Customer Reviews


374 Reviews
5 star:
 (235)
4 star:
 (49)
3 star:
 (24)
2 star:
 (25)
1 star:
 (41)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


226 of 274 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are we failing? How do we succeed?
One of the most remarkable components of the film was the discussion of a proposal of Michelle Rhee -- the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system -- to pay teachers in the district up to $140k based on merit, if tenure would be ended in the district. In the world capital of democracy, the teacher union leaders refused to let this proposal go to a...
Published on October 8, 2010 by David

versus
291 of 383 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading and wrought with omissions...
I recommend seeing this documentary for the stories and indelible images (the lottery at the end will stay with you), but I encourage viewers to keep in mind a few facts that the documentary either overlooks or mentions only briefly. It is these omissions that will allow most viewers to leave with two spurious conclusions:

1) Public education everywhere is a...
Published on December 4, 2010 by Brandon Schultz


‹ Previous | 1 238 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

226 of 274 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are we failing? How do we succeed?, October 8, 2010
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
One of the most remarkable components of the film was the discussion of a proposal of Michelle Rhee -- the Chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools system -- to pay teachers in the district up to $140k based on merit, if tenure would be ended in the district. In the world capital of democracy, the teacher union leaders refused to let this proposal go to a union vote.

This short story is nestled into the middle of the film but describes the flavor of the rest of the movie. "Waiting for 'Superman'" is a shock and awe that delivers convincing arguments that good teachers are what matters to student learning but the U.S. school system cannot let shining stars shine or fire the bad apples, and the worse-off neighborhoods are hit the hardest. One of the major arguments of the film is that teacher tenure* has to go. It makes its case for each point with facts, figures, clear arguments, and examples. The film intensely wraps it all together with emotional connections to a half-dozen students followed through the film, each hoping to literally win the lottery and get a spot in a top charter school.

The film isn't all attack, and it shows several success stories in the form of top charter schools. Many of these schools have graduation rates of nearly 100%, and nearly all students go onto college. Interestingly, many of the charter schools take students who were already behind and from neighborhoods with schools that are classified as drop-out factories (where a minority of students graduate).

"Waiting for 'Superman'" examines the problems, and it shows what is possible.

See this film. Understand the issues. Push for reform.

- - -

* Tenure started with professors at universities. However, professors are never guaranteed tenure when they start their positions, and it typically takes about ten years -- "ten-ures" -- before they earn it. Many never achieve it. Yet K-12 public school teachers who have been only teaching for three years at the same school can achieve tenure, and they don't even have to go through a review to be granted tenure.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


102 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We have to be our own Superman, October 10, 2010
By 
Robin (Bethesda, MD) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
In Waiting for Superman, David Guggenheim's riviting documentary about America's school systems, he asks the question many parents have been asking. If our teachers are central to the performance of a school, how can we reconcile poor performance with an uncritical view of teachers? Are bad schools only in slums? Can children brought up in poverty excel in school?

Waiting for Superman is not an attack on teachers. If anything its a testament to the critical importance of good teachers. Guggenheim's research shows the amazing effect that good teaching can have on a very large population of students. But he also presents the corallary. Just as good teaching saves lives, bad teaching destroys them. And unfortunately Americans have allowed a system to develop where good teachers get no rewards and bad teachers are almost never fired. The problem is not necessarily spending. We have more than doubled our per student expenditures since the 1960s (even adjusting for inflation) and are turning out graduates who are not college ready.

Guggenheim follows the history of American schools showing how up until the 1970s American public schools were the best in the world. He shows how the lack of global competition made us look awfully good. Unfortunately schools need to be better then they were fifty years ago, when they were expected to turn out high school classes where 20% of the kids went to college. Nowadays schools need to turn out graduating classes where just about everybody is ready for a four year college--and very few school districts are doing it. To make the story hit home, Guggenheim profiled several students waiting to get into Charter Schools, schools which are run by different rules than most public schools, and have a history of success. Watching these children observe the lottery that will determine whether they can attend, will break your heart.

He also profiles Michelle Rhee, the take-no-prisoners Superintendent of the Washington, DC school system. As someone who lives right outside of DC, I have watched Rhee and applauded loudly as she has taken on every special interest that holds back education in Washington, DC. The movie showcases her wins in improving DC test scores. Unfortunately it misses the final chapter of Rhee's career, the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who put his own career on the line, in the interest of the children of Washington, DC. Rhee's future in DC is unknown but the incoming Democratic candidate for Mayor, who will run unopposed in November, supports many of the practices that Rhee fought. As Rhee sadly points out, much of this problem is adults not wanting to confront other adults.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


291 of 383 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Misleading and wrought with omissions..., December 4, 2010
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
I recommend seeing this documentary for the stories and indelible images (the lottery at the end will stay with you), but I encourage viewers to keep in mind a few facts that the documentary either overlooks or mentions only briefly. It is these omissions that will allow most viewers to leave with two spurious conclusions:

1) Public education everywhere is a failure, and 2) Charter schools are the answer.

