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Waiting for Superman (2010)Waiting for Superman (2010)

A child's hope for a decent education shouldn't rest in the luck of a lottery, but that's the fate of the five kids in this documentary film by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). Loosely based around the five families of Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, Guggenheim also marshals facts, figures, interviews with important reformers like Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC (who resigned in October 2010 under pressure), Geoffrey Canada of Harlem, and Bill Gates. We all know that too many public schools are "academic sinkholes" or "drop-out factories." We also know that some charter schools (private schools funded by public money) have done a good job. But even the film admits that only one in five charter schools makes a significant change in student performance, and at any rate charter schools are hardly scalable. Guggenheim spreads the responsibilities a little, but for the most part blames "bad teachers" and suggests that all we need is "great" teachers. I hope this film draws attention to a huge social problem, but for deeper insights about complex questions like the relationship between poverty and educational performance, you'll need better resources. For that you might want to see the book of fourteen essays Waiting for Superman; How We Can Save America's Failing Schools (New York: Public Affairs, 2010), or the analysis of Geoffrey Canada's work in Harlem in the NY Times.

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