First, the film never explores what exactly defines "good teaching." Guggenheim never mentions what turns people into better teachers what is the superior content that they deliver, as well as how they teach. We are presented with two excellent teachers who are frustrated with their current school, start up a charter, and suddenly everything was hunky-dory. But, it never demonstrates how and why they are better, and what barriers existed that made being superior so difficult in their former school.
Second, the process of hiring teachers is never explored. How are charter schools hiring "better" teachers? Are they offering a better salary? Better benefits? Greater autonomy? I checked out US Charters: Staffing for Success to see what the recommended approach to recruitment and selection might be and they offer 10 steps:
- Write a role description for each staff role.
- Identify required and desired qualifications and characteristics.
- Identify potential sources of staff.
- Promote your school.
- Determine how you will screen candidates.
- Prepare materials and organize assistance.
- Make initial selections.
- Notify all candidates of outcomes.
- Draw up the contract
Finally, the last 20 minutes focuses on the lotteries for the 5 families mentioned above. For the charter schools those families, Guggenheim cites that the school has "x applicants for y slots" (i.e., 142 applicants for 40 slots). You can feel the tension in the air as the ping pong ball exits the hopper, and the families await their fate. However, the scene ultimately fails in that Guggenheim doesn't tell us how many applicants did NOT apply for the lottery. What is the percent of applicants to the total pool of students?
Given that each lottery applicant represents a dedicated parent or set of parents (they would not have applied if they did not care about their child's education), the untold reason for the success of charter schools may very well be the 85, 90, 95% plus of involved caring parents. As a result, are teacher unions and tracking really to blame when public school educators are dealing with students whose parents are too busy or indifferent?