In 2008 a study was done to find out what percentages of 8th graders in the U.S. were proficient in Math & Reading! The results for 7 states in particular were alarming: Alabama had only 18% of students proficient in Math, Mississippi just 14%, New Jersey 40%, Connecticut 35%, New York 30%, Arizona 26% and the kicker, our nations capital D.C. had the lowest of all for proficiency in Reading with a dismal 12%! These numbers are a horrifying wake up call as to what is going with the state of education (or lack thereof) for our children in this country! The documentary “Waiting for Superman” brings a bright light of exposure to a growing epidemic of school children nationwide who are given the short end of the stick when it comes to proper education that prepares them not only for higher education (college) but real life.
In 1971 the government was spending about $4,300 per student in public schools for their education, compared to the $9,000 amount that was spent as of 2008. That is an increase that has doubled in price, but the result is that students math and test scores have not improved but flat lined. Director Davis Guggenheim’s film points out that the problem has multiple culprits to blame. A failing system in dire need of reform is one.
In Pittsburgh it was reported that it costs $132,000 to keep someone in prison over a 4 year period, but only $107,000 to put someone through a 4 year university! Not to mention that 68% of Pittsburgh’s inmates dropouts. But I guarantee you that there are more prisons being built in this country by the year than schools and universities, even though it’s cheaper to educate a mind than to imprison one. And in Los Angeles Locke H.S. (again in 2008) had a receiving freshmen class of 1,200 students, but only 300+ of that class graduated to their sophomore grade. This school has been around for over 40 years, and at the declining rate of kids failing and dropping out, over 40,000 kids in their existence haven’t graduated!
The second problem lies with a lack of more quality teachers who show a true passion & concern of our children’s future. In Milwaukee in 1991 teachers were recorded reading newspapers while students were playing and rolling dice in the classroom. This showed a total display of neglect and disinterest being shown in teaching or caring about the student’s education. When the superintendent at the time Howard Fuller tried to show disciplinary action by firing the teachers who showed this gross neglect, he was not only forced to hire them back, but with back pay, due to a little fine thing called tenure! Once a teacher reaches tenure, it makes it basically impossible for them to be let go or fired, no matter how incompetent they may be at their job. Just to prove how difficult it is, a study conducted comparing 2 other professions (doctors and lawyers) found that generally 1 out of 57 doctors may lose their license, 1 out of 97 lawyers, but only 1 out of 2,500 teachers may lose their job due to incompetency!
In DC (the ones with the 12% proficiency for 8th graders in Reading) hired Michelle Rhie as their superintendent (their 7th one in 10 years). She started off by straightening up their education system from within by cleaning house! She cut 100 jobs, a quarter of all principals & closed 23 schools that were underperforming! Needless to say the teachers, school workers and more importantly teacher’s union were not pleased. In 2008 Rhie hit the education world with a game changing proposal that promised to shake the core of inaccuracies and ineffectiveness with the system. Or atleast so she thought! Rhie gave a proposal to the teachers that they could keep their beloved tenure and receive max salary around $73k, or they could give up tenure and work on a (performance based incentive) and earn a potential upwards of $122k a year! The union was so scared by the divide the proposal may cause, they didn’t even allow the teachers to vote on it! How startling and telling is that?
Lastly it’s also highly important that parents take a active and vigilant role in their children’s future and education. If you don’t care about who and how your child is taught, than why should anyone else? Educator Jeffrey Canada understood the importance of this as well and started a provisional charter college prep charter school in Central Harlem. It’s basically a public school and is funded with public funds, but doesn’t go by the same status quo of your typical neighborhood public school. Canada’s school’s purpose was to prepare kids from the time they start grade school to the time they finish 12th grade, so that they can excel at a high level when they are ready to enter college! The difficult thing about it is that there is limited space, so it’s run on a lottery system to decide what students qualify to be accepted.
Even though it was reported initially that only 1 out of 5 charter schools usually do well, the results of the schools documented here were remarkable! These top schools have a rate of graduating 90% of their students, who go on to 4 year colleges! But as mentioned the schools are highly difficult to get into. Schools like Harlem Success (40 slots, 792 applicants), Summit Prep in California (110 slots, 455 applicants), & SEED in DC (24 slots, 61 applicants)! You would think with such a great and successful rate, the government and other philanthropist and esteemed individuals would want to invest more money and resources into programs that work and succeed in educating our youth!
Bill Gates once testified before Congress that if the US didn’t do something to improve the numbers of students graduating with degrees in Math, Science and Engineering, we would be forced to outsource the majority of our top paying jobs elsewhere! It was projected that by 2020, there will be 123 million high paying hi tech jobs available, but only 50 million Americans qualified to fill them! So now that we have the info and know the problem, and have some possible solutions, what are we going to do about it? Continue to wait on Superman, or get up, get active and put our time, money and resources together to educate the minds and prepare the future of our children for success? On a scale of 1-5 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, I give Waiting for Superman a resounding 5 stars *****. Till next time be safe and stay blessed.