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By Rick Ayers

Waiting for Superman: Approach it with a critical eye — Some of the evidence, some of the common sense that the film left out.

Washington Post Educational Blog

While the education film Waiting for Superman (WFS) has moving profiles of students struggling to succeed under difficult circumstances, it puts forward a sometimes misleading and other times dishonest account of the roots of the problem and possible solutions.

The amped up rhetoric of crisis and failure everywhere is being used to promote business model reforms that are destabilizing even successful schools and districts. A panel at NBC’s Education Nation event was originally titled “Does Education Need a Katrina?” Such disgraceful rhetoric undermines reasonable debate.

Let’s examine these issues.

  • WFS says that lack of money is not the problem in education. Yet the exclusive charter schools featured in the film receive large private subsidies. Two-thirds of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone funding comes from private sources, effectively making it a highly resourced private school. Promise Academy, the Harlem Children’s Zone charter school, is in many ways an excellent school, but it is dishonest for the filmmakers to say nothing about the funds it took to create it and the extensive social supports including free medical care and counseling provided by the Harlem Children’s Zone.

    In New Jersey, where court decisions mandated similar programs, such as high quality pre-Kindergarten classes and extended school days and social services in the poorest urban districts, achievement and graduation rates increased while gaps started to close. But public funding for those programs is now being cut and progress is being eroded. Money matters! Of course, money will not solve all problems (because the problems are more systemic than the resources of any given school) – but the off-handed rejection of a discussion of resources is misleading.
  • WFS implies that testing is a reasonable way to assess student progress. The debate of “how to raise test scores” strangles and distorts strong education. Most test score differences stubbornly continue to reflect parental income and neighborhood/zip codes, not what schools do. As opportunity, health and family wealth increase, so do test scores.

    This is not the fault of schools but the inaccuracy, and the internal bias, in the tests themselves. Moreover, the tests are too narrow (on only certain subjects with only certain measurement tools). When schools focus exclusively on boosting scores on standardized tests, they reduce teachers to test-prep clerks, ignore important subject areas and critical thinking skills, dumb down the curriculum and leave children less prepared for the future. We need much more authentic assessment to know if schools are doing well and to help them improve.
  • WFS ignores overall problems of poverty. Schools must be made into sites of opportunity, not places for the rejection and failure of millions of African American, Chicano Latino, Native American, and immigrant students. But schools and teachers take the blame for huge social inequities in housing, health care, and income.

    Income disparities between the richest and poorest in US society have reached record levels between 1970 and today. Poor communities suffer extensive traumas and dislocations. Homelessness, the exploitation of immigrants, and the closing of community health and counseling clinics, are all factors that penetrate our school communities. Solutions that punish schools without addressing these conditions only increase the marginalization of poor children.
  • WFS says teachers’ unions are the problem. Of course unions need to be improved – more transparent, more accountable, more democratic and participatory – but before teachers unionized, the disparity in pay between men and women was disgraceful and the arbitrary power of school boards to dismiss teachers or raise class size without any resistance was endemic.

    Unions have historically played leading roles in improving public education, and most nations with strong public educational systems have strong teacher unions.

    In the Finnish education system, much cited in the film as the best in the world, teachers are – gasp! – unionized and granted tenure, and families benefit from a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that includes universal daycare, preschool and healthcare, all of which are proven to help children achieve better results in school. In fact, even student teachers have a union in Finland and, overall, nearly 90% of the Finnish labor force is unionized.

    The demonization of unions ignores the real evidence.
  • WFS says teacher education is useless. The movie touts the benefits of fast track and direct entry to teaching programs like Teach for America, but the country with the highest achieving students, Finland, also has highly educated teachers.

    A 1970 reform of Finland’s education system mandated that all teachers above the kindergarten level have at least a master’s degree. Today that country’s students have the highest math and science literacy, as measured by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), of all the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.
  • WFS decries tenure as a drag on teacher improvement. Tenured teachers cannot be fired without due process and a good reason: they can’t be fired because the boss wants to hire his cousin, or because the teacher is gay (or black or…), or because they take an unpopular position on a public issue outside of school.

