Archive for Waiting For Superman

The Education Bandwagon: Are You On It?

Posted in Barack Obama, Black America, Black Interests, Gary A. Johnson with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

September 27, 2010

“Waiting for ‘Superman,” a new documentary about America’s education system got a huge boost from an appearance on the Oprah show last week.   Director David Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” appeared on the Oprah show with some of the featured cast including controversial DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

“Waiting for ‘Superman’” takes a critical look at failures in the public school system and their effects on American schoolchildren and their families. The movie seems to have everybody talking.  TV and radio hosts across the country of every political persuasion are talking about this film.

Today, President Obama gave up 30-minutes of his time for an interview with the TODAY show’s Matt Lauer broadcast live from the Green Room of the White House.

President Obama said his daughters couldn’t get the same quality education at a Washington, D.C. public school that they currently get at their private school (Sidwell Friends).  The President further stated that DC public schools are “struggling,” though he said there have been some important steps made in the direction of reform.

Not everyone is singing the praises of “Waiting for ‘Superman.”  The film follows the stories of five children whose futures of getting into charter schools are set on the chances of winning a lottery.  Something is wrong with our American system of education when a child’s chances of getting a good education depends on the luck of a lottery ping-pong ball.  Why can’t we fix this as a nation?  This is beyond sad.  To tolerate this is a travesty.

“Waiting for Superman” also portrays teachers’ unions as a major blocks to the schools ability to teach our children.  This portrayal has not been received well by some teachers and educational groups.

Enter Michelle Rhee (again).  Thanks to “Waiting for Superman,” Rhee is seen by many as the face of inner-city and urban school reform.  Earlier this year, Rhee fired hundreds of teachers.  On Sunday’s, Meet The Press TV show, Rhee defended her decisions.  Rhee has consistently said that it is NOT acceptable for teachers who are ineffective to stay in the classroom.  Let me translate:  “It ain’t personal, it’s business!”

Where is our moral compass as a nation?  What’s wrong with removing ineffective teachers from the classroom?  Don’t our children deserve better?  A good education is the key that leads to a good life.  Investment in education pays every single time.  Not throwing money at the problem, but wise investment.  The United States used to be #1 in math and science around the world.  Now the U.S. ranks 21st in math and 25th in science.

Many on the side of the teachers argue that teachers are not evaluated fairly and that teachers need more time to get up to speed.  More time?  Our kids don’t have that kind of time.  I do believe that the teacher evaluation process is flawed.

I am a product of the DC Public School system.  My company has worked for DC Public School system for the past three years.  I volunteer my time working with youth in the most under-served Ward in the city.  I work with teachers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  “If you don’t fire poor performing teachers, good ones will leave.”

Say what you want about Michelle Rhee, but the data, which in to the only measure of success, but a crucial one, reflects improvement under her watch.  According to Rhee, “The data shows if [children] have three highly effective teachers in a row versus three ineffective teachers in a row, it can literally change their life trajectory.”  That is scary.  Scary because we have too many ineffective teachers whose heart is in the right place but simply aren’t getting the job done.  The nation’s school system also has too many bad teachers—bad attitudes and bad skills.

“Waiting For Superman,” points out that union-backed teachers are tenured after just two years in the classroom and are nearly impossible to fire – even if they are proven to be horrible at their job.  Does that make sense to you?  Rhee supports a new proposal that would allow DC teachers to choose to give up their tenure in exchange for double their salary—up to $140,000.  At the time, the union refused to put it to a vote.

Does any of this make sense to you?  It’s as if the adults have forgotten about serving the best interest of the children. This is a complicated problem.  Where do we start?

How can you defend a national system of education that has a one-third drop out rate? Approximately 2000 schools in our country are “drop out” factories where over 50% of the students drop out of high school.

The teachers and administrators that I know on a personal level are extraordinary.  They give up so much of the time and resources for their children.  They have to because of the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education.

I believe that there are more good teachers than bad teachers, but the bad one’s are probably really bad.  By now you have probably concluded that I don’t have the answers to solve this crisis.  I do know that throwing money at the problem is not the answer.

The young people that I deal with need your time.  Not all of it, but just a little bit each week.  Consistency pays huge dividends with children.  We can’t make educating our children the “flavor of the month.”

Former NFL great Alan Page spent fifteen years in the NFL.  While playing football, he became a full-time law student, earning his law degree in 1978.  in 1988, Page launched the Page Education Foundation.  From its inception, the Foundation has offered money and encouragement to students of color facing incredible barriers to attaining their educational dreams.  This is just one example of how one person can make a difference.

If we get on this bandwagon, we have to stay on it until the job is done.  The future of this nation depends on it.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.

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