An educator’s response to Waiting for "Superman"

Waiting for “Superman”

This is a heart-wrenching movie and very poignant. Unfortunately, what I see is that all of this does not apply to Indianapolis Public Schools or Indiana’s teachers’ unions. If we are realistic, change is hard and when your paycheck or retirement is tied to it, change it is even harder.

There are three pieces to education – the educators, parental involvement and student involvement. We cannot be responsible for students that don’t go to bed until midnight or later and then want to sleep in class, cause disruption, won’t do the work or just don’t come to school. Parents need to be parents and not their child’s friend. Parenting is a hard job and we as parents must make some unpopular decisions when it comes to our children’s education. As educators we must keep the expectation high and stop accepting excuses. If we are to be held accountable for our students’ education when are parents and students going to be held accountable for their responsibilities.

When we look at charter schools only 17% are successful, even Waiting for “Superman” agrees with this. Once ADM counts are determined and funding is granted for each student, some charter schools begin dumping children back into the public schools that they can’t service, handle and will not follow their rules. Truth be known, we need to change the laws so that funding follows the student because right now it does not. We as public schools don’t have the luxury to pick and choose who we educate. We must provide every child who attends a fair and equitable education as required in the Indiana Constitution. We cannot just remove a child without following the rules of due process.

Next, if we are serious about education in Indiana then we need to fund preschool and kindergarten. Why are children not required to attend school in the state of Indiana until the age of 7? Is that the unions’ fault? No, that is a legislative error.

Now, let’s really take a hard look at education in a large urban district such as IPS. We deal with a school funding gap, health gap and most definitely a wealth gap.

IPS has about 32,000 students of which 83 percent or about 26,560 students that qualify for free and reduced lunch. So poverty is a reality in IPS, which affects the health and wealth of the children we serve. Poverty means a lot, and the movie shows that (the mom, Nakita, who couldn’t pay the tuition for parochial school) even while trying to tell us it doesn’t. Our children need a variety of services, and that is why some schools in IPS have Full Purpose Partnerships (FPP). The schools provide mentoring, counseling, medical care and other services that these families may not otherwise have access to or are able to afford.

IEA works collaboratively with IPS and works for the good of the children of the district. A recent collaboration was established in a memorandum of agreement dealing with “Turnaround” schools. All initiatives take 3-5 years to have proven data whether positive or negative.

Waiting for “Superman” talks about tenure and how hard it is to remove/terminate a teacher once they have it. Tenure in Indiana may be in the law, but it is not in application. IPS/IEA has a master agreement that allow administrators to begin the removal process. If you are unsatisfactory in classroom management and/or instruction, your contract can be terminated within one year.

IPS has many magnet programs to reach our children. We have a performing arts, political science and law, medical, and new tech high to name a few. We are trying to prepare our students to be college and career ready.

Finally, please don’t think these teaching fellows that come from the Ivy League schools and decide at the end to transition into education are the be all and end all for education. They have the same problems as any first and second year teacher and often cannot handle the pressure that comes with large urban districts. Becoming a teacher is a matter of heart not a last minute decision where you believe that you can save the “poor little urban children.” A true teacher never stops growing and perfecting their craft.
Our children don’t need to be saved, they need to be educated so the cycle of poverty can end. Unions are not the problem; protection of due process is why we are here. We are not Waiting for “Superman.”

–Ann Wilkins
President, Indianapolis Education Association