Waiting for Superman

The reason I will dash downtown today to see this movie, wedging it between my morning classes and my afternoon tutoring sessions with very little breathing room on either side, may not be immediately apparent.  But you should know that this is not just any movie.  I've been hearing about it for weeks from friends who have attended, declined to attend or been spurned by charter schools.  I've been reading about it all over the place, including in this NYT article, which makes the point that huge public schools can also help students transcend their difficult lives and reach academic success:
What makes Brockton High’s story surprising is that, with 4,100 students, it is an exception to what has become received wisdom in many educational circles — that small is almost always better. ( . . . )

The small-is-better orthodoxy remains powerful. A new movie, “Waiting for Superman,” for example, portrays five charter schools in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere — most with only a few hundred students — as the way forward for American schooling.Brockton, by contrast, is the largest public school in Massachusetts, and one of the largest in the nation.

At education conferences, Dr. Szachowicz — who became Brockton’s principal in 2004 — still gets approached by small-school advocates who tell her they are skeptical that a 4,100-student school could offer a decent education.

“I tell them we’re a big school that works,“ said Dr. Szachowicz, whose booming voice makes her seem taller than 5-foot-6 as she walks the hallways, greeting students, walkie-talkie in hand.

I'm on the fence about charter schools, myself.  From what I've read, it seems like they might be a placebo: parents and teachers want them to work so badly that they do have a positive effect on students' ambition and self-image, though their test scores remain stubbornly average.  On the other hand, it's a good sign that people are willing to experiment with education in order to find the best possible methods and systems, so I support their efforts as long as it doesn't increase my tax  burden to a stifling degree.

Also, this is the same director who transformed Al Gore from a wooden politician into a compelling character with "An Inconvenient Truth" several years ago.  So I'm excited to see what he'll do here.  Stick around for an update -- or if you've seen it, let me know what you think!