It’s A Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s a… Charter?

I left afraid the next adult my children will encounter won’t want to teach them. Won’t care if they learn. Won’t mind if they are unsuccessful, unable to read, unable to write, unable to make change.

I left crying.

I left angry.

I recently sat down with the principal, the founder, and the executive director of education of my children’s charter school and screened Waiting for Superman.


The film takes you through the failings of our pubic education system, demonizes the teacher’s unions, and rips your heart out of your chest as you ache for the millions of children left behind, falling through the cracks, and horribly wronged by the system.

It also lifts up the charter school idea. And while I don’t feel qualified to talk about public education as a whole, I do feel like I can talk about what works for us.

Our school is different.


And I think the difference is essential for the educational survival of so many kids, not just mine. Overlooking what I thought were unfair pot shots at teachers in the film, the overriding message hit home- the system is broken.

And what is saving kids as we haphazardly attempt to fix the broken system? The Charter. And only one-in-five of those are successful. My kids are in a charter. My kids GOT IN by the same luck and crossed fingers others experience. But what of all the millions of kids who don’t?

I feel guilty my children get a chance at an alternative education, and they don’t. It gnaws at me. As I think it should gnaw at ALL of us. And did we abandon those in a traditional public school (I’m in a PUBLIC charter) for the greener grass on the other side… leaving them to rot?

We did what we had to for our kids. And yes, the results are still out. But I can tell you this…it feels better. The stress level in our home. The lack of tears at homework time. The smiles in the morning at school time and tales of yoga in class, and leadership projects, and becoming tiny global citizens. The social, emotional, and academic needs of my kids are being addressed…they are not slaves to worksheets and filing in bubbles. They are allowed to dream, to create, to innovate, and to explore.

Which is the opportunity every child should be afforded, not just mine. Yet here we are. A documentary – a Hollywood production- is what gets us talking about education. THAT in and of itself is a sad commentary on the state of public education in America. We need a film to get us to think, or to act.

I don’t pretend to have any answers other than what I felt I had to do for my children. And that is not an answer, that’s a reaction. And all over the US parents and caregivers are reacting, some luckier than others in their solutions.

While a real, permanent, solid, solution I fear is decades away.


  1. I wish we could sit down for coffee and talk about our kids’ charter schools. They sound similar. But ours is feeling the pressure to “conform” to some of the more traditional public school mumbo jumbo (i.e. homework). So it’s disappointing. Overall, still better than the alternative. But it’s frustrating because I’m suddenly feeling like this fantastic idea is being smothered — and just at a time when it needs to be given more room to spread.

  2. We wont ever solve the problem with our education system until we stop trying to simplify the problem. We keep hoping for some sort of simple answer to a complex problem and clearly the simple answers aren’t working. I’m not an expert and in fact I barely finished high school but I do know that we can at least try to do something other than propose school uniforms and charter schools. What about doing things like changing the curriculum,putting more computers in classrooms,merit based pay and not feeding the kids grease dipped in sugar for lunch?
    .-= T1theinfamous´s last blog ..Midnight Distraction =-.

  3. I send my children to a private school because the local one isn’t up to snuff. It is exceptionally difficult to come up with the cash year in and year out.

    Sometimes I think that if we put our children into the public school it would be great because there would be parents fighting to improve things. And maybe other parents in the neighborhood would pull their kids from the private schools they go to and together we would fight.

    Together we would find a way to help our children and many others whose parent can’t or won’t fight for them. But I can’t take the chance that we will be the only ones. I can’t risk my kids’s education even though in some ways it is the right thing to do.

    There are very few things in life that can’t be taken from you, an education is one of them.
    .-= Jack´s last blog ..Things You Should Know About Me-Stuff I think About =-.

  4. My own opinions are too numerous to contain in one comment, so I just want to say thank you, T1theinfamous, for pointing out this is a multifaceted issue with more than a one-size-fits-all solution.. And thank you, Queen of Spain, for posting about such a critical issue.
    .-= Angela@beggingtheanswer´s last blog ..A Rose By Any Other Name =-.

  5. I’d say that you are extremely lucky to have found the charter school that you have. As a public education teacher, I know that our system is broken. I’m not sure how to fix it, but the charter schools in my area are not working. In fact, they are falling way short of fixing the problem. The students I get from them are usually at least 2-3 grade levels behind in reading and math. The charter schools in my area are no where near even close to passing the state tests where as my school district has been “Excellent” for the past six years.
    As far as unions go, people have a misconception about them. They do protect teachers’ rights. However, they don’t protect BAD teachers. They make sure the contract is followed just as a lawyer would. If there are bad teachers in a district, then it is actually the administrators’ faults for not doing THEIR jobs. They can put the teachers on plans and follow through to get that teacher fired, just as they would for a teacher who did not have tenure.
    My father owns a small business and he has to do about as much work as a school district to fire an employee. Otherwise he’ll get sued for wrongful termination. He says there has to be a lot of documentation before he can go down the path of firing someone. Why do you think businesses offer so many compensation packages before they “let someone go?”
    I am going to go see this movie, but I highly doubt that charter schools are the fix all for everything. And I can guarantee that there are teachers in charter schools as well as public schools who don’t want to teach. AND there are teachers in public schools as well as charter schools who really want the best for kids and work their butts off to teach. They are passionate and go in early and stay late everyday. I know. I work with them.

