I've been meaning to write a bit about the documentary Waiting for Superman. It's very intense. It has a POV for sure. Avoids some issues, overemphasizes a few others, over simplifies to some degree, and it doesn't offer much hope. It was heartbreaking at times (and the emotional aspect was one thing that was maybe unfair), it was definitely thought-provoking, although there were not a lot of surprises to those of us familiar with the education scene. However, it hits more than a handful of issues like a bulls eye. It was painful at times. Definitely worth going to see.
Something that struck me in the very beginning was that one of the filmmakers was talking about education, about how he always was a big champion of public schooling. But that turned out to be "in theory." When he had to make the choice of where to send his own kids to school, he wound up sending them to private school. He passes three public schools on the way as he drives his kids to their school. He remarked about something that I was struck by several years ago. He didn't use these exact words, but this was the sentiment. When it's "one of your own" who is impacted, who is at risk, who may fail, who is bullied, overlooked, disengaged you don't have time to wait for policymakers, bureaucrats, politicians, "the system." Your idealistic theory kind of goes out the window, as you scramble to snatch "your own" from failure. The options of charter, private secular or religious schools or homeschooling don't seem like the province of the homogeneous, the elite, the brainwashingly religious, or the socially weird any longer. They seem like attractive choices you wish you, and other people, really could explore, without lotteries, income litmus tests, and second mortgages.
The other issue that came up in the documentary is the idea of merit pay. Students in my classes debate the two sides of this issue, whether it takes a dark view of motivation, whether it would harm morale. After doing this consulting work, the idea strikes me as worth trying. I know I am motivated by incentives, even though I am not a materialistic person. Why is it wrong to wonder if teachers would be too?