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Waiting for 'Superman' 2010 PG CC

(452) IMDb 7.5/10
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The lives of five Harlem and Bronx families in the high stakes lottery for access to New York City's best charter schools.

Charles Adam, Charles Adams
1 hour, 52 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Product Details

Genres Documentary
Director Davis Guggenheim
Starring Charles Adam, Charles Adams
Supporting actors Jonathan Alter, Robert Balfanz, Harriet Ball, Steve Barr, Ms. Celeste Bell, The Black & McGee Family, Geoffrey Canada, James Carter III, Todd Dickson, The Esparza Family, Mike Feinberg, Adrian M. Fenty, Howard Fuller, The Garcia Regalado Family, Lester Garcia, The Guy Family, Eric Hanushek, The Hill Family
Studio Paramount
MPAA rating PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Rental rights 48 hour viewing period. Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

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234 of 285 people found the following review helpful By David on October 8, 2010
Format: 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.
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106 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Robin on October 10, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Internet Customer on January 11, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
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.
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313 of 410 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Schultz on December 4, 2010
Format: 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.
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