    A recent survey found that most principals agreed that they had the authority to fire a teacher if they needed to. It is interesting to note that when teachers are evaluated through a union-sanctioned peer process, more teachers are put into retraining programs and dismissed than through administration-only review programs. Overwhelmingly teachers want students to have outstanding and positive experiences in schools.
  • WFS says charter schools allow choice and better educational innovation. Charters were first proposed by the teachers’ unions to allow committed parents and teachers to create schools that were free of administrative bureaucracy and open to experimentation and innovation, and some excellent charters have set examples. But thousands of hustlers and snake oil salesmen have also jumped in. While teacher unions are vilified in the film, there is no mention of charter corruption or profiteering. A recent national study by CREDO, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford, concludes that only 17% of charter schools have better test scores than traditional public schools, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse.

    While a better measure of school success is needed, even by their own measure, the project has not succeeded. The recent Mathematica Policy Research study comes to similar conclusions. See http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2010/0629/Study-On-average-charter-schools-do-no-better-than-public-schools. The Institute of Education Sciences - The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts (.pdf download) concludes, “On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress.”

    Some fantastic education is happening in charter schools, especially those initiated by communities and led by teachers and community members. But the use of charters as a battering ram for those who would outsource and privatize education in the name of “reform” is sheer political opportunism.
  • WFS glorifies lotteries for admission to highly selective and subsidized charter schools as evidence of the need for more of them. If we understand education as a civil right, even a human right as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we know it can’t be distributed by a lottery.

    We must guarantee all students access to high quality early education, highly effective teachers, college and work-preparatory curricula and equitable instructional resources like good school libraries and small classes. A right without a clear map of what that right protects is an empty statement.

    It is not a sustainable public policy to allow more and more public school funding to be diverted to privately subsidized charters while public schools become the schools of last resort for children with the greatest educational needs. In WFS, families are cruelly paraded in front of the cameras as they wait for an admission lottery in an auditorium where the winners’ names are pulled from a hat and read aloud, while the losing families trudge out in tears with cameras looming in their faces – in what amounts to family and child abuse.
  • WFS says competition is the best way to improve learning. 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 poured into expounding the theory of paying teachers for higher student test scores (sometimes mislabeled as ‘merit pay’), a recent 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.
  • WFS says good teachers are key to successful education. We agree. But WfS only contributes to the teacher-bashing culture which discourages talented college graduates from considering teaching and drives people out of the profession, According to the United States Department of Education, the country will need 1.6 million new teachers in the next five years. Retention of talented teachers is one key. Good teaching is about making connections to students, about connecting what they learn to the world in which they live, and this only happens if teachers have history and roots in the communities where they teach.

    But a recent report by the nonprofit National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future says that “approximately a third of America’s new teachers leave teaching sometime during their first three years of teaching; almost half leave during the first five years. In many cases, keeping our schools supplied with qualified teachers is comparable to trying to fill a bucket with a huge hole in the bottom.”

    Check out the reasons teachers are being driven out in Katy Farber’s book Why Great Teachers Quit: And How We Might Stop the Exodus (Corwin Press).
  • WFS says “we’re not producing large numbers of scientists and doctors in this country anymore… This means we are not only less educated, but also less economically competitive.” But Business Week (10/28/09) reports “U.S. colleges and universities are graduating as many scientists and engineers as ever,” yet “the highest performing students are choosing careers in other fields.” In particular, the study found, “many of the top students have been lured to careers in finance and consulting.” It’s the market, and the disproportionately high salaries paid to finance specialists, that is misdirecting human resources, not schools.
  • WFS promotes a nutty theory of learning: that teaching is a matter of pouring information into children’s heads. In one of its many little cartoon segments, WFS purports to show how kids learn. The top of a child’s head is cut open and a jumble of factoids is poured in. Ouch! Oh, and then the evil teacher union and regulations stop this productive pouring project.

