The NYTimes profiles the charter schools celebrated (I think "celebrated" is the right word, haven't seen it) in the new documentary film Waiting For Superman. The schools are the vision of a man - Geoffrey Canada - with a broad, societal view of the things that need to change to turn around public schools. Most dauntingly, he argues, changes will be expensive and results may take a generation to show up.
Mr. Canada, 58, who began putting his ideas into practice on a single block, on West 119th Street, in the mid-1990s, does not apologize for the cost of his model, saying his goals are wider than just fixing a school or two. His hope is to prove that if money is spent in a concentrated way to give poor children the things middle-class children take for granted — like high-quality schooling, a safe neighborhood, parents who read to them, and good medical care — they will not pass on the patterns of poverty to another generation.As uplifting as his efforts are, though, the reality is staggeringly depressing about the challenges we face in education. These are schools that are heavily, heavily funded with private money from Wall Street philanthropists who believe in the project. Students have incentives, teachers have incentives, class sizes are low, the school year is long, college is emphasized, there are after-school programs, mentors and tutors, guidance counselors, social workers, a chef to prepare fresh nutritious meals and lots more, the kinds of assets we would want all public schools to have but know realistically we would and maybe could never pay for on a national scale.
“You could, in theory, figure out a less costly way of working with a small number of kids, and providing them with an education,” Mr. Canada said. “But that is not what we are attempting to do. We are attempting to save a community and its kids all at the same time.”
And yet, achievement gaps remain. What's next? What's left?