One of the most influential scenes in Waiting for Superman occurs when Anthony, a little boy from a poor neighborhood with a low quality school, is talking about the possibility of going to the SEED school, which is the first urban public boarding school in the country. In the scene, Anthony, who is only in fifth grade, discusses the pros and cons of possibly attending the school. He knows that he will have to take a big course load, wake up early, dress formally, and not watch TV or play games (Guggenheim 1:20:43). However, he knows that he will get a much better education. Although he says getting into the school would be bittersweet, as he will have to work very hard, go to a different school than his friends, and would no longer be living with his grandmother, Anthony does hope to get into the school to have a better chance in life and the opportunity to give his kids a better life than he has had (Guggenheim 1:22:36). This scene is so important because Anthony, who is very young still, can already see the direction his life will take if he attends his failing public school. He is also able to see past the immediate gratification of staying at his school with all of his friends, living with his caring grandmother, and having lots of time to play and have fun. He knows that going to the SEED school will be a big change and will be hard work, but he is able to look farther ahead, which is impressive for a fifth grader, and see that going to the SEED school will give him a better education and the opportunity to go to college. The filmmakers shot this scene by cutting between interviews with Anthony, interviews with Anthony’s grandmother, shots of Anthony and his class getting a tour of the SEED school, and shots of Anthony playing basketball outside in his neighborhood. From this, the viewer can see both Anthony’s and his grandmother’s point of view, and how difficult it would be for them to live apart, and what they would be giving up if Anthony got in and went to the SEED school, and the viewer can also see the type of life Anthony would be living if he did go to the SEED school; living in a nice dorm in a school with lots of resources.
I think Welner would have mixed reviews about Anthony and the SEED school. The SEED school, unlike other charter schools that Welner criticizes in his article, does take in disadvantaged, “poor” kids. However, Welner acknowledges that some charter schools do this, but they cannot make up for the other charter schools that do not, when he says “In fact, the patterns are particularly stark when we realize that such at-risk students are disproportionately enrolled in a small subset of “mission-oriented” charters – those dedicated to serving a particular type of at-risk student. For instance, the “majority of charter school students with severe disabilities [in Florida] are concentrated in a handful of schools that specialize in those disabilities….” (O’Connor, J., & Gonzalez, 2011; see also Miron, et al.  for a national picture). This leaves the remaining charters serving even fewer at-risk children”(Welner 2). While Welner would appreciate the SEED school for its focus on helping lower-income students, it would qualify as a “mission-oriented” charter. Anthony is probably among the more disadvantaged students applying, but selection bias does occur here because Anthony is very motivated and wants to get a good education. Overall, Welner would like that this charter school is serving poor students, and so is better than most charter schools, but still is a part of the flaw system.
Welner, K. G. (April 2013). The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment. Teachers College Record. [online], http://www.tcrecord.org
Davis Guggenheim, Waiting for “Superman,” Video documentary, 2010, 0:54