High stakes testing: The film Waiting for “Superman” extols testing mania and Bush-era reforms (No Child Left Behind) and ignores the negative impacts of these so-called “reforms.” As Nel Noddings, author of When School Reform Goes Wrong, has said, “We have sacrificed richness, depth, and creativity to a dull struggle for higher and higher test scores on material that is quickly forgotten when the test is over.”
Teacher tenure: The film claims that tenure protects teachers’ jobs for life. Not true. Tenure simply ensures that teachers are notified of performance problems and given a chance to improve before dismissal. The only people in America who have a job for life are the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Teachers do not seek lifetime appointments, they only want a system of due process so they cannot be fired unfairly.
Charter schools: silver bullet? The film promotes charter schools as the only way to improve public education, even though it admits that only one charter school in five is more effective than a traditional public school. The film fails to mention the abundant research that shows public schools generally outperform charter schools.
Charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have a place in promoting creative teaching methods that can be used in traditional public schools to benefit all students. But charter schools are not the only way to promote innovation and better learning. In schools across the country, especially in Montana, children benefit from a wide range of exciting new ideas that are the result of communities working together to improve their schools.
Charter schools only serve a small percentage of the student population; most can “cherry pick” the students they want. Only public schools take all children and give them a chance to reach their highest potential — regardless of their individual talents, disabilities, or their parents’ income bracket. That’s what makes public schools the cornerstone of democracy.