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NEA president comments on release of “Waiting for Superman”

The film paints an inaccurate and unfair picture of public education and educators

WASHINGTON - September 24, 2010 -

Davis Guggenheim’s film “Waiting for Superman” opens today in New York and Los Angeles, and will hit select theaters in early October. The film has been shown to audiences in a series of tightly controlled screenings. On Monday, Oprah aired a special show on public education which featured the film and the so-called education reformers featured in it. Public reaction to Oprah’s show was swift, generating more than 200 pages of web site comments by viewers, many of whom are educators and parents with children in public schools. Next week, NBC is scheduled to broadcast “Education Nation,” a week-long special on education. “Waiting for Superman” will play a prominent role in the NBC event.  

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“The American public is smart. They’ve been told ‘Waiting for Superman’ is supposedly a groundbreaking film, they have heard from the film’s director  and stars, including controversial D.C Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and they didn’t like what they saw. Nowhere in the film or its discussion have teachers' voices been heard. If you want to know how to make a public school great, ask a teacher, not Hollywood.

“The producers of ‘Waiting for Superman’ missed an opportunity to engage in a constructive and collaborative dialogue with educators about how to truly transform public education. Instead, the film demonizes public education, teachers unions, and, unfortunately, teachers. They missed an opportunity to focus on how educators—the real superheroes—are, on a daily basis, turning hope into action in the nation’s schools, one student at a time, one school at a time, one community at a time.

“It’s happening in Putnam City West High School in Oklahoma City, where educators have engaged parents and the community to boost the graduation rate of Hispanic students by 70 percent. It’s happening in Denver, at the Math and Science Leadership Academy, one of the nation's first teacher-led schools. And it’s happening in places like Seattle where school employees and the community are working together to revamp and transform a persistently failing school.

“We hope that this is a teachable moment for the participants of next week’s Education Nation. Bashing educators won’t work. Talk to us. Work with us on our Priority Schools campaign, which is our commitment to transforming persistently low-performing, priority schools into great public schools for all students. Together we can make incredible things happen for students and the nation.”

For additional information about NEA’s Priority Schools campaign, visit
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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Miguel A. Gonzalez (202) 822-7823,