Sunday, February 27, 2011

Waiting for Superman - Watch This Movie!

I have wanted to watch this movie since I first started seeing the previews for it, but I just never made it out to the theater while it was running. Just seeing the previews made me get choked up, so I knew it was going to be very powerful to me. So I rented it recently on a lazy night at home. And what better time to watch it than during my good friend Mike Morath's campaign for DISD school board? For all the people out there who say they wish they could do something to help our children have brighter futures, Mike is a person who WILL truly do something. Check out his website here and my previous post about him here.

Everyone needs to see this documentary, whether you have children or not. It is incredibly powerful, and I guarantee it will touch you in some way. The kids featured in the film are mostly inner-city children whose local schools have been deemed "educational sinkholes." In other words, their schools have failed them. A staggering percentage of children in their schools will not graduate, and if they do, will be woefully unprepared for college (that is if they even go, which is unlikely in many of these areas).

One of the school districts that was examined in this film was sending kids to high school with no higher than a 1st to 3rd grade reading level. In another area, kids were more likely to know someone who had gone to prison than someone who had gone to college.

The producers interviewed the families of several children whose parents are trying to get them into a better school. The kids featured are from New York (the Bronx and Harlem), Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and even Silicon Valley (as an example that even in affluent areas, our public schools need help). During his interview, one 5th grade boy said that he wanted to get an education so he could move away from his neighborhood, so that his children could have it better than he had. How many of us ever had to consider issues that deep when we were in 5th grade? I know I didn't. In 5th grade, I had a wonderful teacher who made me excited to go to school every day, even though I was the new kid in town (thanks Mrs. Hawkins!). I was one of the lucky ones. But so many kids aren't fortunate enough to have that. They are faced with teachers who come into the classroom because it's a way to collect a paycheck. And so many of these kids truly desire a better education than they are getting...and they do deserve so much better.

Throughout the course of filming, each of the children applied for acceptance into a public charter school in their area. The charter schools featured, including Harlem Success Academy and Kipp LA Prep, are high-performing schools with excellent teachers, leaders, and success rates. With hundreds of families vying for very few spots, a lottery system is employed to choose new students each year. One little girl was one of 767 students applying to fill 35 spots in the Harlem Success Academy. It killed me to see the kids at the lottery drawings, crossing their fingers - even crying - waiting for their name to be called. How terrible for the thousands of kids who do not win the lottery..."we're sorry, we know you want this chance at a better life, but there's simply not room for you to have it." They shouldn't have to enter to win the prize of a good education; our school systems should already be giving that to them.

If you are like me, you will walk away from this movie angry, inspired, and still hopeful. Watch the movie. Then do something to help, even if it's something as simple as spreading the word about this film. If we can get more people to truly care, we are taking a step in the right direction. Call a parent-teacher conference. Get involved in your school's PTA. Start caring about local school board elections. And check out for more ideas on how to help improve our schools.

No comments: