Thursday, July 1, 2010

Article of Interest

Below is an interesting article in USA Today discussing the heightened awarenss of education reform evidenced by the number of documentaries released this year on education.

Is 2010 the year of the education documentary?

By Greg Toppo, USA Today


  1. There are so many fantastic education documentaries. I'd be a pass holder if the Alliance (or anyone) wanted to put together a mini film-festival. Some suggestions:

    High School (1968) by Frederick Wiseman
    Being Human by Denys Desjardins
    Race to Nowhere
    War on Kids
    I am a Promise
    Children Left Behind
    Final Score
    Free to Learn
    Pressure Cooker
    The Fifty Million Dollar Gamble
    Why do these Kids Love School?
    Voices from the New American School House
    Schools in Black and White
    In Schools We Trust
    No Child Left Behind
    Paramount Duty

    The list goes on and on. While 2010 brings us some new films, film makers have a long history of illuminating school systems, teachers and students- the challenges and solutions to our education questions.

  2. Don't think 2010 is the year of the education documentary... think 2010 is the year that the reformists are pushing extra hard to embed their agenda in the national education system. As Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation wrote in his 2009 Annual Report:

    “The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.

    With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools, performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted.”

    All of this media presence is merely part of a PR strategy to convince the public to go along with the agenda by saturation of the means of communication... I'm a PR/marketing consultant... if Broad et al were my clients, I'd have advised them to be doing just as they are now, as part of the final phase of this plan...

  3. Court Says City Must Keep Struggling Schools Open, By JENNIFER MEDINA, City Room, NY Times

    A state appellate court ruled unanimously Thursday that the city must keep open the 19 schools it moved to close for poor performance, upholding a March ruling from a lower court.

    The decision (see below) is a blow to one of the Bloomberg administration’s major efforts to turn around the city school system by shutting down schools it deems failing. Now, the city will be forced to place new students in those schools, although some have fewer than a dozen freshmen expected to enter.

    The court, the Appellate Division, First Department, found that the city’s Education Department did not comply with the 2009 state law on mayoral control of the city schools in that it failed to indicate the ramifications of the school closings.

    Instead, the court wrote in its opinion, the city’s educational impact statement “merely indicates the number of school seats that will be eliminated as a result of the proposed phaseout and states that the seats will be recovered through the phase-in of other new schools or through available seats in existing schools.”

    The city failed to meet its obligation, the court wrote, “by providing nothing more than boilerplate information about seat availability.” The court wrote that education officials abused the discretion allowed by law by “limiting the information they provided to the obvious.” The decision concludes by noting that the court disagrees with the city’s contention that the violations were “so insignificant as to be totally inconsequential.”

    The ruling represents a major victory for the city’s teachers union, which, along with the New York chapter of the NAACP, sued the city.

    “No one is above the law, and every court that has looked at this issue has ruled decisively that the Department of Education violated the law when it tried to close these schools,” Michael Mulgrew, the president of the union, said in a statement.

    Michael A. Cardozo, the chief lawyer for the city, said in a statement that the city is ”profoundly disappointed by the court’s decision and are exploring our appellate options.”

  4. I saw Waiting for Superman at SIIF. Basically, the message of the film is "teachers (union) bad, charters good". The website for the film says that the director "undertakes an exhaustive review of public education". Complete nonsense. No one can come away from this film feeling they understand the educational landscape of this country. It is far more complex than a couple of cartoon figures illustrating stats.

    What is interesting is that ed reform wants innovation and yet blames the teachers. What? Who controls the curriculum, the length of the school day, etc.? That would be state legislatures and superintendents, not teachers. And it ignores the obvious which is that education is an intimate job; there is no one-size-fits all education. (See the Everett School district getting great results by looking at their data to see what needs to change and then going out and working one-on-one with students. They have raised their graduation rate from about 53% to over 80%. No extra money, no charters.)

    The director does not do a good job of explaining charters either. If they are the godsend of education, then lay out all the facts.

    The director was at the screening I attended so I was able to comment and ask a question. My comment was that he left out a very important difference between public schools and charters. That is, charters can write their plans such that they don't have certain programs and therefore don't have to admit some students (they cannot legally exclude anyone but yes, they can just not have certain services). Public schools have to take ALL comers; immigrant children, special education students, the unmotivated, etc. Public schools accept that challenge while charters don't have to. It's apples and oranges.

    I then asked him why he didn't mention the role of principals or parents in education. He said oh, that his first documentary was about young teachers so he was just continuing to focus on teachers. Well, education is NOT just teachers. A good principal is a huge advantage as are parents who are involved and supportive.

    See the film. Documentaries by their nature do have a bias but really watch and see if you get a well-formed and clear picture of public education today.

    One last thing, at the end, we watch as parents and kids all over the country sit as lottery seats for charters are picked. (Frankly, I would never subject my child to that kind of situation but okay.) The director makes a conscious choice to stamp "not accepted" on the screen as each child learns if he/she had their number pulled. Not having your number drawn is NOT the same as being not accepted. It's manipulative.

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