Don’t Wait for Superman

The movie Waiting for Superman is coming out tomorrow, and I am concerned about the effect it will have on public education both nationally and here in Seattle. It is essentially an advertisement for charter schools, paid for by big business interests.

The movie shows poor unfortunate students who need rescuing from terrible public schools, a superhero who is coming to their rescue, and the solution to all their problems: a lottery system that gives students a chance to attend top-notch charter schools with waiting lists.

Charter schools are, on the whole, worse than public schools. One third of charter schools underperform compared to public schools on standardized tests – only one sixth do better. (

Some charter schools have better results on student standardized tests. (I’ll set aside, for the moment, my objections to using a standardized test to measure the success of a school.) But this idea of saving students by using a lottery system to assign students to schools is not an acceptable answer to the problems of public education, because it is not available to everybody. Here in Seattle, the district tried “school choice,” which led to a lot of stress and frustration for parents who had enough trouble finding the “best schools,” and which the district has now abandoned because it cost too much to bus students all over the place.

The only way to save public education is to give all schools and all students a chance to succeed.

And parents, students, and teachers can’t wait for a superhero to make this change happen. We have to do it ourselves. We have to be our own superheroes.

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