I've been wanting to see this movie for a long time now, and finally watched it last night with Jerry. As someone who is in the education field, I was wondering how this movie would portray teachers - is the failure of many schools in America a result of bad teachers, home life, or a mix of everything?
What I got out of the movie (the main message) is that America's education system is broken. The way that it is set up (as the movie explained) was for a world that existed 50 years ago. The system worked pretty well then, with the society at the time, but our world now is very different than what it was. Many of our schools are promoting children who are not proficient in their learning, and by college, have not mastered many of the skills that they need to be successful. Things in the system such as tenure prevent school districts from being able to fire inefficient teachers, and so they stay - and new teachers have a hard time finding a job. There was one part in the documentary that stuck with me, where it talked about a teacher's job. "Isn't a teacher's job to teach children and fill them with knowledge?" Essentially, yes. But with all the bureaucracy, paperwork, testing, standards, and so on... you would be surprised how many things get in the way of good teaching. As a first year teacher, I have seen some of this first-hand, and it's frustrating! When our time with our kids is being pulled away because of legalistic issues, we are not able to do our jobs the best we can.
As a public school teacher, I don't agree with everything that was shown in the movie. Yes, the movie showed one side of the story - the successful progress of students in a couple very successful charter schools. It kind of portrayed a message that charter schools had found what worked, and the rest of the schools are yet to do "what works". But are all charter schools successful? I know that not all public schools are successful, either. There are flaws in both systems. But what can we do to fix the system as a whole? It's not just about public vs. charter schools at all - it's about education for all children as a whole.
The part that got to me the most emotionally was the story of the five children in the documentary. Clinging to hope against all odds, their families seek a better education for them. Why is it that in order for them to get a good education, they have to put their children's education in the hands of a lottery system? It's just so unfair. The quality of a child's education should not be based on where they live - it should be the same everywhere. Equal education, right? But we all know realistically this is not the case. The wealthier the neighborhood, the "better" the school, usually.
I have no easy solution for all of this... I think the movie just made me more aware at how much work needs to be done in the education system. But for the time being, I will continue to work hard with the students I am privileged to teach!