Waiting for Superman and strategy for improvement

December 20, 2010 •

Waiting for Superman has really drawn attention to the hunger that families have for good schools. 700+ applications for 40 spots at a school in Harlem; scenes of mothers riding public transit for hours in search of good schools.

In this scene from the movie Bill Gates talks about the importance of education to the country’s future. “People get panicked about the economic success of this country,” he says, and “there is one thing that will determine that.”

“We cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless we have citizens well educated in math, science, and engineering…If we fail at this we won’t be able to compete in the global economy. How strong the country is 20 years from now—and how equitable the country is—will be largely driven by this issue.”

Gates (and others) talk in the documentary about the system as something that does things, rather than a collection of people doing things.

If the goal is to have more good schools like those that parents in the movie want to go to, will this be done because an administrator says it should? If the unions were to disappear tomorrow, would better schools emerge? Probably not. What then is the strategy to get more, good schools? How will it be done?