06 April 2011

Waiting for Superman

If you haven't yet heard of the documentary "Waiting for Superman" I highly suggest that you check it out! I watched it the other night and the film is about the American public school system and its successes and (many) failures.

I have been waiting to see this film for a while now. It won the Audience Award for the best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 and when you see it you will know why. The stories in this documentary are so moving I still find myself thinking about some of the students the film featured days later and I hope that they are on the right track.

The film opened in New York and L.A. back in September so I got it once it came out on DVD at Redbox-- one of the best inventions of our time!!

Daisy-- Wants to be a surgeon AND a Veterinarian

The film follows some young students in different parts of the country who have so much promise but they have schools and teachers that are failing them. Most of the students come from low income families who don't have the option to send them to better schools. The students live in areas where they are destined to attend high schools labeled as "dropout factories" (meaning schools with a senior class made up of 60% or fewer of the kids who entered as freshmen). From those high schools even fewer of them will be prepared for four year colleges because of the inadequate education that they received.

I really liked how the film focused on the fact that it doesn't matter what kind of background you come from, kids from disadvantaged backgrounds can end up doing better in school that people who can afford pay for a first class education. It takes a lot of work, good teachers, people who care, and holding kids accountable for their education.

Some of the stats were amazing too:

Out of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States now ranks 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading on the Program for International Student Assessment. Shanghai, however, ranks first across the board. reference
In Illinois, where one in 57 doctors loses his medical license and one in 97 lawyers loses his law license, only one in 2,500 teachers loses his credentials, because of union rules. reference
I don't want to give too much away because I think this film is really worth watching but when you do watch it little Anthony's story really caught my attention and I was actually bawling at the end when they do the lotteries.

Anthony-- one of the students featured

It made me think of my good friend Kait, who is about to graduate and start teaching. I know that she will be one of those exceptional teachers and I am so proud of her. She really cares about the kids that she has been working with and I know that she has already made a difference in the lives of those kids!

My takeaway from this film was that the system can be changed but we need to shift the focus from the adults back to the kids. And it can be done but it takes a lot of work.

Here is a link to take action. I plan on donating to DonorsChoose.org (which is basically what it sounds like-- you get to choose who your money is going to) A lot of teachers spend their own money on food and supplies for students who can't afford it themselves.

Francisco! So cute!

With my recent volunteer experience I'm hesitant to jump in to a volunteer position again but I will consider tutoring in the future. Right now though I am lucky enough to have 6 little brothers and sisters who I can mentor and encourage to do their best in school. My little sister, Olivia, is a blossoming writer. I bought her a journal that she has started writing stories in. (and I'm planning on posting one here when my mom sends it to me... stay tuned! It's hilarious!)

I know that we all have people in our lives that we want the absolute best for so you don't have to be a parent to care about this issue. I'm even still looking in to it and there is a lot of controversy about all of the topics which I will not disregard.

Here's the trailer for the film:

Any thoughts? Suggestions for further research?


  1. Well, I still haven't watched "The Business of Being Born," so I am apparently really behind. Dang it!

    I know a lot of teachers and they really are in a pickle. Most school districts are making major budget cuts, so they are cutting out the "non-essesntials" (which really ARE essential, but still get cut). A friend of mine is an English teacher at Omaha North High School (lots of low-income familes) and she is always talking about her frustration. The parents rarely get involved at home, so she has no support there. She is consistently teaching classes of 28-32 students, which gives her no opportunity to go one-on-one with anyone who needs extra help. The school district cut out paras and tutors because of budget cuts. Because of the "No Child Left Behind" thingy, they do state and national testing of students to insure that they are getting a proper education, which isn't REALLY a good measure for proper education...loads of BS.(Although he was by far our sexiest president, not the smartest move by George W....) Unfortunately, teachers can actually lose their job if their classes consistently score low, so teachers feel the pressure to "teach the test" rather than teach the curriculum and go at the pace of the class. They push students to memorize facts so they can beat the test, rather than actually help them learn and prepare them for college.

    What's sad is that it ISN'T just happening in low-income families. Parents have gotten so consumed in their own worlds and so non-interested in their children's growth, development, and well being, that most school districts polled will say that the biggest problem they face right now is "lack of parent involvement."

    I have a running list of things I am vowing to do or not do as a parent. I just added get really involved in my child's education - help them, because God knows, our school systems aren't designed to do so. So sad.

  2. P.S. Sorry for the REALLY long post. :)

  3. I thought about Kait too when I read this. She is going to be such an amazing teacher. They say that the majority of your personality, values, etc are shaped by the time you are 9, which is why it's so crticial that kids have good influences (like good teachers) in their lives. I wonder if Kait has seen the documentary? I just put it in my Netflix queue. Can't wait to watch it! Lv ya!

  4. Stacie-- I totally agree (except about GW being sexy lol!)

    It's so frustrating to hear about this and to realize how so many kids' fate lies in a lottery. There has to be a better way to see how teachers are doing than by using national tests. I was talking to Eddie the other day and he was taking a test like that at school the next day for Math.

    And now with all of the budget cuts (at least here in Colorado) It's getting even worse. Class sizes are growing because they're having to lay off teachers. One of the things that concerns me is that they will lay off teachers who are new/inexperienced but really good (like Kait) but keep teachers that have been teaching for a long time and have lost the passion to teach just beacause they are tenured.

    You brought up a good point about the parent-involvement issue as well. I think most parents just assume that their kids are getting a good education but people need to realize that so much learning takes place outside of the classroom. The entire family should be involved in a child's education.

    I want to start making the same kind of parenting list now too! I think I have plenty of time though haha! Love ya!

  5. Amanda- Let me know what you think of it and if you have any good documentary picks! I always love your suggestions and I like having someone to nerd out with about documentaries!

    We just need to get Kait a blog now. She is so out of the loop and I'm sure she would have plenty to blog about. Love ya!