    The film-makers betray no understanding of how people actually learn, the active and engaged participation of students in the learning process. They ignore the social construction of knowledge, the difference between deep learning and rote memorization.

    The movie would have done a service by showing us what excellent teaching looks like, and addressing the valuable role that teacher education plays in preparing educators to practice the kind of targeted teaching that reaches all students. It should have let teachers’ voices be heard.
  • WFS promotes the idea that we are in a dire war for US dominance in the world. The poster advertising the film shows a nightmarish battlefield in stark grey, with a little white girl sitting at a desk in the midst of it. The text: “The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom.”

    This is a common theme of the so-called reformers: we are at war with India and China and we have to out-math them and crush them so that we can remain rich and they can stay in the sweatshops.

    But really, who declared this war? When did I as a teacher sign up as an officer in this war? And when did that 4th grade girl become a soldier in it? Instead of this new educational Cold War, perhaps we should be helping kids imagine a world of global cooperation, sustainable economies, and equity.
  • WFS says federal “Race to the Top” education funds are being focused to support students who are not being served in other ways. According to a study by Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and others, Race to the Top funds are benefiting affluent or well-to-do, white, and “abled” students. So the outcome of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has been more funding for schools that are doing well and more discipline and narrow test-preparation for the poorest schools.
  • WFS suggests that teacher improvement is a matter of increased control and discipline over teachers. Dan Brown, a teacher in the SEED charter school featured in the film, points out that successful schools involve teachers in strong collegial conversations. Teachers need to be accountable to a strong educational plan, without being terrorized. Good teachers, which is the vast majority of them, are seeking this kind of support from their administration.
  • WFS proposes a reform “solution” that exploits the feminization of the field of teaching; it proposes that teachers just need a few good men with hedge funds (plus Michelle Rhee with a broom) to come to the rescue. Teaching has been historically devalued – teachers are less well compensated and have less control of their working conditions than other professionals – because of its associations with women.

    For example, 97% of pre-school and kindergarten teachers are women, and this is also the least well-compensated sector of teaching – in 2009, the lowest 10% earned $30,970 to $34,280; the top 10% earned $75,190 to $80,970. By comparison the top 25 hedge fund managers took in $25 billion in 2009, enough to hire 658,000 new teachers. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/les-leopold/why-do-we-save-billionair_b_558213.html

Waiting for Superman could and should have been an inspiring call for improvement in education, a call we desperately need to mobilize behind.

That’s why it is so shocking that the message was hijacked by a narrow agenda that undermines strong education. It is stuck in a framework that says that reform and leadership means doing things, like firing a bunch of people (Michelle Rhee) or “turning around” schools (Arne Duncan) despite the fact that there’s no research to suggest that these would have worked, and there’s now evidence to show that they haven’t.

Reform must be guided by community empowerment and strong evidence, not by ideological warriors or romanticized images of leaders acting like they’re doing something, anything. WFS has ignored deep historical and systemic problems in education such as segregation, property-tax based funding formulas, centralized textbook production, lack of local autonomy and shared governance, deprofessionalization, inadequate special education supports, differential discipline patterns, and the list goes on and on.

People seeing Waiting for Superman should be mobilized to improve education. They just need to be willing to think outside of the narrow box the film-makers have constructed to define what needs to be done.

Thanks for ideas and some content from many teacher publications, and especially from Monty Neill, Jim Horn Lisa Guisbond, Stan Karp, Erica Meiners, Kevin Kumashiro, Ilene Abrams, Bill Ayers, and Therese Quinn.

Rick Ayers is a former high school teacher, founder of Communication Arts and Sciences small school at Berkeley High School, and currently Adjunct Professor in Teacher Education at the University of San Francisco. He is author, with his brother William Ayers, of the soon-to-be-released Teaching the Taboo from Teachers College Press.

Comments

Abigail Sawyer — 30 September 2010, 11:11www.speakingintonguesfilm.info/our-blog

This is a great article. Please put Facebook and Twitter hare widgets on this site to help get the word out!

