"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, September 16, 2010

NOT Waiting for Superman and NOT Wanting Superwoman

Michelle Rhee is proving that defeat only brings out more of the bad Superwoman in her.  Valerie Strauss has noticed, pointing to an interview done with Microsoft/NBC's clueless Nora O'Donnell in which Rhee blames the lazy and stupid voters for not appreciating the hard work that she and lame duck dictator boss are engaged in. 
. . . .She further suggests that people didn’t like the reforms -- which include linking teacher pay to student standardized test scores (a terrible idea) and increasing the number of standardized tests kids must take (another rotten idea) because they were hard.

The people just don’t want “hard” reform.

“Reformers across the country knew when the mayor and I took these aggressive reforms on that it was going to be tremendously difficult... People need to see how hard the work is.”

To the extent that Fenty’s fate was tied to Rhee’s performance, it would be wise to remember that communications lapses were the least of her problems. Failing to tell the truth on a number of occasions about major efforts is more to the point, as is pushing forward some reforms that make no sense, the biggest one her IMPACT teacher evaluation system. Overstating success was another issue, as my colleague Bill Turque (who has given us fair and really smart coverage of Rhee's tenure) wrote in this story.. . .
Meanwhile, a Facebook page is up called NOT Waiting for Superman, with ideas for boycotts, demonstrations, leafleting, to counter the shock and awe media campaign that has been launched to coincide with the the Oligarchs' new propaganda film.

Finally, here is Susan O's take on the new heart-tugging drama-ganda:
Fewer than Six Degrees of Separation Between Barack Obama and Waiting for Superman

by Susan Ohanian

I have not seen the film "Waiting for Superman." Nor have I signed the pledge at the film website promising to see it. As of this date, 24,091 people have made the pledge, making the whole thing seem like a religious cause rather than a movie.

Here, I just provide a little background on the people associated with the film.

Jeff Skoll was the first president of e-Bay and used his fortune from that to set up a film-production company Participant Productions--which has produced some really good films, including "Good Night and Good Luck," "The Soloist," and "The Kite Runner" as well as the oft-mention "Inconvenient Truth." Most of Skoll's films have a strong moral message. He says, in fact, that he makes movies to inspire social change. Clearly, this is a fellow who believes in righteous causes. And now he is showing hundreds of thousands of public school teachers that one man's righteous cause may be another's indignation.

According to their website, "The Skoll Foundation celebrates social entrepreneurship and social innovation through film and broadcast partnerships designed to spread the stories of social entrepreneurs." Such partnerships include the PBS NewsHour and the Sundance Institute, "which help drive large-scale public awareness of social entrepreneurship and its potential to address the critical issues of our time."

Skoll's Silicon Valley donations include $300,000 to Teach for America. "over two years for recruitment, training, professional development and support of college graduates who teach underserved students for two years in the Alum Rock Union, East Palo Alto and Redwood City school districts."

In 2008 The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepeurship" gave Wendy Kopp a "social entrepreneurship" award.

Now, if you want to get conspiracy-theory minded, Davis Guggenheim, who wrote and directed "Waiting for Superman, made a bio of Barack Obama's mother, which premiered at the 2008 Democratic National Convention before Barack Obama's speech accepting his party's nomination. He also directed an Obama infomercial which aired in 2008. Guggenheim is best known as director of the blockbuster "Inconvenient Truth." (2006)

Guggenheim went to Sidwell Friends & Brown. Skoll has an electrical engineering degree from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Stanford. What more could you want from people making "an exhaustive review of public education?"

The Synopsis at the film website includes this statement:

Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying drop-out factories and academic sinkholes, methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.

However, embracing the belief that good teachers make good schools, Guggenheim offers hope by exploring innovative approaches taken by education reformers and charter schools that have--in reshaping the culture--refused to leave their students behind.

In an interview with Take Part, Guggenheim says, "And look at Michelle Rhee, she was a teacher and a lot of the reformers are coming out of Teach for America. There are battle lines drawn between the reformers and some teachers, and that's an uncomfortable truth that is part of the film. . . . Steve Barr of Green Dot, who has schools here in LA, is taking over Locke High School in Watts. It's like David and Goliath seeing him against the LA Unified School District -- and he might be winning. There are so many stories that are worthy and inspiring that we couldn't put in the movie."

It comes as no surprise that Bill Gates loves the film. He even showed up at the advanced screening at Sundance, where it won the audience award for best documentary. Gates told Reuters, "Many of these high schools are terrible, and this film, 'Waiting for Superman' by Davis Guggenheim, which I have a very minor part in, tells this story in a brilliant way."

Guggenheim is featured on The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.

This all gets even more tangled, circling back to the Skoll Foundation and the Obama administration desire to promote nonprofit social entrepreneurship. On May 27, 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama and the Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Patrick Corvington announced the initial phase of philanthropic commitments to match Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grants. Participating groups are: Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation ($10 million over two years), John and Ann Doerr's Family Foundation ($5 million over two years), the Omidyar Network ($10 million over two years), the Open Society Foundations' Special Fund for Poverty Alleviation ($10 million for one year), and the Skoll Foundation ($10 million over two years).

Alistair Bomphray saw the movie and his review is worth reading.


— Susan Ohanian

2010-07-26

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