  6. Frank Sucks says:

    We’ve been talking about this a lot here in Jersey, since the Gov. has put the target on the teachers union since day one. I always thought that charter schools should be ‘labs’ where new things could be tried out before moving the successful concepts to the rest of the school system. Instead they have become something else.

    The thing I notice in the data I’ve seen about charters is that, although you can have lottery after lottery, the makeup the charter is different then the make up of the neighborhood around the charter. The parents who are working to feed their kids and survive ain’t going to have the time to sign up for a lottery, to the point where you end up having a class system in public education.

    There is a lot of reasons why things aren’t working in education, but then again, do we really know what is broken, and why its broken?

    One more thing about the movie, if Michelle Rhee was doing so good, why did the voters of DC fire her?

  7. Rhee resigned because her guy wasn’t elected …

  8. Frank Sucks says:

    And her guy wasn’t elected because his opponent made it a referendum on Rhee.

  9. I have to say… just watching her in the film. I loved her. I MEAN LOVED HER.

  10. The good charters can be a rarity as well, and they weren’t meant to replace an entire school system, but that’s what they seem to be doing here in New Orleans, and it favors the parents who can go to all these schools and fill out all the forms (there wasn’t a common application for a very long time) and jump through all the hoops – and, even then, there are no guarantees. I get tired of telling other parents with desperation in their eyes that the best they can do is apply and see what happens, like they’re entering the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes instead of trying to get their child the best education without bankrupting themselves. The good schools are still the good schools five years after 8/29/2005, and the ones that are trying to pull themselves up have many odds stacked against them, as the state keeps cutting funds for education while Teach for America people are heavily relied upon to be the worker bees in all of this. There’s still no respect for teachers, no real eye to what the parents go through, and no true learning environment for the children that is free of the need to teach to the tests that will go a long way to keeping a charter open.

    It is sad that this film is getting a dialogue going on education – haven’t seen it yet, but from what I’ve heard, no teachers were spoken to, which seems like a major omission to me. There are still good teachers around who really do want this to be their profession – but, time and again, they get treated like garbage and their recommendations on improving education are pushed aside. We can’t treat schools like corporations, is all I’m saying, but that’s what’s happening. And I wish it weren’t.
    .-= liprap´s last blog .. =-.

  11. My kids attend public school. As a single working mom, I don’t have money for private education, but even so, I love our school. Not all of the teachers are great, but more of them are than not and they all care very much about our kids. My school has failed to meet the state standards for over three years running. Mostly this is because we have an incredibly high percentage of ESL students, mostly children of migrant farm workers. The school works very hard to serve all of their students and I love the culture of inclusion that my children get to see at work there.

    My children are both non-neurotypical. When my daughter was four years old, back in New Jersey, an IEP evaluation scored her verbal IQ as 80. My now-third-grader reads at the top of grade level, she is doing math at higher than grade level, and she is becoming a proficient story writer as well. This is in great part due to the fact that she has had terrific teachers every year. Each one has spent time with her, invested in her success, cared for her and treated her progress as importantly as if it were their own child’s. Each year I have worried at the end of the year that the next year would give us a teacher who could not possibly love her as much as the year before, and each year my fears have been put to rest by yet another teacher who loves my child and makes teaching her their highest priority. I know that this may not be typical of all teachers and all schools, but I have faith in the people who are teaching my children. I’m grateful for my public school and I don’t regret for a minute that my kids have not been able to have a private school education.
    .-= Barnmaven´s last blog ..4-730-400 minutes =-.

  12. I teach, albeit in a private school. I think that what we’re doing in schools needs to be RESEARCH BASED! That’s the key.

    I haven’t seen this movie but I saw the Oprah episode and was extremely frustrated.

  13. Gosh, I struggle with this feeling all of the time…knowing that my daughter will have access to a better education to most of her daycare friends. How do we get over the guilt? I stay and keep battling for fair education for all children, but I just don’t feel comfortable putting my daughter in the line of fire. She is young now, so I appreciate your insight on charter schools. I was planning to put her in a private school, but I’ll check some of the charters in our area!
    .-= Brandi´s last blog ..WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LUPUS =-.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erin Kotecki Vest and Moms Who Blog, Jules George. Jules George said: “@QueenofSpain: Finally my post on Waiting for Superman” […]

Speak Your Mind