Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thoughts and Talking Points about the Movie "Won’t Back Down"

Thoughts and Talking Points about the Movie Won’t Back Down
How will you and your district respond to the conversation generated by the movie Won’t Back Down?

Scheduled for nationwide release on September 28, the movie focuses on parents, teachers and an urban school where parents are rebuffed by the school bureaucracy and teachers’ union. 

They then take the situation into the power of networking and politics via a parent trigger law to attempt to turn-around the school’s performance. This movie has more star power than Waiting for Superman, featuring Hollywood notables Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. But like Waiting for Superman, it portrays the extreme rather than the cooperative practice we see in today’s many schools.

So, in case your local media or parent groups are inspired to ask how you would handle such a “trigger reaction” in your system, we urge you to be prepared. How do you engage parents, handle complaints, and work with parents to create better schools for your community? Most NSPRA districts are out front in the engagement area, and this may be a time to demonstrate how you collaborate with your staff and community in areas like curriculum, performance and customer service. You may also want to note that you did not recognize any of the negative teachers and evil union officials as they do not exist in your system.

Consider these additional points generated by NSPRA and other major education organizations working together through the Learning First Alliance (LFA):
  • Fictionalized accounts that pit parents against school employees may make an interesting story line and generate ticket sales, but they don’t reflect on-the-ground reality. In districts throughout the nation, educators and parents are working together closely to improve public education, and find sustainable solutions that put children at the center of reform. Do you have parent leaders who would be willing to talk about the difference between their experience working with your school and those of the movie’s parents?
  • Educators and parents are on the same team — we’re all accountable for student success and need to be a united front.
  • Parents in other communities have tried the parent trigger, and it seemed to have misfired for various reasons. That’s because there is no silver bullet solution to fixing our schools. We can’t afford to risk our children’s future—we need to work together to find sustainable solutions that work now and in the future.
  • Instead of silver bullets, we need sustainable solutions. It’s time to make smart investments: small classes, early childhood education, up-to-date textbooks and computers, etc.
  • It may be enlightening to ask your media to “follow the money” when it comes to the funding for this movie. Walden Media, the same company that produced Waiting for Superman, funded the movie. Walden Media is owned by oil billionaire Philip Anschutz. Anschutz funds organizations that promote parent trigger laws, allowing more public schools to be turned over to alternative providers.
We urge you to consider applauding the passion and activism of parents in the movie. You know that your schools and your students will be far better off if this enthusiasm is focused in a collaborative fashion on the local needs of your students and community. We know that parent and family participation increases achievement. And NSPRA districts know that engagement will make that happen.

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