Karen Copper — 02 October 2010, 08:11

I also noticed that the film did not mention home schooling nor learning through the internet, both of which are beginning to have a very big influence.

Most research I’ve seen shows that the best way to have a positive influence is to have ONE qualified, trained teacher for 15–17 students. NOT one teacher and an assistant for 30–40 students, as most systems have. If we could simply see our way to having ENOUGH teachers, they wouldn’t burn out and retention of experienced teachers would be easier, and all would benefit.

Jay — 02 October 2010, 09:25

Solving the problems in education is not going to be easy but bashing teachers and the unions that represent them is clearly not the answer. I currently work in public education and I concur with the previous comment that a classroom of 15–17 students with a highly qualified teacher would produce great students. We need our students to not only be able to memorize info but to truly comprehend the material and be able to relate to it and use it. We are truly treating our students as robots; sit down, remember the materials, take the test, and repeat the process. That is not learning! I have several questions but the main one is if private companies were to fund every public school equitably, would there be a crisis in education? Would test scores be high? Would the acheivement gap between blacks and whites be closed? Would poor children begin to have the same options as the more affluent children? Would those that currently benefit from our dysfunctional schools, make noise in order to prevent our schools from succeeding(we all know that there are thousands of individuals making money off of poor children in poor schools)? I thank god for the wonderful( and not so wonderful) teachers that helped me appreciate the beauty of learning. They allowed many doors to be open to me and for that I am eternally grateful!

Matt — 02 October 2010, 19:15

I understand and value the concerns raised in this article. I also understand why a teacher would be threatened by what they may perceive as hyperbole projected in the film. However, I think these “points” are also guilty of, if not hyperbole, then at least sweeping and generalized interpretations. Guggenheim’s argument is more nuanced than a list of propositional statements.

To make a concession, Guggenheim does indeed construct a terribly inaccurate model of student learning (i.e. pouring knowledge into a student’s head) and does so without acknowledging the limitations of the metaphor. Ironically, this model is exactly the opposite of constructivism—the dominant, scientifically accepted learning theory.

With that aside, the other above-mentioned points do not fairly portray Guggenheim and WFS. Perhaps this is a result of the author’s sentiment that Guggenheim does not fairly portray teachers, teachers unions, or the complexity of factors related to student achievement. Fair enough.

To Guggenheim’s defense and more to HIS POINT, we are still in a conversation about teacher’s and their feelings. This is not about you. This conversation is about children’s rights. How do we support children in gaining equal access to educational opportunities? Standardized tests are NOT the answer. As an educational researcher, I could not agree more. But we do need assessments. We just need better ones. Similarly, we need teachers. We just need better ones.

I suggest shifting the conversation away from a defense of teachers and towards the issue of child advocacy. To reiterate, I respect and appreciate the point by point list. It is a great way to focus a productive conversation without ideology and nebulous claims about being “for” education and so forth. I suggest taking one of the statements above and running with it. The argument that Guggenheim does not illustrate what good teaching looks like is by and large accurate. I would like to direct the conversation in that direction. How can we better teach so that students may better learn? To do this we will need learning goals. I will leave that to other commentators.

Janice - former educator — 02 October 2010, 20:37

I agree with Matt,let’s stop being defensive and get the USA educational system back in the top 10! There are and have been numerous problems: resources, stressed and bad teachers, undisciplined students, unsuccessful administrators, unrealistic testing, and uninvolved parents, to name just a few. Let’s all make the necessary sacrifice and commit to whatever we can to improve education.

