Let's make a movie

The Cartel, which opens in New Jersey on Oct. 9, looks at the education crisis and the “powerful, entrenched, and self-serving cartel” that opposes change.

Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The Cartel. The film also introduces us to teens who can’t read, parents desperate for change, and teachers struggling to launch stable alternative schools for inner city kids who want to learn. We witness the tears of a little girl denied a coveted charter school spot, and we share the triumph of a Camden homeschool’s first graduating class.

Coming from a different point of view, The Teacher Salary Project is looking for “personal testimonies by and about America’s best teachers” for a feature-length documentary on  “the day-to-day lives and sacrifices of public school teachers.”

In keeping with the storytelling styles of both Dave Eggers (writer) and Vanessa Roth (director), The Teacher Salary Project will be a character-driven film, telling moving and compelling stories that explore this urgent issue through humor, irony, and the energy of the teachers who fill the screen.

They’d better change the title.

The Providence Effect, a movie about a Chicago school that educates low-income, black students, is astonishing, writes Donald Douglas. When the Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago decided to close Providence-St. Mel, Principal Paul Adams III raised money to take over Providence-St. Mel.

Providence St. Mel is proud of its tradition of 100% college acceptance, which began in 1978 and continues today. In 2002, 42% of the graduates of 2002 were accepted to top tier/ivy league schools; today more than 50% are accepted to schools of this caliber.

In a Witness LA interview, Adams is asked whether Chicago’s public school leaders come to him for advice on how to run a successful inner-city school. “Actually, no one has come,” he replies.

WLA: What do you mean no one? Like not one person from the Chicago School District has come to visit St. Mel’s?

PA: Never. Not one.

Well, they can watch the movie.

About Joanne


  1. I want to see The Cartel. It looks intersting. But when you go to the film’s website and read about the film, Bowden is misrepresenting the facts about NJ graduates.

    The fact is that NJ ranks number two in graduation rate. And as far as his claim that three quarters of all NJ schools may be close to being on the failing schools list, well aren’t we all? He’s not representing the truth to the lay person.

    I will see the film, but his premise is already flawed, inaccurate, and smells like he has not really done his homework on NJ schools.

  2. Now that is funny. At this late date evincing surprise that school district officials aren’t interested is studying how a good school operates. Heck, they probably don’t even have to go to charter or a diocesan school to find a good school. In a district as big as Chicago there’s bound to be some good, district schools.

    But whatever the particular circumstances that brought the school into existence change the school will be gone and no who matters, that is no one from the administration, will care.

    If districts won’t study the good schools within their purview why should they give any more weight to schools outside their authority?

  3. Why would Adams be surprised no one from CPS came to ask him about what a great job he was doing?

    The answer is simple: select the students you want with parents willing to support your choice. Unfortunately CPS doesn’t have that option.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    Just because one cannot select their students does not mean you cannot learn from visiting/studying successful schools.

    Public school educators are so narrow-minded when it comes to looking at successful schools be they private, charter or other government schools. There are two things that most private schools do better than any government er default school — first is the caring environment and second is the attitude that everyone in the school is there to help the kids be successful.

    I have never seen this in any public school in my city – well, saw it for one year in the academic magnet middle school but when that principal left so did the caring, inviting, welcoming atmosphere…

    If all default er government schools were choice schools, I think there would be incredible change in the atmosphere, performance and expectation of parents from the teachers/administrators. This day cannot come soon enough!!

    Government educators need to realize even if they are the only option literally by default all kids need adults to believe in them…

  5. No, that’s just it. Government educators realize everything they need to realize as exemplified by drop-out statistics and the percentage of illiterates that graduate. Education isn’t important only funding matters.

  6. Tim and Allen,

    Proof? Nearly all the educators I know strive to be better and would welcome the chance to visit other successful schools. The problem is the politicians who make the impt. decisions about schools, and the rich who own them, aren’t interested in what works.

    Chavez may have had great success but his results are not replicable across the country. You cannot just throw all the problem kids out of every school, and bring new kids to replace them.

    I once suggested a practice used in Japan and I believe Allen accused me of being lazy, but how about this? Teachers get a greatly expanded planning/colloboration time everyday.

  7. Whoops, got my threads mixed up. The comment about Chavez was for a different thread.

  8. Concerned Mom in Indiana says:

    Have you seen the new Two Million Minutes film? I remember you writing about its predecessor a year or so ago. Would love to hear your thoughts on it. As parents, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Gave us a lot to think about in terms of the kind of school and education we want for our children.

    Here is snip-it about it from their website –

    Two Million Minutes – The 21st Century Solution profiles a school in Tucson , AZ that teaches ordinary U.S. children at an extraordinarily high academic level. This school demonstrates that American students are capable of competing academically with the best in the world given the right curriculum, the right teachers, the right inspiration and expectation for success. This film features interviews with Former Chairman of Intel Craig Barrett and Former AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction and education reform advocate Lisa Graham Keegan.

  9. @Mike Parent —

    I’ve seen the film, and it makes a different point than you suggest.  Bowdon’s point is not that NJ has worse schools than other states.  His point is that NJ has been the top spending state per student for many years, and yet despite this incredible outlay of cash, shockingly only 39% of NJ 8th graders test proficient in reading according to the most recent NAEP test.  (The math proficiency is 40%.) 

    And realize, this statistic isn’t for poor, urban areas — it’s statewide.  Less than half of all NJ 8th graders are proficient in language or math.  This is a crisis.

    So this addresses, in fact contradicts, the widely held belief that throwing more money at the problem of public education makes sense.

    The discussion about state comparisons is a distraction, and not the point of the film.  We have a crisis in all U.S. states, including New Jersey, where the “money is the answer” people have held sway for far too long and failed our children, as the NAEP statistics show.


  1. […] Read more here: Let’s make a movie […]