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Sex Education Article

Saving Our Schools: Superman Or Real Solutions? Is America willing to accept a great education - for that few? That_s the question at the center of the documentary from director Davis Guggenheim, Waiting for Superman.
The movie is selective and insufficient, which shouldn't be surprising. A cottage industry has developed around pundits who've minor substantive wisdom over public education, yet give their opinion nonetheless. For instance, one of the major shortcomings of this picture: that Guggenheim selected to incorporate footage of a flawed educator in a Milwaukee classroom along with the rubber room in New York, but decided not to add in footage of thriving public schools in which uncounted and unheralded teachers do extraordinary things each day to educate our kids. This lack of balance may suit Guggenheim's narrow and selective narrative; however it does not tell the full and textured story of what actually is going on in American schools.
The documentary brings consideration on the children who are being failed by our educational system and deprived of the type of education that will open doors for them throughout their lives. Despite Guggenheim's unquestionably best intentions, the documentary falls short by casting 2 outliers in starring roles - the "bad" educator as criminal and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The crisis is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual.
Are there dreadful instructors? Of course there are, just as there are bad accountants, and lawyers, and picture reviewers. I wish there weren't any poor instructors. But American Federation of Teachers is in the forefront of developing and implementing methods to enhance teacher quality, and to deal effectively and efficiently with problems when they occur.
In truth, union-led instructor assistance and evaluation programs (in which new and struggling teachers are trained and assessed by more practiced peers) have been shown to be far stricter on poorly performing teachers than those conducted by administrators.
No instructor - myself included - wants instructors in the classroom who don't belong there. Those knowledgeable about education understand the importance of teacher quality, but they do not buy into the simplistic notion that an outbreak of "bad teachers" is bringing down an otherwise thriving enterprise of education.
And tenure should never be misconstrued as a "job for life." Instructors and educators unions are right to preserve a good, objective standard by which educators should be judged. But due process must not disintegrate into glacial process, and educators who - at the end of a fair, efficient process - are deemed unfit for the profession should be dismissed. Administrators also must fulfill their responsibilities: to support, properly evaluate and, when necessary, make tough decisions about the teachers entrusted to educate our children.
I could litter a cutting room floor with all the bits and pieces this picture got wrong. For example, New York City's rubber room has been closed, after years of union-led efforts to slam the door on this practice.
For argument's sake, let's say a miracle happened overnight and our current, wholly insufficient system of evaluating educator effectiveness suddenly became adequate or, better yet, accurate. Say administrators identified educators who simply didn't make the grade, and removed them from their classrooms. What then?
Who wants to manage the more difficult (but less sexy) and entirely essential (but unexciting) realities, as in the fact that teachers need equipment, resources and aid to do their jobs well? It is invigorating to say "fire the poor educators, " but it does not do much to enhance schools. The simple, unsexy reality is that the best method to enhance instructor quality is to do a better job of developing and supporting the educators to whom we entrust our children's educations. But some seem to buy into the world according- to-Superman philosophy of education reform - that the "best performing schools" are the boutique schools that enjoy extra resources and are more selective in choosing their student populations. I mean no disrespect to the many well-intentioned people who set out to provide a good education to students that have been denied that right. But most of them fall short, and even people who defy the odds touch only a minuscule percentage of children.
The opportunity for an excellent public education should come not by accident, not even by choice, but by right.
We all agree that right is being denied to too many children. But, in the end, no solution is as measurable, as reachable or as liable as a remarkable neighborhood school. I've seen such success stories in real life. In schools everywhere from New York City to Albuquerque, N.M., from St. Paul, Minn., to Philadelphia, and from Los Angeles County to Baltimore, students are defying the odds. The solutions aren't the stuff of action flicks - supports for disadvantaged students, extra help for those who start or fall behind, high expectations for all kids and challenging coursework - but they achieve the desired results.
Imagine a sequel to Waiting for Superman, released a few years from today. Would we rather stick with the cinematic model of providing an escape plan - sometimes superior, most often inferior - to a handful of students? Or provide a model in which we had summoned the will to do the hard, but effective and far-reaching, work to create significant changes to entire school districts, providing all kids with the best possible choice - an extremely effective neighborhood school? Ninety percent of American students - almost fifty million children - focus on our public schools. Change in a single classroom, a single school, or even a single school district isn_t enough.
We can't wait. And we must not rest our hopes on Superman, or on any mythical solution or silver bullet. We can't depend on anything other than replicable, measurable, effective tactics to grant all children the education they deserve.
profile/Mark-Ting/301731>Mark Ting

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