The new documentary “Waiting for Superman” raises the question, how do we find a superhero that can help provide quality education for children to inner-city communities? The focus is on a handful of charter schools portraying random selectivity for admission
that makes all the difference to children’s futures. The heartfelt reactions of parents and the aspirations of their children are the most engaging connecting points in the movie.
While it remains a sobering truth that comes with the phenomenon of charter schools, the preoccupation with the exclusivity of these few charter schools to provide the solution to the achievement gap is distracting from a real solution to a bigger problem.
I suggest a more inclusive approach based on results. All schools, regardless of governance style should be considered solutions as long as they have a proven track record of performance and outcomes.
Most children don’t know or care about the governance structure of the school they attend. They simply know whether or not they’re learning. If they’re learning – in a productive, respectful, nurturing environment- there are lessons to be shared across lines that tend to divide us. There are a number of independent, faith-based, charter and district schools that already exist in our communities that are successful. These are the schools we need to identify, spotlight, and build from in order to create systemic change. Such a change can move us from the failed school cultures and thin slices of hope portrayed in the movie to positive can-do cultures of existing successful schools.
While the movie correctly identifies the problem, the solution leaves us still waiting for Superman. But I contend superman has arrived in the form of existing assets in our communities. Now it behooves us all to do a better job recognizing these assets and building on their successes to arrive at an overall system that is globally competitive. A school system in which we can once again be proud. Schools That Can has been, and continues to collaborate to grow seats of quality education across a variety of schools. We believe Superman has already touched so many great schools. We’re just trying to give him a hand.
By Michael Druckman