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EDUCATIONAL ISSUES


to become doctors and lawyers and filmmakers. I push them, I comfort them, I celebrate them, I teach them. And I am not alone.


Waiting for Superman, as a movie, is very effective. It is hard to watch it and not get upset about the plight of these students. I want Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily to get a good education and to be happy, productive citizens. If they want to go to charter schools, I hope they get in. There is room in this country for many different types of education--- we need to do what it takes to reach all types of kids. To say, however, that charter schools are the only or the best answer is ridiculous and simplistic. As Marshall Fine says, “The real issue is not how to get more charter schools, but how to make public schools achieve the same kind of success that the best charter schools do.”


The best traditional public schools, regardless of where they exist or the students they serve, already achieve the same levels of success. Students from my high school have graduated from Yale, Stanford, UCLA, and West Point, just to name a few. We have teachers with degrees from Columbia, George Washington University, William and Mary, MIT, and USC. We have graduates who are successful doctors, lawyers, writers, politicians, mothers, computer engineers, architects, and every other career you can think of. We are not a magnet school, we are not particularly wealthy, and we don’t have the best technology available (no smart boards here, and we were using Word 2001 until this year!). We have military students, special education students, students on free and reduced lunch, English as second language students, and students who misbehave. We are your average school system across America.


Are we perfect? No. Was Bruce Wayne? No, but he worked hard to do the right thing. We work very hard to do the right thing and to solve problems in our schools. We participate in professional development, we analyze data, we talk to each other to get ideas, and we do everything we can to try to achieve perfection. But it is tough to be happy when you are attacked in the media year after year. We battle staff turn-over—Depending on where you find the statistics, anywhere from 15% to 25% a year and even higher for teachers in their first three years. We battle cutbacks in staff and in resources. We battle large classes. Most teachers I know have five or six classes of 28-30 students. We battle not having enough support in inclusion classrooms. I have had classes of 30, with 12 students who received special education services, 1 ESL student, and only had a teacher assistant for 30 minutes every other day. And this is a good situation – there are many classroom teachers who receive less support. As a result, we battle trying to attract new, bright, and energetic teachers to join our ranks.


But why should our brightest and best teach? Do we give them much reason to go into Spring 2011 Vol. 8 No. 1 Virginia Educational Leadership 15


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