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'Waiting for Superman' Film Champions Charter Schools, But Hides That 80% of Them Are No Better Than Public Education

The much-talked about documentary on school reform tells a familiar story about unions and schools -- but misses the whole story.

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Ultimately, though, a new generation of educators, more and more of whom, like Dustin Thomas, have come up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed through alternative certification programs like TFA, will judge teachers unions on whether they share the commitment that motivates many of the best teachers to enter the profession: a drive toward eradicating the achievement gap. Unions will need to make the case through actions and words, not least because of a hostile media climate that stacks the deck against them.

"If teachers unions don't make a turn toward the social justice union model, along with fighting for more funding, it's going to mean not just a fundamental weakening of the union but frankly a real possibility of unions passing into history," says Caputo-Pearl. "It's a necessity to fight with and for a broad sector of society that includes teachers, but also the families and the kids we serve. Otherwise, unions, and more significantly, truly public, accessible and equitable education, will go out of existence."

Dana Goldstein is a Spencer Education Journalism Fellow at Columbia University, spending the 2010-2011 academic year as a writer-at-large, contributing to national publications on the ramifications of President Obama's education reform agenda. Previously, she was an associate editor and writer at The Daily Beast and The American Prospect.