Friday, November 12, 2010

Concerned About The Quality Of Education?

If you're not, you should be, and here's why...

This video was produced by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — who is far from some wild-eyed, whacko, right-wing, anti-government crusader. In fact, he’s best known for his work with Al Gore in producing An Inconvenient Truth.

The inspiration for Guggenheim's latest film, which is described as "following a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth,” stems from his personal experience driving past three public schools as he transported his kids from his home in Venice Beach, Calif. to their private school every day.

Guggenheim takes viewers on a highly disturbing tour of “academic sinkholes” and “drop-out factories" — painful, albeit accurate — descriptions that fit all too many public schools in Washington State. Those terms are a direct reflection of our state’s 30+ percent drop-out rate, where in some districts, half are minority students. This film explores the purely political limitations placed on the number of charter schools allowed in states like ours, where  parents are forced to place their kid’s names in a lottery, so random drawings can determine their educational future. The most touching moments in the film are those depicting the heartfelt disappointment on the faces of the lottery losers.

And this should really scare you... While well over half of our entire state budget is devoted to education, Governor Gregoire’s education commission found for the first time our high-priced education system is producing a generation of students less educated than their parents.

The film acknowledges that high-quality teachers are essential to student learning — a conclusion firmly supported not only by educational research, but common sense. And while educational advocates continually push for increased funding — usually in the form of higher taxes — no amount of dollars will matter if teachers aren't held accountable for our kids actually learning.

Waiting for Superman is a very strong and clearly stated indictment of the role unions play in keeping  our kids shackled to substandard schools. Given the power of the teachers’ union in this state, making that point  takes some extraordinary courage.

It goes without saying teachers' union officials didn't take this harsh criticism too well. Mary Lindquist, head of the Washington Education Association (WEA), the state’s most powerful teachers union, was quick with a venomous response, issuing a dictate to parents, teachers and school board members on exactly how to view this film. She notes that Washington already allows innovation schools — but she fails to point out the "inconvenient truth" that out of 2,250 schools, there are only five statewide. According to Lindquist, those five schools prove there’s no need to end our state’s ban on charter schools.

Meanwhile, Washington’s more than 100,000 private and home-schooled children generally receive a higher quality education, yet receive no public money. Charter public schools, if or when they are allowed in Washington, would offer the rest of our kids the same opportunities.

Waiting For Superman is showing at the Historic Orchard Theater in downtown Port Orchard beginning on Friday, Nov. 12. If you have kids, you owe it to them to see it.


  1. Anonymous9:06 PM

    Egads Lary... Don't post this, but I thought I'd tell ya — the education poll you have on your blog has a major grammatical error. (-; ~ Greg Piper

  2. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Yeah, I know :)

    I realized that after it was posted, and was going to fix it, but several people had already voted, and if I changed it, I would have to take down the entire poll — I can't edit it after it's been posted. I didn't want anyone to think I was negating the votes already cast to get a specific outcome, so I decided to leave it alone and suffer the embarrassment if anyone noticed and commented :)