Skip to main content
BlogResearch Insights

“Superman”: You’ve heard the hype; have you read the research?

By November 5, 2010June 14th, 20164 Comments

Even before its October 8 release, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” was everywhere—on the cover of Time, on “Oprah,” in news commentaries across the country. The film’s message—which presents charter schools as a (if not the) solution to our school systems’ ills and teacher unions as part of the problem—has resonated nationwide. But, as those who work in education know, reform is a tricky subject and not one to be answered in 111 minutes.

In a New York Review of Books critique of the film, Diane Ravitch made this point by referring to a charter school study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), which indicated that “17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school; 37 percent were worse than the public school; and the remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different from that of a similar public school” (p. 1).

So what did you think of “Waiting for ‘Superman’”? Do you have a charter school experience to share?

If you’d like to read up on the topic, here are links to some related articles and reports:

Charter Schools: Inputs and Impacts in Charter Schools: KIPP Lynn

The Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education

The Challenge of Leading Two Generations within the Teachers Union

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • Bryan Warrick says:

    I work in a public charter school in downtown Little Rock. We get incentive pay (a bonus) at the end of each school year that is based on personal performance in class, as well as student performance on standardized tests. So far, we are outscoring the surrounding school districts. Whether it has to do with bonuses or not, the faculty understands that if the students do not perform at a certain level, we will lose funding (and our jobs). I don’t know if charter schools are the answer, but most people work harder and smarter if they know their job may hang in the balance.

  • dante thornton says:

    I work in a very large public school district. Every school year we loose more and more students to new charter schools. Most of the charter schools in my district are out performing the traditional public schools. I don’t feel charter schools are a bad thing for education. I feel charter schools have more lead way about getting things done than the traditional public school. There needs to be drastic changes made in my school district if we want to compete with charter schools .

  • Barbara Escareno says:

    I have been teaching for six years with my first three in a for profit charter school. The advertisements for the charter sounded ideal: smaller class sizes, project based learning, etc. After working there, I saw how poorly the school was run. There were little to no special services for children with I.E.Ps.,class sizes were much larger than the public, and the curriculum was hit or miss meaning some teachers had parts of a reading and math program while others had none. The school report cards have and still do fall under the public school in the area. I went to work at the public school three years ago and although we are facing tremendous budget cuts, our scores still outrank the charters in the area.

  • Davis says:

    I work in a very lage public school as well and I feel that charter schools are not the answer. Just like public education, charter schools have the same issues that we have. The differnce is that many of their issues get swept under the rug. As an educator, in todays society you must love your job and the kids you teach. Many of the teachers in the public school sytem are tired and the day you stop liking kids is the day you need to get out of the classroom!

Leave a Reply