2010: Year of the education documentary

Four documentaries on urban schools are out this summer, reports USA Today.

Teached, directed by activist and one-time Teach For America corps member Kelly Amis: It tackles teacher tenure, bureaucracy and “anti-child work rules that permeate every school in America,” among other issues.

The Cartel, directed by former TV news anchor and reporter Bob Bowdon: It takes on the “unconscionable failure” of New Jersey’s public schools.

The Lottery, an intimate look at four families’ attempts to get their children into an oversubscribed Harlem charter school.

•The biggest and flashiest of the four? Waiting for Superman, directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for … An Inconvenient Truth.

Why so many documentaries? School reform “has gone mainstream,” Fordham’s Mike Petrilli says. Plus Americans like stories about “how small groups of people can change the world.”

Harlem kids win big in school lottery

Winning the lottery to get into the Harlem Success Academy charter school is a very big win indeed, concludes a University of Pennsylvania study by Jonathan Supovitz and Sam Rikoon, education professors.

Students who won the first-grade lottery were compared to students who applied but lost out and stayed in district-run schools. By third grade, the HSA students performed 48 points higher in math and 35 points higher in reading than the lottery losers. That’s roughly 13 percent higher.

HSA students scored 19 percent higher than similar third graders in neighborhood schools.

Harlem Success Academy is featured in two new documentaries, The Lottery and Waiting for Superman, notes Education News.

Both films view the enrollment lottery from the eyes of parents who believe that winning a spot in the high performing public charter school is the key to their child’s future.

Which may be true.

Last year, 7,000 students applied for 1,100 spaces at Success Academy schools in Harlem and the South Bronx. That means there are a lot of motivated parents whose children lost the lottery.

Ed reform at the movies

Whitney Tilson’s A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine Education Reform will premiere in New York City on April 7.  The documentary focuses on the “twin achievement gaps that threaten our nation’s future: between the U.S. and our economic competitors, and between low-income, minority students and their more affluent peers,” writes Bob Compton, the Two Million Minute Man.

The Cartel, a movie about the need for school choice, will open this month in San Francisco, LA, DC, New York, Boston, Philly, Chicago, Denver, Houston, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. The film is moving audiences and winning awards, writes Erin O’Connor of Critical Mass.

The Lottery will screen April 29 at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival. The movie follows four families from Harlem and the Bronx who have entered their children in a charter school lottery.