ASCD Responds to Oprah Winfrey Show's "Waiting for 'Superman'" Episode
On September 21, 2010, ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter wrote an open letter to Oprah Winfrey explaining ASCD's response to the September 20, 2010, "Waiting for 'Superman'" episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. A copy of the letter is provided below.
September 21, 2010
Dear Ms. Oprah Winfrey:
Thank you for choosing to move education to the forefront of the national conversation. The film Waiting for "Superman" is one of many documentaries being released this fall on the state of our nation's schools, and I hope these films encourage viewers to work with schools in their local communities to ensure that every student in America has the opportunity to learn and achieve.
As a career educator and the executive director of ASCD, an education association of 160,000 educators worldwide, I was dismayed that your show on education reform excluded a key demographic from the dialogue: teachers. Yet the research—and your high-profile guests—say a child's teacher is the most important factor to determining his or her success.
Moreover, simplistically dividing a profession of 5 million people into "good teachers" and "bad teachers" misses an important opportunity to show how all educators must continue to learn, develop, and grow throughout their careers. Would we ask a proficient doctor to stop learning new technologies or strategies that may help save a life? No. Our most effective teachers are the ones who pursue professional development not only to sustain student achievement, but also to help teach other educators.
In international comparisons, the United States' education system is often viewed as substandard or lacking. I've seen successful international education systems, such as that in Finland, where there is a direct correlation between student achievement and teacher respect. Perhaps we need to focus on how our country, our individual states, and our local communities can better value this high-risk, high-reward profession.
What if filmmakers, politicians, philanthropists, and high-profile school leaders demanded that our educators receive the ongoing support they need to help each student in every classroom in America succeed to his or her greatest potential? Now that would make a great focus for your Friday follow-up show.
Dr. Gene R. Carter