First, the documentary conspicuously ignores the issue of inequality created by our current public school funding scheme. Instead, the viewer is told about the major sources of funding (federal, state, and local), but it's never mentioned that the vast majorority of funds come from state and local taxes, with property taxes being the principal determinant of how much is spent per pupil within a school district. The viewer is also told that, on average, we are spending twice as much per pupil than we were 30 or 40 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. What isn't explained is that while the average expenditure has gone up, the range from lowest to highest expenditures has also increased. In other words, the current average is inflated by the fact that some school districts have plenty to spend, so much so that students are given laptops and the schools have pristine facilities. In the movie, viewers get a glimpse of one such school, but it is never explained how such schools can afford all the wonderful amenities and how these schools skew the average per pupil figures; Viewers are just told that some students struggle in those environments too, which of course some do. But when you have huge financial discrepancies between school districts, you also have huge discrepancies in teacher pay, textbook allotments, facilities upkeep, etc., etc. And while people loath to discuss the impact of financial inequities (echoes of "class warfare"), resources DO influence educational outcomes. It's true that you can't just throw money at the problem and expect everything to be magically fixed, but it's also true that you can't allow resources to be so unequally distributed and expect it to have no impact at all. Read Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools for the back story.

Second, the narrator only briefly mentions that 1 in 5 charter schools are exceptional. Well, guess what? That's about the same rate of exceptional public schools! The research on charter schools suggests that charters are about as likely to succeed or fail as public schools (see Privatizing Education: Can The School Marketplace Deliver Freedom Of Choice, Efficiency, Equity, And Social Cohesion? for an overview of the research). What makes this so important is that in most cases, charters have a student selection process that almost guarantees high quality students, and once students enroll, most charters can expell problem students back to the regular public school. The documentary shows the lottery process by which many charter schools select their students. But which parents do you think enroll in the lottery? By and large, these are the proactive and involved parents who expect a lot from their children. So ask yourself: Who ISN'T in the lottery? Based on such selection and retention processes alone, we should expect charter schools to far outperform public schools, but they don't. Sure, there are exceptional charter schools -- some of which are spotlighted in the movie -- but these anecdotal cases are NOT representative of larger trends. In fact, many charter schools fail in their first one or two years of operation and lose their charters. The documentary does not spend a single moment telling that side of the story.

Having said all this, I largely agree with the documentary on the issue of teacher unions. Teacher unions represent a huge impediment to reform, and the unions protect the weakest teachers again and again. Any real effort to improve public education will have to include some shifting of power from the unions back to the school boards, but this shift will need to be done carefully. The documentary does a fantastic job showing the problem of tenure and how this has led to the artificially high rate of teacher retention. The unions have won tenure and pay raises based almost entirely on time in the classroom, rather than performance. Obviously this complicates reform, but there is additional context that the documentary ignores. For example, good teachers are often assigned the most difficult students. In such an environment, student test scores could actually make the best teachers appear incompetent, and the incompetent appear masterful. Again, this is just another instance where the documentary glosses over issues and allows the viewer to come away unfairly biased. We are led to believe that hamhanded "reformers" like Michelle Rhee are always right and the teacher unions are always wrong.

In short, this documentary is worth watching, but don't believe everything you see!!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


58 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why is this not an Oscar contender?, February 15, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I am a documentarian and have been for years, so I am not easily affected by films. I saw this film just because I see a lot of docs. I have no children and Waiting For Superman, on paper, would not seem to be anything out of the ordinary for me. Just another film, right?
No, it is so much more: I cried, yes me... I cried and was shaking at the size and scale of our problem we have here.This film was easy to follow, in-depth and hit me so hard, that I took action. I am now a mentor and hope to set 1 child's life in the best possible direction it can be in. I wish I could do more, but for now 1 child is where I am starting from. The one drawback of this film: DO NOT SEE IT IF YOU ABSOLUTELY DON'T WANT TO BE AFFECTED and DRIVEN TO HELP OTHERS. You will not walk away from this film the same person.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Magical Mystery Tour, January 11, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Guggenheim didn’t bother to take a close look at the heroes of his documentary. Geoffrey Canada is justly celebrated for the creation of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which not only runs two charter schools but surrounds children and their families with a broad array of social and medical services. Canada has a board of wealthy philanthropists and a very successful fund-raising apparatus. With assets of more than $200 million, his organization has no shortage of funds. Canada himself is currently paid $400,000 annually. For Guggenheim to praise Canada while also claiming that public schools don’t need any more money is bizarre. Canada’s charter schools get better results than nearby public schools serving impoverished students. If all inner-city schools had the same resources as his, they might get the same good results.

