Waiting For Superman: School Choice, Housing, and Lotteries

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One of the most pressing issues that Waiting For Superman engages with is the issue of school choice, and how charter schools with lotteries can sometimes be the only option for some students other than failing local school districts.  One scene that embodies this issue is located at 1 hour and 8 minutes into the film, where a promising young student named Daisy is awaiting the outcome of a charter school lottery.  Daisy would normally attend Stevenson Middle School based on where her family lives, but she has entered into the lottery for KIPP LA Prep.  KIPP would offer Daisy a much better chance at a quality education.  At KIPP, 8th graders get triple the classroom time in math and science, and, on average, double their math and reading scores by the end of the 8th grade (Guggenheim 1:09).  This scene explains that many students are forced to go to local public schools based on where they live, often forcing children into failing schools.  Charter schools offer an alternative for many of these children, but the lottery system prevents the vast majority of students from being able to take advantage of this opportunity.

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(Source: Waiting For Superman 1:09:58)

As the scene closes, the camera shows the harsh reality of charter school lotteries, there are only ten spaces available for students at KIPP, and Daisy is on of 135 applicants.  The majority of these applicants will not get a chance to attend KIPP.  Kahlenberg and Potter explain that school choice is a “reality for most middle-class families,” because they can purchase property in good school districts (Kahlenberg and Potter, 165).  For low-income students though, most are forced into failing schools in their own neighborhoods.  Kahlenberg and Potter make the claims that “Our best hope of leveling the playing field is to expand public-choice options for low-income families (Kahlenberg and Potter, 165)”.  For these two writers, charter schools offer a way to escape these local failing schools, and expanding capacities and schools to allow for more students to take advantage of these opportunities is key to creating a more equal education system.



Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.