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Teachers re-bond in wake of 'Superman'

Original post made on Oct 27, 2010

A "Band of Brothers/Sisters" effect is galvanizing teachers and staff at Woodside High School following the simply drawn negative portrayal of the school in the controversial and compelling recent film "Waiting for Superman."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 9:20 AM

Comments (9)

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Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm

The film "Waiting for Superman" has supplied the wake-up call that the entire public education system has needed for at least a decade. Sure, our schools here on the Peninsula are probably better than most, but they certainly are not without problems and there is much room for improvement. Kudos to Woodside Principal, David Reilly, for repositioning his initial, defensive stance to the Film's depiction of Woodside High School to one of positive direction. It sounds like he's turning a lemon into lemonade â€" the students and the community will all benefit from this action.


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Posted by btkmenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

I liked the film. There are problems. Vision is a major issue with me. Kids in the lower socio-economic levels don't seem to have a vision. I believe that vision for all children starts at the home. Parents need to give them a vision of why they are going to school and for what reason, What are the benefits? and to keep reminding them of the benefits. High School years can be tumultuous for many kids. Parenting is such an important part for success. Parents that didn't do well in HS need to point to a greater vision than theirs was. Some parents need a vision themselves of what they missed. Teachers do their best to teach and inspire, but the flesh is weak for all kids. Give kids a reason to sink their teeth into something and they will work towards it or hopefully run after it.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 28, 2010 at 9:50 am

btkmenlo said, "Parenting is such an important part for success."

Bingo. Student performance and teacher accountability flow from parental involvement. If parents don't care, there's a very good chance their children won't either.

The real question is how does society get engagement from a disengaged parent? I don't have the answer to that one.


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Posted by elle
a resident of Woodside School
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

Did I read this right? The principal even won't necessarily send his own children to Woodside High? That speaks volumes.

Based on my personal experience in raising kids in Woodside, WHS uses race to pre-determine where students will placed in classes despite their middle school performance and experience (and placement tests). For example, one year when one of my children was graduating 8th grade and getting ready for High School, the students were being placed for math class freshman year. We had one hispanic student who was performing in math better than some of our white students, yet he (the hispanic) was placed at WHS in a lower level math class than some of the affluent white students who had struggled in math. A Hispanic name will automatically place a student lower from the get go.

Woodside High needs to view children as individuals.


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Posted by Simple Simon
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Oct 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I'm glad the film provided a galvanizing experience for the Woodside faculty. Take away the pro-Charter & Anti-union agenda of the film. US Public Education is still horrible. Money, Unions, Tenure, Charter Schools haven't fixed it. Are we Americans intellectually inferior to the rest of the Developed World? Seriously, because based upon objective criteria (test scores) we are under-performing. Why?

However, in the film, Woodside was used as a foil to Summit in regards to tracking. Woodside was identified as a good school (it is a great school), but one that still only prepared 1/3 of its students for University. I don't think this is Woodside's or their teachers fault. It is an institutional expectation and our society is totally fine with it.

Sadly, our students are tracked as early as 6th grade - depending upon what math class they are assigned. If a child doesn't pass Algebra in 8th grade, they don't qualify for UC.

Waiting for Superman is so biased, it is practically a characterization. But there is still a great deal of truth, if you are not one of the lucky ones selected, have a life-changing teacher, live in the right zip code or have very engaged parents - your chance at academic success is very unlikely.

My lasting impressions of the film are:
1) Drop-out factories
2) Rubber rooms for bad teachers
3) Administration totally out of touch with classroom needs
4) Horribly dismal academic performance by U.S. students

One aspect of this article I find absolutely ridiculous is: "Among the essentials are building their confidence, creating for them a sense of belonging and of accomplishment, and fostering a spirit of adventure. These and other conditions "need to be in place if students are to strive for, and fulfill, their academic, personal and social promise," according to the website." I really doubt that students in the countries that kick our a*s academically are concerned about fostering a sense of "belonging and accomplishment." These cultures that value education pressure their students to succeed or else they are labelled failures. Harsh, but much more effective AND real as we look at our role in the Global Economy. Look at the nationality of many of our medical, engineering, software and bio-tech workers, the majorities come from other countries or other parts of the U.S. Are Bay Area natives only good for service occupations???


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm

@Simple Simon
some good comments, but one clarification. It *is* possible to prepare for UC / CSU without 8th grade algebra: it is a major part of Summit's math program and they've demonstrated success on this front with students of all backgrounds.

Reaching that success without 8th grade algebra takes sustained and focused hard work by teachers and students, but if it is made a mission, it very much can be achieved.

@POGO & btkmenlo
one of the avenues to overcome this problem is engaging the parents and families. There is no magic silver bullet (or Superman) but that culture can be woven into the fabric of a school by creating opportunities to encourage engagement where it may not have existed before. This may mean everything from visiting the family home to adjusting projects and better tapping the diverse skills of the community. One method Summit uses is having the family view and participate in the four year roadmap to college that is individually tailored for all students.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm

There is indeed a magic bullet. It is the abolition of government run education.


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2010 at 12:54 pm

ALL high school graduates should be give a minimum of ONE YEAR to travel the world and see what life is like outside America. The ones who are serious about careers in medicine should go to Africa and to other countries where starvation and lack of education would make them mature much more quickly and forget their luxury living.
IF anyone has the opportunity through family and friends to work in a really good training program, they should take it.
Education for the most part, is useless the first year of college in America today,and the world is now in deep trouble and being from a prestigious and wealthy bunch of communities should FORCE parents to give their children the GIFT of experience and not concentrate on just the stereotypical educations Americans offer.
Stanford has 70% of its graduate students from abroad.THEY will be the entrepreneurs so many of you seek for your children.
Have them learn about LIFE.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 29, 2010 at 7:08 pm

R. Gordon suggests "ALL high school graduates should be give a minimum of ONE YEAR to travel the world and see what life is like outside America." Last I looked, no one was stopping them, were they? In fact, at least according to our school officials, graduating students are taking a year or more off to find themselves (schools use that to explain why fewer students go to college).

Observer suggests that we can overcome disengaged parents by (in part) "visiting the family home to adjusting projects and better tapping the diverse skills of the community. One method Summit uses is having the family view and participate in the four year roadmap to college that is individually tailored for all students."

It's a wonderful sentiment and I'm certainly for any reasonable effort to engage parents of students. But as foreign as it may seem, some families do not value education, are suspicious of public institutions or so dysfunctional (absent parent, alcoholic, you name it) that they cannot be reached. We should do our best but in the end you cannot legislate parental engagement.


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