Jan 13, 2011 12:03 AM by Maddie Garrett

"Waiting for Superman" Screening Spurs Education Discussion

Educators from across Acadiana are taking a hard look at our public education system Wednesday night -- by watching a film. Hundreds of people, from teachers, superintendents, school board members to parish leaders filled the Grand Theater in Lafayette to watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman." After the screening there was also a panel discussion about the film.

"Curious to see what it's all about, to see what the movie is about, what some of things talked about in it and to compare to some of the things we're doing," said Lafayette Parish Schools Superintendent Burnell Lemoine.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, "Waiting for Superman" is a documentary about, what the film calls, "America's failing education system." It follows several students in school systems across the country and dissects the public education system.

"A great deal of it is the emphasis on choice, and I feel like in Lafayette Parish we have our Schools of Choice program that has 20 something programs that students have a choice," said Lemoine about the film.

Charter schools and choices were a big issue the documentary. But so were teacher unions and tenures. The film focuses on the fact that many low-performing or just plain bad teachers are often guaranteed a job and cannot be fired. But Karen Martin, President of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators, said that's not the case in Louisiana.

"Tenure doesn't protect everybody as the film made it out to be," said Martin.

She said that's because in Louisiana there is an evaluation process that can keep teachers in check. And if a teacher isn't performing up to standard, there is a due process and tenure teachers can be terminated.

"Things are not as dire as people make it out to be, our public schools are performing. Yes we do have challenges within the system but it's not anything we're ignoring or trying to sweep under the rug," said Martin.

And that can be seen in the recent Louisiana Education Report Card also released Wednesday. It shows Louisiana is on the rise overall. According to the Quality Counts Report, Louisiana's national ranking is up to 21st, compared to 27th in 2010. The overall Score is 77.6, up from 75.8 in 2010. And for the first time in four years, Louisiana's overall grade is up from "C" to "C+".

There was one of the six areas where Louisiana was down though. Louisiana earned an "F" in K-12 Achievement, compared to the national average of a "D+". That grade is based on the percentage of students who scored at the Proficient and Advanced levels on the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests.

"We're trying to do what it takes to raise test scores, do what it takes to have students performing well and succeeding in what they choose to do," said Martin.

Overall, the education leaders at the documentary screening felt the film raised some important questions, but that Acadiana is improving and doing better than other areas in the country. If anything, at least "Waiting for Superman" has educators talking.



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