‘Superman’ saga continues

The news stories and commentary keep coming about the documentary film Waiting for “Superman.” At the risk of beating a dead horse, here are a few more examples:

Must have been an oversight

The film had its Indianapolis debut Tuesday at an invitation-only screening sponsored by Mind Trust, a local education reform organization.

Speaking at the event were Mind Trust CEO David Harris, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and M. Karega Rausch, education assistant to current Mayor Greg Ballard. The audience included Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White and at least a couple of writers for the Indianapolis Star.

Star columnist Matt Tully praises Waiting for “Superman” and urges readers to see it, but says it may bear the burden of unreasonable expectations – it’s too much to think that one movie may “finally put the country on a path toward solving its massive education problems.”

Another story describes the film and quotes Bennett and Harris. It also notes that representatives of the 50,000-member Indiana State Teachers Association were apparently left off the invitation list.

“We find it very disappointing that we were not included to participate (Tuesday) evening,” ISTA spokesman Mark Shoup told the Star.

A ‘propagandistic attack’

Diane Ravitch, writing in the Education Week “Bridging Differences” blog that she shares with Deborah Meier, calls Waiting for “Superman” “a one-sided, propagandistic attack on public education which echoes the prescriptions of those who have devoutly wished for the privatization of education.”

Ravitch, an education historian who was an assistant secretary of education in the first Bush administration, lists a series of troubling failures by charter schools, which are reportedly cast as the saviors of American education in the film.

“Those promoting the privatization of American public education are blinded by free-market ideology,” writes Ravitch, author of the recent book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. “They refuse to pay attention to evidence, whether it be research or the accumulating anecdotal evidence of misbehavior, incompetence, fraud, greed, and chicanery that the free market facilitates.”

Change at the top in D.C. schools … or not

Michelle Rhee, the Washington, D.C., schools chancellor who plays herself in the role of heroic reformer in Waiting for “Superman,” has resigned. The move was expected after her patron, Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost in the Democratic primary last month to D.C. Council chairman Vincent Gray.

Gray named Kaya Henderson, Rhee’s top deputy, to be interim schools chancellor, the Washington Post reported. All four – the outgoing and incoming mayor and chancellor – appeared together at a news conference and said the reforms that Rhee was implementing will continue under Gray/Henderson. The reforms include firing ineffective teachers and closing underperforming schools.

“In short, we have agreed — together — that the best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside,” Rhee said.

Harlem Children’s Zone success questioned

An article in the New York Times gives voice to critics of the Harlem Children’s Zone and its founder, Geoffrey Canada, another “Superman” superhero.

The Times points to low test scores by students in some of the HCZ charter schools and quotes scholars who are skeptical of Canada’s cradle-to-college approach to breaking the cycle of poverty through education and social services – with funding assistance from Wall Street philanthropists.

The article says Canada doesn’t apologize for the cost of his approach: $16,000 per student plus additional money for after-school programs, incentives and awards. You could possibly provide a decent education for less, he said. “But that is not what we are attempting to do. We are attempting to save a community and its kids all at the same time.”

Photo op time

Finally, the White House website features a video of President Barack Obama meeting with the kids featured in Waiting for “Superman” and their parents (and director Davis Guggenheim). Whatever you think of Obama or the movie, the kids are cute, cute cute!

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