Gordon Hall — 03 October 2010, 17:35

What this article got wrong:
1. The Harlem Children’s Zone is the heroic organization headed by Geoffrey Canada that includes: Baby College, The Three Year Old Journey, Harlem Gems (pre-school), Promise Academy, and many other programs that are aimed at changing the outcomes of the youth of Harlem. Promise Academy is a charter school. It’s operational budget is no different than a public school and to suggest otherwise is, truly, dishonest and deceptive.
2. Testing is, I repeat, is reasonable. Students must be capable of passing tests, which are admittedly biased, in order to be successful. It is a fact of life and arguing otherwise is a waste of time.
3. WFS is all about poverty.
4. Teacher’s unions are part of the problem. Tenure is the major issue. Granted too easily and impossible to get rid of.
5. Teacher education is not really mentioned in the movie, but, while we’re at it, teacher education has literally no impact on a teacher’s ability to achieve results. I won’t use the word useless, but when there is no change in outcomes, it’s hard to see the use.
6. Tenure is a drag on education reform. It is.
7. Charter schools do allow choice, and they are a place of innovation. Nationwide they are breaking even with public schools, but this does not mean that they are failing. In fact, the point of a charter school is to test new ideas. Lo and behold, some charter schools are achieving tremendous results. Promise Academy, KIPP, Urban Prep, Achievement First, Uncommon. They all have changed the course of current statistics and should be praised, not reviled.
8. I don’t remember hearing the words “Race to the Top” in the movie.
9. WFS does not, in fact, glorify the lottery. It shows the heartbreaking nature of the need for the charter school lottery, and asks the viewer what can be done to create more schools like the charter schools that are changing the outcomes of students.

I’m too frustrated to complete the rest of this analysis, but I will state that the author greatly oversimplifies the presentation of facts in Waiting for Superman. There are serious problems with education. There are. We need change. It’s unfair. Some schools are, in point of fact, working. There is demand for more of these schools. These are facts, not opinions. They can’t be refuted. They just are. The point of a film like this is not to provide solutions but to create a dialogue about what can be done. Stop nitpicking and start generating solutions.

Patrick Schreck — 03 October 2010, 18:34

Gordon Hall, instead of simply repeating all the arguments from WFS, why not join the dialogue? (You could “stop nitpicking and start generating solutions”.) Others in the discussion have proposed adopting features of Finland’s undisputed success, including smaller class sizes, highly qualified teachers, and a well-funded social infrastructure. Finland’s success is a great place to strt the dialogue and to start generating solutions. Do you agree?

Al Maxwell — 04 October 2010, 08:39almax@nbnet.nb.ca

The answer to student achievement is home grown in the USA, but unfortunately it is seldom widely adopted. Brain research applied in the classroom … including constructivism, cooperative learning, constant feedback in the form of formative assessment and a variety of pedagogical skills, tactics and organizers are used successfully in American schools and produce incredible results. But many of we teachers are not taught some of the skills that would facilitate teaching and learning. These are acquired in institutes that we attend in summer sessions etc. The motivation for improvement and change are found in author Dan Pink’s book, DRIVE. Read for yourselves why the present strategies employed by the UD Dept of Ed will likely fail the large majority of Americans children. Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation; If the teachers aren’t being motivated properly then it’s unlikely the students are either.

In summary, focus on your successes,(there are many!!) and let those be the models for change. It is after all about students’ learning.

Gordon Hall — 04 October 2010, 10:48

Absolutely. Finland’s model is spectacular. Not only for the myriad social supports (ie. HCZ and President Obama’s plan to replicate the social supports of the HCZ in 10 other cities), but the selection process for hiring new teachers. I would love to move to this model. I wonder what the first step would be. I think that one of the things the successful charter schools, like those depicted in the film, get right, is that they attract and recruit highly motivated and results-oriented individuals. However, the complaint is, and always has been, how do you retain those people.

I think, in the case of Finland, the position has been elevated to such a high level of prestige that people would wonder about leaving the field. The selection process alone for becoming a teacher is so rigorous and demanding. How do you create that in the U.S.?

