Monday, November 1, 2010

Waiting for “Superman”

Historically, K-12 education in Colorado has been at or near the top of most lists of well-thought of local government entities. In polls rating the favorability of local government organizations, school districts are nearly always ahead of municipalities and counties and just behind libraries.

But, recent polls show local schools have dropped dramatically in public esteem. For example, one of the best thought of school districts in Colorado – Douglas County – dropped from second from the top to second from the bottom in two polls conducted in the county in 2003 and this year.

Partially, the shift reflects the weak economy and anger with government, which appears to be dragging down all governments’ favorability ratings. Schools, of course, have faced their first budget cuts in recent history, angering some parents and school supporters.

But, a growing factor is the school reform movement. It recently brought 800 people to a lunch for Davis Guggenheim, the director of “Waiting for Superman,” the new documentary on failing schools and one reform option – charter schools. Many people are growing increasingly impatient with the pace of school improvements as measured by high dropout rates and low test scores.

Gallup’s recent annual poll on the public school system, which is typically very favorable to public schools, shows that while local schools tend to receive A’s and B’s from about one-half the public, only 18 percent give A’s and B’s to “the nation’s public schools” and 53 percent give them a C.

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