I’m appearing today on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about an important new film that I think everyone should see. It’s called “Waiting for Superman.” The film’s depiction of the state of America’s public education system is something people won’t quickly forget. In fact, I think it’s the kind of movie that is powerful enough to influence—and hopefully even change—the public consciousness about our approach to education.
There’s no question that the quality of our education system helped to make America great. But today, many of our public schools are failing. Only one-third of high school students are prepared for college when they graduate. And half of minority students drop out of high school altogether.
It’s a tragedy that so many families have no real alternative for their children than a failing local public school. We need dramatic change, but it’s a difficult story to tell.
Director Davis Guggenheim tells the story brilliantly, and with great urgency. As an Academy-award winning director of An Inconvenient Truth, Guggenheim introduces us to several students and lets us get to know them, their families, and their desire to get a great education. He is a great storyteller, and conveys the story of these students with powerful emotional impact.
Guggenheim also breaks down complex but critically important policy matters such as inconsistent state standards, teacher effectiveness, and educational data in a way that is compelling and convincing.
The film focuses on charter schools, which we know are only one aspect of the solution. The foundation supports high-performing charter schools as labs for education innovation. But charter schools reach only about 3 percent of our public school students, so they are only one part of a multi-faceted, system-wide set of solutions.
Great teaching remains at the center of the solution. Improving schools will require that we figure out how to improve the way we train, measure and reward effective teachers. Achieving that will be hard and it will take a great deal of effort. The foundation is working with several partners who are actively engaged with us in groundbreaking efforts to improve teacher effectiveness.
I was pleased to have a small part in the film. I agreed to be interviewed because I believe we are at a unique moment for education reform and I want to do everything I can to support this change.