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Back to School With Superman and Friends

September 02, 2010

(Laura Cronin is director of the New York City-based Toshiba America Foundation. In her last post, she chatted with Boston College Law School professor Ray Madoff.)

Need_you Later this month, Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim will release a new documentary, Waiting for Superman, that aims to bring the contentious education reform debate to a broader public.

The filmmaker and his foundation backers are also using social media to invite viewers into the discussion. The Web site created for the film's launch features a clever tie-in with DonorsChoose, an online giving platform, that enables people who pledge to see the film to direct $5 to a classroom project of their choice. The site also calls viewers to action by urging them to write to their governor, state representatives, etc.

But while you're waiting for Superman to come to a theater near you (it opens September 24), don't overlook another foundation-funded peek behind the classroom door: Testing Teachers, a new radio documentary from American Radio Works that aired last week and is now available online as a podcast, radio stream, or in transcript form.

For me, the most compelling segment of the hour-long documentary, which was funded by the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, is the description of reform efforts in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that've been spearheaded by the locally based Benwood and Public Education foundations. Among other things, the segment introduces us to Joe Curtis, a master teacher at a local elementary school, and gives us a glimpse of the many factors that get in the way of good teaching.

Kids all over the country will be heading back to school next week. Many of those schools and the teachers in them are excellent; too many others are not. We owe it to our kids to do better. So this Labor Day weekend, take an hour to listen to Testing Teachers and hear what some foundations and education reformers have learned about good teaching and what they are doing to boost teacher effectiveness, in their districts and across the nation.

-- Laura Cronin

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