Education has been in the spotlight recently, in part due to the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” The film follows several children as they attempt to get out of low-performing public schools and into high performing charters. What is interesting and depressing at the same time is how simple the formula for good schools is. Good teachers, involved parents, and invested students. Building a good school isn’t rocket science.
But it is very hard. Let’s start with good teachers. Kids in poor inner-city and rural districts need talented, experienced teachers who are willing to work long hours for student achievement. These teachers need a deep mastery of their subject matter and an ability to invest students. The problem is people who are great motivators and self-starters have plenty of career options, many of which are either more lucrative or much simpler than teaching. Retaining quality teachers and luring quality candidates might require higher salaries or other perks which would stretch stained budgets already strained to the breaking point.
Of course it isn’t enough to have good teachers. We also need students to come in wanting to learn and with a stake in their education. Parents have a critical role to play here. Parents have a relationship with their children that other adults lack. But often, parents in low income areas work multiple jobs and are struggling just to make ends meet. Even when they want to be involved, it is simply more difficult. But somehow, we have to involve parents more. I don’t know how.
Mostly, this post has been full of truisms. But I worry that for the foreseeable future, too many students really will be waiting for Superman.