I didn’t know the terrible state of Public schools in the US till I saw the documentary “Waiting for Superman“. If the situation is as bad they claim it is (based on the scores of 8th graders in Math and Reading) – we have a serious problem. The number of jobs that will need skilled labor in 2020 will not be met by the domestic pool of talent. The private schools are doing a very good job of ensuing that their students reach college, but not every parent can afford to send their kids to a private school. Based on the number of high school dropouts, the public school system high has been termed as “dropout factory”.
Is the problem with the neighborhoods? Lack of parental awareness? Ability of the kids from poor families?
Well, yes and no. But the main problem with the alarming rate of dropouts has been identified as apathy. A system that breeds apathy in the public school teachers as there is NO incentive to perform better.The main problem for this is the tenuring of public school teachers.After a period of 2 years, all public school teachers get tenured. After that, the lack of ambition and drive to ensure quality education for students dwindles. One student states her teacher as saying “I get paid whether you learn or not”.
With such apathy from tenured teachers, and the union protecting their rights, the issue is no longer about the children, but about the adults.
The solution, in the interim, seems to be Charter schools. The documentary takes the exemplary examples of SEED and KIPP schools that have redefined the commitment levels expected from students and teachers. The charter schools do not have a system of tenuring and it keeps the students and teachers accountable for their future.
I loved the way the documentary starts with the concept of Superman and ends with the idea that superman isn’t coming. Instead, it is up to every citizen to become a superman and lead the change. For a minute, I was inspired to quit my day job and take up teaching. I’m sure I will become a very good teacher, but the real reward will be the chance to make life worth living through so many students and their worthy ambitions.