C. D. Smith — 05 October 2010, 16:19

Let me begin my rant. As a NJEA tenured union teacher all I have to say to the author is, What about the children?. You talked about money, attacks on teacher unions, charters school blah blah blah, but What about the children? As someone who grew up, in a not so good area, slept through high school because it was fights, bomb threats and other craziness, graduated with a C average, went to Seton Hall University(don’t ask me how I got in with my HS grades and I wasn’t an athlete) made Dean’s List a couple times and came back to teach at the same public school system I graduated from, I find your article a joke. Let me make this clear, as a teacher my only concern is and only is the CHILDREN. If you don’t think I don’t recommend to my parents to send my students to a good charter or private school because if they stay in district they won’t receive the best education through high school, well guess what I do. Have you personally been to a charter school lottery(for the good one’s) and see parents act like they hit the powerball when their child’s name, number is picked. Have you ever seen the reaction of not so lucky parents, crying like a family member died. Yes, the movie has some propaganda I understand, but it touched on the stress and struggles of the parents and children to get the best education they deserve. I can say so much but let me give you another real life example. On my the street my mother live, there is a not so good public school. No less then 30 feet across the street from the public school there is a KIPP charter school. That public school 8th grade graduates, Language Arts Literacy Proficient 30.9% state average 71.3%, Mathematics Proficient 15% state average 42%. That KIPP school, across the street from that public school, 8th grade graduates all went to prestigious boarding schools.

C D Smith — 05 October 2010, 16:26

Forgive my grammatical errors in the above post. I’m just so passionate about education particularly urban education. Sometimes I think people need to get off their high horse and get into the trenches. Visit a public school in a not so good area. See what those children go through. Yeah I know it’s poverty, parenting and a host of issues, but come on a lottery to get a good education, really, I mean really.

Carol O’Keefe — 06 October 2010, 16:39cokeefegreen07@gmail.com

Wow! You need no forgiveness in the writing of this article. I can only hope that someone will pay as much attention to NOT WAITING FOR SUPERMAN as they have Waiting for Superman.
This is extremely thorough! As an educator for nearly 29 years I applaud your efforts to counter the current running documentary!

Jasmine — 08 October 2010, 07:17

Disagree with essentially all ‘points’ in the article. How exactly did WFS glorify the lottery process. Half the people in the audience were crying at the end because the movie made them see that, as great as charter schools are, the demand greatly outpaces the supply and children are instead left to go to schools where I’d imagine we’d find this author employed.

Jasmine — 08 October 2010, 07:20

I would also like to point out that this website is funded by a non-profit almost entirely composed of old guard union fuddy duddies.

C D Smith — 08 October 2010, 11:37

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/10/newark_high_school_students_wa.html

Newark high school students walk out in protest of filthy, unsafe school environment

They say there are rats, mice, cockroaches, spiders, guns and fights in the hallways.

That’s why students say they walked out of a Newark high school today, to protest what they called a filthy school environment that’s also not safe. They also called for the return of the school’s former principal.

During the afternoon protest, students walked out of Barringer High School in staggered waves of 10 or 20. Some students said security guards blocked doors to prevent anyone from going outside.

A large crowd came outside when the fire alarm sounded, but soon went back in.

The demonstration came two weeks after authorities said a 15-year-old student was sexually assaulted inside a classroom at the Parker Street school. A 17-year-old student was arrested in connection with the Sept. 22 incident, police said.

Students got the word out about the protest on Facebook and said they’ve had enough of feeling unsafe and learning in an unsanitary school.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

• Newark teen is charged with sex assault of 15-year-old student in school

• Teen charged with theft of Newark police car after fight

“It’s like a jungle,” said Ashley Martinez, a 17-year-old senior at the high school. “The school’s out of control and I don’t feel safe.”

Valerie Merritt, a spokeswoman for Newark schools, said the district has encountered insect and rodent problems over the years, but the system’s facilities team regularly exterminates and conducts daily and weekly cleanings.

On several Facebook pages about the protest — one had more than 300 members who said they would attend the event — students said they need to see a dramatic change.

Tyree Thomas, also a 17-year-old senior, said he created a Facebook page about the protest because he feels like Barringer lacks structure. Thomas said he did not have a class schedule until the third week of school.

Merritt said some of Barringer’s students did not have their class schedules at the start of the school year, however the district worked with the school to ensure each student had a schedule and the “matter has been rectified.”

The high school, with grades 10–12, has about 1,300 students.

