Waiting For Superman, Part 2

Two months ago, I wrote:

If WFS hits $10 million gross, that’s 1 million such ticket buyers who will walk out having internalized Guggenheim’s message.

There are 5,000 charters or so, and about half in cities. So the movie will be somewhat equivalent to each of 2,500 urban charters having a 90 minute tour for 400 members of the community. My experience has been a) It’s hard to get people to visit, but b) when they do, they typically like what they see (particularly any ad-hoc talking with kids).

Well, the box office tally is in. Superman grossed $6.2 million.

Three thoughts:

1. That's the equivalent of the nation's 2500 charter schools each getting 250 people to do a 90-minute tour. Not bad.

2. Bigger picture, for those reformers who hoped for more impact from this movie -- some sea change in public opinion -- must be disappointed. Commenter Jenny was right:

This movie was strangely reminiscent of the Al Gore “Inconvenient Truth” phenom a few years back. Lot of scary facts and statistics, a very clear explication of the issues, and almost NO explanation of how viewers can make a real change in the current trends (beyond recycling batteries or making a 15 dollar donation to a classroom in Detroit…)

I’m hoping the anger and energy this movie has been rousing doesn’t fizzle out the way it did around An Inconvenient Truth, but I’m not holding my breath.

3. I wrote:

(Mike Petrilli of Fordham Foundation said): "Let’s put that 'We know what works' talk back in the bottle, where it belongs. We’re a few steps into a long journey, and the more humility we bring along with us, the better."

I can’t emphasize that enough. I blogged about that a couple weeks back — My Charter School Fears: Bad Scoreboard.

Yet here it is again.

I am a fan of recently departed NYC Chancellor of Education Joel Klein. But in his swan song column in the Wall Street Journal, he writes "We know how to fix public education. The question is whether we have the political will to do it."

I would prefer something like:

We know how to make public education better, and we often lack the political will to do those things. But we don't know how to fix it -- the way when a car is fixed it runs at a pretty satisfying level.

Even if the whole Race To The Top vision is fully implemented in some state or city -- where every school has full autonomy, the worst teachers are fired, better folks are attracted to the profession, teacher prep programs make major gains, the "turnarounds" succeed in bringing the lowest 10% of schools to the median for that geography -- we might have meaningful progress, yet staggering gaps and challenges will remain.