I just saw the movie, “Waiting for Superman,” last night. There were many issues raised, including how poorly we are serving low-income urban students. If they are lucky enough to have a parent or loved one—grandparent, aunt, uncle—who is involved in their lives enough to fight for resources for them, like getting into the lottery to go to a charter school, then their chance for success is great. Frankly whether those students get into the charter school or not, they are still more likely to succeed because the parents have an expectation of their success and they will uphold that high bar for the child to reach.
In many urban areas, the neighborhoods surrounding the schools and the schools themselves are in grave disrepair. These places are often referred to as, “Drop Out Factories,” if they fail to graduate less than half of their students. Another factor which contributes to low performing schools is low-performing teachers who can’t be fired because of their Teacher’s Union Contract. So, the most outstanding teachers get paid what the lowest performing teachers get paid. Some school systems, like New York City’s, pay to keep their lowest performing students away from kids –sitting all day in a room each day—to the tune of over a million dollars a year.
This movie is a must-see for all Americans to understand the issue at stake right now in public education. Since public education is the single most important indicator for economic and financial success of the future, we need to know more and be creative in finding better solutions. Geoffrey Canada is certainly such an individual. There are many teachers in public schools who are doing an exceptional job. We need to find more ways to find the things that are working, recruit more parents to be involved, get more at-risk students involved in after-school activities and at least two to three hours of homework each night so that they begin early to cultivate success habits. Obviously, this is a complex issue. But the more that we as Americans are informed, the more we can use our ingenuity to solve this situation and, in so doing, create a bright future as we middle-agers go into our later years.