A.G. Rud

Diane Ravitch is doing some remarkably informed and incisive work. I was impressed and moved by her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, and now by her review of the documentary Waiting for “Superman.” Titled “The Myth of Charter Schools,” it appears in the New York Review of Books.

I have not seen the film as it has not been available to us yet, but we in the College of Education have talked about possibly arranging for a showing. What I’ve read about it greatly concerns me. I value the presentation of data by Ravitch debunking some of its central points, including its claim that 70 percent of eighth-grade students cannot read at grade level. “This is flatly wrong,” she writes, and goes on to prove it.

Ravitch is dismayed that the film downplays the problems outside of schools that are working against students, including poverty. She notes the difficulties of identifying “bad” or ineffective teachers, especially in light of a trend toward hiring administrators who have little or no education experience. She points out that the film decries teachers’ unions, while lauding the school system of Finland — a country with a completely unionized teaching force.

I am interested to hear reactions from others about the film, and Ravitch’s review.