Another highly praised school that is featured in the film is the SEED charter boarding school in Washington, D.C. SEED seems to deserve all the praise that it receives from Guggenheim, CBS’s 60 Minutes, and elsewhere. It has remarkable rates of graduation and college acceptance. But SEED spends $35,000 per student, as compared to average current spending for public schools of about one third that amount. Is our society prepared to open boarding schools for tens of thousands of inner-city students and pay what it costs to copy the SEED model? Those who claim that better education for the neediest students won’t require more money cannot use SEED to support their argument.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You all missed the mark, February 28, 2011
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
Many of the negative reviews for this documentary state that it is a push toward charter schools. I don't think that was the point at all. The whole purpose was to show that charter schools are not the answer, and that changes need to be made in the public school system, changes that can be sustained and benefit students as a whole. Charter schools are not "Superman".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are we not more outraged?, February 1, 2011
By 
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
Seeing this film is like taking a very hard, very strong punch to the stomach. There is no other way to describe it. See this film, and you will feel anger, sadness, outrage and hopefully, inspiration. Not bad things for any film to inspire.

In the recent past, many Americans became outraged at the prospect of healthcare reform and the possibility of rationing of services. That is EXACTLY what is happening when districts hold lotteries for admission to quality schools. Too many applicants seeking too few seats results in the rationing of quality education. This should have parents marching in the streets in anger. Why it does not is beyond me. This is what happens in third world countries.

One aspect that I like about this film, is that it does not shy away from leveling blame at all parties. While the tenure system and teachers' unions are largely placed in the crosshairs, nobody seems to be without some degree of fault here. The producers of this film should be commended for their candor.

After seeing the film, I actually emailed Ms. Rhee, and asked her, among other things, why so many parents seem to want to improve education as a whole, but are reluctant to embrace change at a local level. I speak from experience in that when Denver Public Schools attempts to close a school or replace staff, it is met with parent protest, accusations of racism and the like. Ms. Rhees' response to me was that while parents will usually want the best for their kids, it is hard to embrace the new, when human nature wants the familiar, even if it leads to detriment. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

Given the current economy, I cannot help but think that a big part of our competitive edge as a nation depends on our schools. That is a very frightening concept after seeing this film.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tugged at my heart strings, February 15, 2011
By 
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
I just finished watching this documentary. It shows the decline that has plagued our public schools for decades. It is a complex issue that Davis can only touch on. It took many years to get this bad and will take many years to fix. It focuses on several children from across the country, Washington DC to LA, CA. All are in a lotto for a place in a public charter school that will offer them a better education than their own local school.

I had my fingers crossed (like Daisy's father) as the numbers of the 10 lucky lotto numbers were called for KIPP-LA Prep. I wanted each and every child featured to win a place in their, respective, lotto. Sadly that was not the case. My daughter, who is a senior in high school, turned to me after and said "Thanks for paying for private school all these years." It is sad that all parents do not have that option.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop Waiting, He's Not Coming, April 3, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
Excellent investigative journalism which exposes the reality of our failing public schools. To all of those who write reviews stating "they never offer a solution" and, to those who wonder what the solution is; you can not tell me that truly understand this film if you do not know the solution to the problem.

It is a shame that people can watch this film and not know what we need to do to solve the problem.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great schools starts with great people, March 11, 2011
This review is from: Waiting for "Superman" (DVD)
I am not an educator but I have a passion for the education of our youth. I am from the inner city and know all about our public schools. Fortunately my parents had the means to send me to a private school half way across the city and eventually move to a neighborhood with a magnet school for the remainder of my school career, college and beyond. What about those children and families who do not have that luxury? Where do they end up, why and it is not for a lack of their parents trying. This movie tells us why but ends with only so much on how to change our current reality. Great film for all that are not delusional about the state of our public school system. Hopefully this is just the beginning.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 238 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Waiting for "Superman" [Blu-ray]
Waiting for "Superman" [Blu-ray] by Davis Guggenheim (Blu-ray - 2011)
$39.99 $9.57
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.