"Superman" not an action movie

While it’s not a blockbuster action-movie, despite the title, you’re likely to hear a lot about Waiting for Superman, about the nation’s schools. It opens today.

I’m not high profile enough to be invited to an early screening, but I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the movie for months.

It talks about the dismal state of many American schools and praises charter schools as a way to improve them.

I’ve covered education for 20 years and know that the issue is a lot more complicated.

Rockwall, for instance, has pretty good schools. The administration will be the first to tell you that there are still improvements to be made. But, for the most part, students graduate with a servicable education that allows them to go onto college and jobs.

The movie is about schools that aren’t that good. Where students lives are being destroyed while they are still in grade school because the situation is so bad.

The movie holds up charter schools — schools paid for by taxpayers but outside most state rules and regulations — as an answer, maybe the answer.

There are some brilliant charter schools that have shown they can seriously improve education for students who are most in need.

And there are some truly lousy, even fraudulent, charter schools that are far worse than their neighborhood counterparts.

I’ve never understood why parents will put up with and even say they love charter schools with the same problems as the neighborhood schools.

If the air conditioning doesn’t work for a day at the local school, it’s the end of the world. The charter school can do without for weeks and it’s fine. Battered textbooks at the local school are a sign of failure; at the charter school they signal noble struggle. Inexperienced teachers in the public school are a tragedy. Teachers with the same experience at a charter school show a willingness to move outside the bureaucracy.

And don’t get me started on parents who won’t attend a parent conference at their local school but will put in required volunteer hours at the charter school.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and direct you to Holly Hacker’s story in today’s paper. She has the expert’s take on the film.

It’s definately worth reading. And it worth joining the debate on improving education.

–Karel Holloway/Reporter

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