Responding to “Superman”

The documentary “Waiting for Superman” is getting a lot of attention from folks across the political spectrum in recent weeks with its pro-charter schools message. Some people are saying that it could even “revolutionize” American education. Click here to read a  synopsis from the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes:

Despite the hubbub, however, there have been some important and critical voices.

Former Bush I administration official Diane Ravitch wrote this powerful piece entitled “Stop Trashing Teachers.”

And then there’s this piece by a former high school teacher named Rick Ayers that ran in the Washington Post a couple of weeks back entitled  “What ‘Superman’ got wrong, point by point.”

There are so many good points in these articles, it’s hard to know where to start. This one by Ayers was particularly good:

Too many people involved in education policy are dazzled by the idea of ‘market forces’ improving schools. By setting up systems of competition, Social Darwinist struggles between students, between teachers, and between schools, these education policy wonks are distorting the educational process.

Teachers will be motivated to gather the most promising students, to hide curriculum strategies from peers, and to cheat; principals have already been caught cheating in a desperate attempt to boost test scores. And children are worn out in a sink-or-swim atmosphere that threatens them with dire life outcomes if they are not climbing to the top of the heap.

In spite of the many millions of dollars poured into expounding the theory of paying teachers for higher student test scores (sometimes mislabeled as ‘merit pay’), a new study by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives found that the use of merit pay for teachers in the Nashville school district produced no difference even according to their measure, test outcomes for students.”

Ravitch bluntly puts it this way:

No nation in the world…has improved its education system by belittling and firing teachers and principals.

People who know nothing about education and whose ideas have no basis in research or practice are calling the shots. Left to their own devices, they will destroy public education. They have already demoralized our nation’s teachers. Eventually, their bad ideas will fail, because they are wrong.”




  1. Alex morris

    October 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I think the results we are getting in the public schools tell us the answer to this question.

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  3. gordon

    October 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I don’t believe everyone has a clear picture of what charter’s are doing in NC. If the decision is based on testing, there’s very little, if any, positive difference in charter and conventional public schools results. Considering the fact that charter schools pick their students by use of selected programs and elimination of others, one would think charters should do much better than conventional public schools. Charters too have much more flexability than regular public schools, one I have notice is particular troubling, charters force out those who have not only displine problems, but also those who “don’t fit” within their educational programs. What happens to funding when a charter student returns to public schools; does money follow the student?

    There are components of the charter concept that are good, but none of these are passed on the public schools as was the original premise for allowing charters in NC. The legislature should investigate and make the playing field levels for all.

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