Waiting for Superman Synopsis

The American public school system is in crisis, failing millions of students, producing as many drop-outs as graduates, and threatening our economic future. By 2020, the United States will have 123 million high-skill jobs to fill—and fewer than 50 million Americans qualified to fill them.

Educators, parents, political leaders, business people, and concerned citizens are determined to save our educational system. Waiting for “Superman” offers powerful insights from some of those at the leading edge of educational innovation, including:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation’s groundbreaking work reshapes how schools select, train, support, and reward teachers
  • Geoffrey Canada, leader of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which is demonstrating that kids from even the most challenging backgrounds can learn
  • Michelle Rhee, the remarkable chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, who is challenging tradition as she brings reform to a troubled system
  • Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, who is working to make her union a major force for change on behalf of students
  • Bill Strickland, founder of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, who explains how an effective school can bring hope to an entire depressed neighborhood
  • Eric Schwarz, creator of the Citizen Schools movement, who shows the vital role ordinary people are playing in transforming America’s schools
  • Jay Mathews, the nation’s leading education reporter, who recounts the lessons he’s learned about how excellent schools are really built
  • Eric Hanushek, renowned educational researcher, who has documented the impact that great teachers have on kids’ achievements
  • Davis Guggenheim and Lesley Chilcott, filmmakers who describe the emotional impact of following the children’s stories in their film

Waiting for “Superman” is an inspiring call for reform and includes special chapters that provide resources, ideas, and hands-on suggestions for improving the schools in your own community as well as throughout the nation.

For parents, teachers, and concerned citizens alike, Waiting for “Superman”is an essential guide to the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing America’s schools.

My Thoughts

I am Canadian, so I watched this documentary from the perspective of an “outsider”, someone that this doesn’t apply to. At least that is what I thought…

Before I talk about what I learned about the Canadian education system, I want to address what I saw in the film. I am shocked that there are schools that are considered dumping grounds for children, where no one expects them to succeed. I am saddened to know that there are teachers out there who have no interest in educating children, and who hide behind bureaucracy to get away with their negligence. These are our children! Parents need to stand up and SCREAM for a better education for their children.

As a parent, it is difficult to send my children off to school and have little to no control over what is happening there. Admittedly, I haven’t often worried about the teachers and if they’re doing their jobs because we are very fortunate to have some excellent and caring teachers here, and in a small rural area like I live in, I would be surprised to have it any other way. That’s not to say they are all perfect, because they aren’t. We have had at least one teacher in our lives that I have made sure not to have again, but for the most part, we have had excellent teachers. My fears have always been around class sizes and peer issues, but after seeing this documentary, I realize that in other parts of the world parents have so much more to fear. By living in certain districts, they are practically sentencing their kids to lives of failure. It is shocking to see the clusters of failing communities shown in the film. Shocking and sad.

I was very surprised to learn that  American teachers in elementary schools get tenure, and if they can just get through their first two years of teaching, they are basically guaranteed a teaching job for life. Skill, interest and involvement with their students are not factors. This is ridiculous to me. Teachers who are abusive, who choose not to teach, who lack the necessary skills to teach and who just don’t care should not be allowed to keep their jobs. And apparently, this is a problem here in Canada too. While we don’t have tenure, we do have a system where very few teachers are ever terminated from their jobs. An article in Macleans Magazine called Why is it so hard to fire bad teachers? talks about that exact challenge in Ontario. Our system is just as flawed when it comes to keeping teachers despite their lack of abilities.

I don’t agree that abolishing unions is the answer to this problem. Unions are put in place for a reason and I feel they are necessary (although I know many won’t agree), but something needs to change. There needs to be a system to measure the quality of a teacher that goes beyond test scores. I believe test scores should be a piece of the puzzle, but there are so many other factors to consider like lesson plans, resources for the kids, communication with families, extra help when needed, engaging with the children…all of the things that I think of when I recall some of the great teachers I have encountered. Teachers who can’t get a passing grade when judged on those criteria, should not continue in our classrooms, because our children are too valuable and have too much potential to be given a substandard education.

Buy It

In the United States, you can get it through Amazon.com

Waiting for Superman DVD

Waiting for Superman Blu-ray

In Canada, you can get it through Amazon.ca

Waiting for Superman DVD

Waiting for Superman [Blu-ray]



Influencer at Kidsumers
Sheri McDonald is a family lifestyle blogger who has been sharing her parenting and travel adventures online for the past eight years. You can find her discovering the world with her children when she's not at home enjoying a good book.


Lifestyle Blogger. Traveler. Writer. Social Media Marketer. @SunwingVacay #Kidcations Expert Panel. Member of ITWA @PTBAssoc IG: familyenroute
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