Letters: 'Waiting For Superman'

Listeners respond to a report on the new documentary Waiting for Superman. NPR's Robert Siegel and David Greene read from listeners' e-mails.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Time now for some of your comments.

Yesterday, my co-host Melissa Block told us about a new documentary. It's called "Waiting for Superman." The movie follows five kids, all from the inner city, trying to get into charter schools.

Davis Guggenheim directed the film.

Mr. DAVIS GUGGENHEIM (Director, "Waiting for Superman"): You can always bring it back to the simply things that a great education starts with a great teacher. It's true with my kids, like when we were all on pins and needles finding out which teachers my kids got. And my daughter got the ones she want, we all high-fiving each other. And I think parents know that intrinsically.

This is a person's standing in front of the kids every day and thats what the sort of core message, I say it in the movie: We can't have great schools without great teachers.

DAVID GREENE, host:

Well, Michael Hoe((ph) of Sunnyvale, California, takes issue with that. He writes: I couldnt help but grimace when I heard Mr. Guggenheim's comment at the end of this interview.

Hoe continues: While the quality of a teacher can play a role in helping or hindering a child's success in the classroom, teachers have said time and time again that a great education starts with great parents. Research has consistently shown that the greatest indicator of a child's success is not the quality of the teacher or the school, but it's the level of involvement of his or her parents.

SIEGEL: And Justin Jones, a teacher from Revere, Massachusetts, writes this: If more parents are involved in their children's day to day education, students will want to work harder, not only for themselves but for their families, schools and communities. Ask any teacher what tops their wish list and it won't be more money, more materials, new schools, it will be more parents getting involved in their children's education.

GREENE: After we spoke with Davis Guggenheim, we then turned to Steven Farr. He's the chief knowledge officer for Teach for America.

And that conversation prompted Carl Itman(ph) of Houston to write: This continues a trend of interviewing people about public education that dont appear to be in the classroom. From Arne Duncan down, we hear a flood of proposals for reform and change. Yet, I question whether or not such people have a realistic notion of what classroom teaching is or what is required to be a good teacher.

Well, it was not mentioned in yesterday's interview, but Mr. Farr does have some classroom experience. As a Teach for America core member himself, he taught high school English and English as a second language in Texas.

SIEGEL: If you have questions or comments about our coverage, you can write to us. Go to NPR.org and on click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.

GREENE: This NPR News.

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