Friday, October 1, 2010

Learning more after “Superman.”

EWA has put together a resource guide for people who want to learn more about the issues raised in “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” Go to the movie, then go here.


  1. One issue that leaped out at me from WFS is its message is that tracking is an outmoded theory that rewards the high achievers but unjustly hampers everyone else. I'm surprised that question doesn't pop up right away to others. Any resources on that?

  2. The resource guide looks good.

    It is great to see the test results of the schools featured so easily accessible. One thing I wished I saw was information on the attrition rates of these charter schools. Of course, that data is not as readily available as one would like.

    But for example, the SEED School (and this info is a couple years old...but still). The school’s first three classes of nearly all low-income African-American students had a 93% college-going rate, compared to 56% of African-Americans and 48% of low-income students nationwide. But about 41% of entering students left prior to graduation in one recent class. (Source: Whitman’s 2008 Sweating the small stuff: Inner-city schools and the new paternalism. Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

    So say there were 100 students entering that class. 41 left. That leaves 59. 93% of 59 is 54.87%. So if you entered SEED that year you had about a 55% chance of going to college. Still better than low-income students nationwide. Still worse than African-American students overall. Is it worth the hype? We can't have the conversation if we don't have the information...

  3. According to a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile, the SEED school kicks out 70% of its students before graduation.

    Also, the boy featured in the movie who's applying to the SEED school is shown being told that he's No. 5 on the waiting list.

    Then he gets a call saying he has a spot. So what happened to the nine students ahead of him (five who got spots plus the four ahead of him on the waiting list) -- all of whom were presumably as eager to get in as he was?

    Also, Geoffrey Canada's Promise Academy kicked out virtually its entire 8th grade a couple of years ago, according to descriptions of Paul Tough's book on the Harlem Children's Zone (I'm relying on those accounts, not having read the book).

    I researched the attrition at the LA KIPP school portrayed in the movie, because I'm pretty versed in using the California Department of Education database. It loses 50%-plus of its students between 6th grade and the BEGINNING of 8th grade -- the CDE data is based on the 10-day count in September and doesn't show how many make it all the way through 8th grade.

  4. Caroline, I agree about tracking. That leapt out at me too (especially the remark that students are tracked for "neatness and politeness"). We thought about including that in the guide but focused instead on the topics that got the most attention. But we'll add tracking resources if we get the time too. If you want some personally, shoot me a note offline.