those of teacher tenure and teacher unions. Of course there are both positive and negative sides to these concepts, and they were mainly positive when teachers' unions  were first founded. For instance, unions can help protect teachers from being fired for arbitrary reasons and from being mistreated. On the other hand, many uncaring teachers are kept around because of these practices. The film stated that only 1 in 2500 teachers lose their credentials, while the number of other professionals who lose their credentials is much higher. I think Michelle Rhee's idea to give teachers potentially higher salaries on a merit-basis is a good one but teachers' unions were unwilling to accept this proposal. Rhee's response to this was, "it all becomes about the adults," which is so true. The movie demonstrates how effective charter schools are for the most part (top charter schools send 90 percent of their students to 4-year colleges), but show us that there are not enough spaces for all the children who need them. The movie explains that the education system is broken and fixing it is not going to be easy.