From the Storyteller
February 18, 2012 10:10PM
Updated: March 20, 2012 8:22AM
My favorite of the genre, though certainly not the most critically acclaimed, is “To Sir, With Love.”
You know the genre: The movie about the educator who sweeps into a school, does something extraordinary and turns everything around.
That’s the story told in movies like “Lean On Me,” “Stand And Deliver,” “Dangerous Minds” and — dare I include? — “School Of Rock.” But “To Sir, With Love” has the British accents and sweet late 1960s fashions — not to mention, that great, titular theme song, sung by Lulu (featuring a group called The Mindbenders).
It’s played out more recently in documentaries like “Waiting For Superman,” even in the headlines as the national spotlight has turned on education reform.
Nearly half of all U.S. public schools now are considered “failing” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the Center on Education Policy. That’s why President Obama announced waivers of NCLB requirements for states that adopt new standards and plans for achievement. State officials have said Illinois will apply for a waiver in February.
The Obama administration also implemented the Race to the Top program in 2010 to rewards states for making reforms. That includes raising standards, helping teachers improve and turning around struggling schools, according to the president’s reelection web site.
Illinois finally was awarded a Race to the Top grant last month. And earlier this month, Governor Pat Quinn pointed to several recent education reforms in Illinois in his state of the state address. That includes laws with more information on school report cards, clear benchmarks for teacher evaluation and groundwork for a longer school day year, Quinn said.
Those schools, if the movies are to be believed, now are waiting for Superman — or one super teacher — to save them.
But the Fox Valley teachers I spoke with all shared the credit for their achievements with their colleagues, suggesting that popular plot line — one good teacher turning around a school; a few, perhaps turning around the entire U.S. public education system — is more fiction than fact. All said, they knew every teacher in their buildings was focused on the students; and all offered variations of U46 super teacher Dorothy Rouse’s words:
“You need a team synergy. I’m big on that. What I bring to the table and you bring to the table — we bring something bigger than that.”
-- Emily McFarlan, Staff Writer