Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kansas not waiting on education superman

A current media blitz is spotlighting public schools. It's building from Los Angeles Times coverage to "Oprah" shows to an NBC series on education to Time magazine's Sept. 20 cover story titled, "What Makes a School Great."

The blockbuster, though, was the national release Friday of the movie "Waiting for 'Superman.'" The film, directed by Oscar-winning producer Davis Guggenheim, takes a critical look at current conditions in America's urban schools by following five families as they seek admission for their children into a public school that will provide them a great education.

The documentary, which garnered a 2010 Sundance Film Festival award, focuses on the problems of our nation's schools. The drama and suspense, anger and frustration faced by the families are shown as their children travel through a year of public education.

Much of the current media focus is on changing schools by changing the nature of teacher education. Many of the suggestions to create more effective teachers can be and are being done right here in Wichita, the state's only federally designated urban school district.

A teacher quality partnership funded by the U.S. Department of Education for a total of $6.5 million over five years is now being implemented to increase the number and quality of teachers.

This communitywide educational partnership for children in urban, low-income neighborhoods includes Wichita State University, the Wichita school district, area community colleges, the local Head Start program and the Opportunity Project, a not-for-profit early childhood education organization.

The purpose of the partnership is to transform the WSU pre-baccalaureate teacher education program and launch the first known early childhood residency program in the nation. The goal is to create a wide pipeline for the recruitment, education and retention of highly qualified teachers for urban schools.

The partnership will create a learning community based on the professional development school model in which students who want to become teachers spend time working directly with professional staff in the schools.

Here in Kansas, we're not waiting for superman.

There is no doubt that a large amount of negative information about schools, particularly urban schools, will be aired and examined in the coming days. Yet, overall, the takeaway message at this point seems to be a positive call to action to parents, teachers, school administrators and the larger community.

It all starts with committed families and competent teachers. But American schools won't become unsurpassed again without an overall sense of public purpose and a general will to do all that it takes to reimagine and reinvigorate each and every one of our nation's schools.

Neither a media blitz nor a single movie can change public education.