Superman Beware-The Kryptonite Report

Hello everyone, my name is Todd Frantz . I have been teaching in Chicago since 1997 and understand first hand  the challenges of urban education.   I decided to start a blog because I feel  we need a forum that is uniquely suited for urban educators. I have always found it difficult to find  teaching strategies that are not only practical but designed specifically for our population of students. I have grown frustrated attending conferences that do not speak to the challenges that teachers face in urban settings. Too often we are forced to adapt ideas that do not account for our unique set of challenges and have not been field tested in the inner-city.

The  plight of urban education is well documented. The film "Waiting for Superman" is a perfect example. It belongs to that genre of reporting that holds teachers solely responsible for the failings of public education. A more apt name for the movie, in my opinion, would have been: "Waiting for parents". I think the biggest impediment to student achievement in the inner city is parental apathy. Many of our students are not getting that "second day of school" when they get home. It's an uphill battle trying to enlist the support of parents and sustaining their involvement. Our most recent Open House is indicative of the weak school-parent connection that is typical in many inner city schools.  Despite phone calls to parents, flyers, emails , website postings,only six of my parents showed up during the three hour event. I believe this has a negative effect on student achievment and impedes our ability to make positive change in our schools. When I was coaching soccer, I was lucky to have one parent show up to a game-even regional quarter finals. Compare this to the scenes of hundreds of families eagerly assembled for the admissions lottery depicted in the movie. It is both moving and depressing at the same time. I  wish we could repliate that energy everywhere. Any school fortunate enough to receive such a motivated and dedicated group of parents has  a huge advantage over schools whose parents are uninvolved and lethargic.  Undoubtedly, there are teachers who have no business in the classroom.  There needs to be greater accountabilty and a vehicle for removing individuals who are a detriment to children.

CPS doesn't need Superman they need the whole darn Justice League. Maybe the  "Wonder Twins could use their  powers to  activate in the form of a "VISION".  I mean I have to laugh at the analogy,  BUT if Superman showed up in Chicago (or any BIG CITY USA) he would be rendered helpless in the face of so much Kryptonite. Whether it be  poor leadership, bad teachers, lack of resources, parental apathy, gang violence, truancy or ridiculous levels of mobility, there are many reasons for failure. There are simply too many stakeholders and variables at play in a child's education to single out teachers. It's simplistic, naive and shuts down a more comprehensive discussion on the state of our schools. There is enough blame to go around for everyone.  Unfortunately, the public has shown it's willingness drink this kool aid . They have found a convenient whipping boy in teachers to explain the social woes that have been plaguing our country for years.


I look forward to sharing my ideas about education and comments in the months come.


Todd Frantz


  • Great Blog!

    Erik_Olson, 1 month ago | Flag
  • Todd I really appreciate your perspective. The ability to connect with parents early on AND keep them engaged is a key challenge in addressing urban education issues. Regardless of demographics and location, one of the major challenges I see is getting parents to look beyond their point of reference (past personal schooling experience). If public education is going to evolve, surely we all need to expect more than what we experienced a quarter of a century ago. IMHO if we have to start somewhere, enlisting parents as engaged partners is definitely a laudable goal.
    Walter_McKenzie, 4 years ago | Flag
  • Walter, thanks for the comments. I know I’m preaching to the choir so hear me out. I’ll try to answer your question in the second paragraph. From my perspective , there is no silver bullet solution to this problem. I think one of the flaws in the case laid out by Waiting for Superman is the idea that a single variable is at play. If we could only remove bad teachers hiding behind tenure, we could insure a quality education for all students regardless of their life circumstances. [And for the record I DO think there should be an easier and more efficient way to remove teachers/ administrators who are grossly ineffective.] People want an easy fix. They are uninterested in solving complex problems. The four students whose quest for a better school was documented in the film, had one thing in common: uber-supportive parents who were not only deeply involved in their child’s education, BUT who saw education as the key to a successful future . The crisis of our education system is a red herring.. It is symptomatic of the socio-economic woes that have befallen our country in the last 50 years. The film painted a picture of the 1950s as the golden age of American Schools and proceeded to use this as juxtaposition on how far we have devolved. It does not mention anything about increased divorce rates, single parent households, availability of drugs, gang violence, and unemployment. We are operating in an era that is much more challenging and less nurturing .

    BTW-I am a firm believer of inner locus of control. I try to focus on the things that are within my control. I will leave the social engineering to politicians and evangelists. There is not a lot I can do to change the immediate circumstances of the students who come through my door. Nevertheless, here are some ideas that I think could make a difference. 1) Schools should train and employ individuals to be parent-school liaisons. We need people who are out in the community talking with parents, getting them involved and through the school doors. I think it would be a huge asset if there were a cadre of individuals at every school who were working that angle. It would be a huge help. Almost like the public relations arm of any company. 2) In the year 2000 I traveled to Japan as a part of a Fulbright delegation. During our four-week stay in the country we got an intimate look at their country’s school system. It was an amazing experience. I spent some time in a city north of Tokyo named Ishinomaki. (Myagi Prefecture) I was particulary impressed with a program there, which helped parents prepare their children for entry into the school system. Parents learned about the educational / developmental milestones children should meet prior to enrollment; their rights /responsibilities; strategies for supporting their child’s education; what to expect; etc. It was like YOUR CHILDS EDUCATION 101. I thought it was a cool concept and could result in students being more prepared for school. I often wondered if this is something that could replicated here. Especially for the parents of high school freshman.
    Todd_Frantz, 4 years ago | Flag
  • Tod if I handed you a cape and an S emblem to throw on your chest, where would you start? It's understood that the challenges are all round you, and you can't just save the day all at once. But....that having been said....would you start with parent support? How? What is required to begin that process? Inquiring fans want to know!
    Walter_McKenzie, 4 years ago | Flag
  • A discussion about education is always good. A movie should not be necessary to make people think about how we educate our children. Everyone should work in a school for a couple of years so they understand why we are in this predicament. It is not rocket science.
    Our problems in education can be traced back to the child’s development and the policy maker’s priorities. A positive nurturing environment from fetus to adolescence is critically important to a child’s future. Secondly, education funding and policies reflect how much we value the education of our children. Unfortunately, we do not honor the importance of these two issues. Excuses and rhetoric do not get us anywhere.
    Public school teachers deal with the resulting issues in their classrooms and they become the easy targets. Every school has room for improvement and the community should be part of the solutions. If the problem is more than one school, which is the case, then we need to look further.
    This is where it gets confusing. The people that have the most power to affect change do not use it. We must demand that our families and neighborhoods are functional and that money meant to improve education reaches the classroom level intact. When this does not happen, the finger pointing begins and we all lose.
    Our children ultimately pay the biggest price.
    Victor_Ochoa, 4 years ago | Flag

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