Thomas also said he wants the district to hire back the school’s former principal, Jose Aviles, who was transferred to another school. Aviles, who was principal at Barringer for two years, was vice principal at a city elementary school until he resigned shortly after the school year began to go to a local charter school.

The current principal is on medical leave, said Merritt.

Aviles said he was flattered by the call for his return. “I miss them,” he said of the students.

“If somehow, someway, I could come back, I would,” he said.

He also said students had the right to protest. But he said the protest should not have been during school hours.

“We’ve endured this from September 2 until now,” said Thomas. “We’ve waited too long and we’re sick of the violence.”

The babies are speaking to us, I wonder if the author would send his children, grandchildren to this school.

Syd Golston — 14 October 2010, 20:15

On a brief visit to Helsinki, we found out that COLLEGE IS FREE IN FINLAND. This is rarely mentioned in discussions of its educational excellence.
Imagine if college were free here. It would make an enormous difference. One more argument against the “money doesn’t count” WFS mindset. Actually, the best comment I heard about from those leaving the theater: “At least now we knwo what it costs.”
I am writing from Arizona, 49th in per pupil spending in the nation, where results are disgraceful - and help to second language learners is infamously stingy,

Dick Allington — 03 November 2010, 11:39

In Finland there are no standardized tests until children reach age 13. There are roughly 5 certified teachers available for every job opening. Individual teachers have enormous autonomy in teaching and deciding what and when to teach. We could create a Finnish-like environment here but almost every “solution” offered here in the past 50 years would have to be ignored and major legislation building on the recent health care law but covering things such a minimum wage of $28 per hour, guaranteed housing, and fuller social security benefits would be the first things enacted. Oh, and tax rates more similar to Finland’s where the billionaires funding WfS and the charter movement would be paying 95% of every dollar earned over $250,000 in taxes. I’d vote for this change but will you?

Tom Fischer — 04 November 2010, 22:18

What is sad is that we need look no further than the fact that Harlem Academy has a student teacher ratio of 7 to 1. I teach in a successful suburban school….ratio 30 to 1. My son teaches in an urban school….ratio 46 to 1. If my son had FIVE MORE TEACHERS in his 9th grade algebra class I’m sure his numbers would be as high as Harlem Academy’s. What do you think they REALLY spend per student? (3 times maybe 4 times as much) And these are the same groups telling us throwing money at the problem is not the solution. These people are merely propagandists with big money backing people with agendas. And a lot of people are drinking the kool-aid.

TechnoMage — 25 April 2011, 12:29

The wonderful, high minded people who think teacher unions are absolutely the worst thing to happen to teaching should come down (over) to the states without them. Compare these in all aspects. Test scores across the board. Absenteeism in the students, college test scores, and per student expenditures. Then wonder why these states are behind?? Go ahead and model yourselves after them.
And Finland has about 1/7th our population and very few immigrants. In other words, its a very “pure” society, very little diversity. Only 1/3 of the population still works at 61.
How in the world can you compare the US to Finland? Please!

PutBlameWhereItBelongs — 01 June 2011, 15:04

I agree with TechnoMage. Finland does not have to deal with the overwhelming burden of children of illegal immigrants. That burden extends to every part of life: education, health, work, and general welfare. All of those things contribute to the problem of ‘bad schools’. Our laws are designed to control the flow of immigration so as to not overburden these systems that children need the most to have a good foundation in life. Stop blaming teachers and schools. They are only doing what they can with what they are given. Let’s face it, the majority of the time, the illegal immigrant children are coming from pretty horrendous circumstances and have not been well-educated to begin with.

Oran33 — 28 September 2011, 14:17

My supposition is that the people who trash unions have never needed, themselves, the life, family, and job protection unions can offer. Likewise, their relatives and ancestors may not have needed this help. One hundred years ago, unions became the opportunity of a safer, more fair workplace for millions of workers, w/o whom even the infrastructure of our country would have remained at the drafting levels.
Those with lots of money trash the people with little money; so, how hard is that to understand? Rich? You don’t need a union. Living off of your families’ millions and not working? Ditto.


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