SUPERMAN IS FROM ANOTHER PLANET

Editorial

If you've heard about or seen the movie "Waiting for Superman," you know that it portrays public schools as failures and charters as a panacea. The movie oversimplifies and makes an emotional appeal for a false solution to a problem it misrepresents.

The major challenges that many schools face, such as student poverty and lots of missing basic resources, are not examined. And, if you think the movie is on the wrong track, try reading the book being issued to accompany it. Both movie and book trot out the same old "money doesn't matter" argument, among others.

Public education is the foundation of our democracy, and the fact is we know how to do it well. However, for many of our low-income children and children of color, we do not provide a fair opportunity to learn. But many of those problems can be solved by directing our efforts and resources towards expanding the excellence found in many suburban public schools to urban and rural schools.

We Can't Wait for Superman

To offer another perspective on the movie, consider that:

Big Problems Need Big Solutions

We don't need Superman. We need "Super Systems" capable of rescuing tens of thousands of young people each year.

Charters are an Inadequate Solution---that Leave Kids Behind

Charters educate only 4% of U.S. children. The fastest growing system of charters is in New York, with 22% growth and only educates 2% (21,000) of New York City's over 1 million students.

According to a recent and highly regarded study only 17% of charter schools do better than regular public schools and 36% do significantly worse. To learn more about research on charters, see Charter School Achievement, Hype vs. Evidence.

Systemic Opportunity Gaps and Achievement Gaps Can Be Closed in a Reasonable Time

In New Jersey, after the Abbott court decisions---which provided resources for the state's high-need school districts---graduation and achievement scores for all students rose---based on national standards.

Systemic Solutions Must Include High Quality Early Childhood Education

We've known for years that early education works, so why not guarantee it to all our children? A child who starts school ready to learn and is literate by 3rd grade has lasting positive outcomes.

Education is a Civil Right

Education can't depend on a lottery, as depicted in the movie. We must guarantee all children access to high quality early education, highly effective teachers, college and work-preparatory curricula and instructional resources like good school libraries and small classes in the early grades.

Bigger and Bolder Approaches

The potential return on the investment needed to give every child an equal opportunity to learn is 250%.

Our country's future is at the crossroads of opportunity for all or progress for a few. The path we take is critical. The answer is not in a lottery or Superman but in solutions that give all our children an opportunity to learn and creates one America.

Send Superman back to his home planet, and let’s get down to earth about providing educational opportunity to all children.