Waiting for “Superman” is a documentary which investigates the different ways in which education is failing students and the development of the American public education system throughout the years. Moreover, the documentary goes in depth on the role of charter schools and different educational reforms, and how these factors are producing results that may change the future of education. Through the eyes of five children(Bianca, Emily, Anthony, Daisy, and Francisco) who go through regular public education and everyday pressures, Guggenheim presents the different and difficult options that have hope to change the American education system and the repercussions of it.
In a review by the Washington Post, Waiting for “Superman” does not tell of any downfalls to charter schools and test scores of charter schools as compared to public schools. According to the review, evidence from a recent national study done by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University states that “only 17% of charter schools have better test scores than traditional public schools, 46% had gains that were no different than their district counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse” . Furthermore, the review claims that the documentary does not focus at all on the effects of poverty for families in the education system. The film does not take into account the different backgrounds that each student is coming from and the special precautions needed to improve their way of learning effectively in any kind of school.
The film initially starts with the repercussions of the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) act and goes in depth with the percentage of children proficient in reading and mathematics in each state, and how those test scores consequently take a toll on how children progress through the years once the test is done . Although the film does bring into perspective the progress being achieved so far by district schools, the film fails to put forth evidence of how proficient students in charter schools are in the same subjects. There are achievements with entering college and graduation rates; however, there is never data demonstrating how well students are doing according to the NCLB act. The film continues to push on with the idea of standardized testing and does not take a definite opposition towards testing except for criticizing how there are different standards set in each state for proficiency.
Although the film fails to bring into perspective poverty, the filmmaker includes the background stories of the parents of the five children being filmed and their experience with education . Moreover, the different places which are producing school called “dropout factories” in which determines the future of children in them, such as the parents of the children in the film. According to education reformer Bill Strickland, many of the children who go through these “dropout factories” are more likely to drop out and head to a prison than graduate form high school. The filmmaker uses his Bill’s own personal experience with a “dropout factory” to demonstrate the severe consequences of attending certain public schools now and the function they continuously serve since before the 1970s .
The filmmaker uses personal stories such as Bills’ and also the five children who have hopes of being accepted into a charter school which as seen as their only option to improve the conditions they are in now because of the American public education system. Many of these stories “tug at the heart strings” for viewers and really demonstrate the pressure of being able to have a child attend a school that will change their future as opposed to having the child’s future predetermined by a district school. A lot of the pressure finally settles in for both the viewer and the children towards the end of the film with the lotteries.
In the final scene of the film, the effect of incorporating the results of each lottery and the ultimate fate of each child really puts into perspective the harsh reality of charter schools. With each lottery, viewers are placed in the same shoes as those children and the same disappointment that fills both parents and students . The disappointment of the inability to give the proper education that can change their child’s life for the better. Each lottery and counting down the slots just places that pressure and that hope, and it shows the difficult decisions needed to give everything for the students of tomorrow.
Throughout the film, it is obvious that the the way to “fix” what is going on in the American public education system is to reform to a setting smaller and more directly focused on student achievement: a charter school. The film does fail to tell of the achievements presented by charter schools on the same tests that prove public schools to be failing. However, the film does demonstrated very accurately how public schools are holding students back, and are destroying instead of creating futures for students.
. Ayers, Rick. “What ‘Superman’ Got Wrong, Point by Point.” What “Superman” Got Wrong, Point by Point. The Washington Post, 27 Sept. 2010. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/what-superman-got-wrong-point.html>.
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