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Coming Soon: What Did "Superman" Accomplish, Anyway?


Why did the film come out the particular way it did?

What effects, direct and indirect, did the film have on funding, events, and public perception? (How do you measure a "social impact" film, anyway?)

Where are the 5 kids profiled in the film now -- whatever happened to them?

These are some of the topics my long-awaited, much-anticipated re-examination of 2010's controversial documentary, Waiting for Superman, will attempt to address when it's published -- perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Long curious about whether the film was as big a success (or failure) as commonly presented, I pitched the idea of a look back at the Gates-funded Davis Guggenheim documentary to AEI and they kindly commissioned the piece (without any clear sense of what I'd end up having to say). I've written two other case studies published by AEI -- the first about the 2008 campaign to make education a big issue in the Presidential campaign, and the second about TFA's near-death experience being disqualified under NCLB.

Previous posts: Varied Responses To "The Successful Failure Of ED In '08"Teach For America & The Alternative Certification Loophole.


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It's probably too late to be helpful, but I did some blogging about it at the time. The three things of note (sorry, without going back and researching names etc.):

1. The girl trying to get into the KIPP LA school? I researched that school at the time, and it had huge attrition -- enormous. There were plenty of spots for names on the waiting list as students streamed out the door. I only researched that one because I'm pretty versed in researching California schools' demographics.

2. The boy trying to get into the SEED school? He was like 5th on the waiting list, right, and then got a call before school started? What happened to the 5 students who declined their seats? Doesn't seem that impossible to get in after all.

3. The girl trying to get into the Summit Charter here in my neck of the woods, all because her local high school so rigidly and cruelly tracked its students? John Fensterwald (former "reform" cheerleader now working for an impartial media outlet) did a videotaped interview with her. She chatted away about how much she liked the local high school and how she just wanted to try something else. She never mentioned the tracking that had been such a huge part of the movie's storyline until John prompted her about 5 minutes in. Meanwhile, the school community of the school the movie blasted, Woodside High School, banded together to protest the negative characterization -- parents paid for a big banner that may still be posted outside the school thanking the teachers. It said "Man, you're super!"

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