When I first watched this documentary, my wife and I were deciding on a Pre-School for my oldest son, Travis. I was on the fence about which school he would like to go to. I really wasn’t thinking that the school we choose today would really affect how he did High School, or even whether he would go to College. We live in Long Beach, Ca and had a wide range of schools to choose from. We finally chose Parkcrest Early Childhood School, a Catholic School in northern Long Beach. When it’s time for K-12 we have decided to send both of our sons to private Catholic School. Like so many others, we realized that the public school system is broken. According to the movie, some of the elementary schools in our area are dropout factories. This means that 58% of kids entering those schools drop out of high school. Why would I risk sending my child to a failing school, knowing what I know now?
Why do schools fail?
The first failure is always going to be in the classroom. Regardless of whether the school is in a pore or rich neighborhood, if a student does not learn 100% of the years curriculum in a school year, that student will not be ready for the next year. Great schools have teacher teaching 150% of the curriculum in a school year, good schools have teachers teaching 100%, and bad schools have teachers teaching 50%. You would think, great, now we know how to fix the problem. All we have to do is fire bad teachers, right. Here is where it gets tricky. Once a teacher gets tenure, that teacher is guaranteed a job for life, it is almost impossible to fire them. In the public school system, a teacher will receive tenure after two years. The only way to change this is if the Teachers Unions agree to change the rules of tenure. Even if the world was coming to an end, the Teachers Unions would be clinging to tenure for dear life. You can’t even offer teacher $20,000 more a year if they’re a good or great teacher, because it’s not in their contract.
So what do you do with those bad teachers?
There is a provision in the teacher’s contract that the superintendents call “The Dance of the Lemons”. In some states this allows principles to round up all there bad teachers and trade them with other schools. The principles hope that they are left with better teachers then they started with. In New York, teachers who are charged with crimes or are excessively late are sent to a reassignment center, where they wait forever to be reassigned. This does not even include “Bad” teachers. They spend an average three years in what they call the rubber room. This costs the state of New York $100,000,000 a year.
For people who can afford it, the options are simple; send your kid to a private school. But for low income families, the only option is to try their luck with a charter school. Because there are so many families that want their kids in charter schools, the charter schools have to hold a lottery. This is so devastating to the children that don’t get in. The really good charter schools can change whole communities. In LA County, one of those schools is Kipp LA Prep. They are privately funded and could use your help.
This was one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It is a Must Watch for every parent. It will force you to get more involved with your child’s education. Pledge to see this movie today.