Frank, it doesn't matter what "Won't Back Down" says, because the story never happened. It is fiction. There hasn't been a successful use of the "parent trigger," so there's no way that this movie can be based on reality. You can't make a judgment about union behavior or the importance of teaching based on this movie any more than you can make a judgment about current law enforcement policies based on "The Dark Knight Rises."“Our very best teachers ought to be treated much, much better than they are today,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “But in order to get there, we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others.”
That’s precisely what “Won’t Back Down” says. Although the movie is bound, in this politically charged climate, to be analyzed solely in terms of the position it seems to take on parent trigger or its qualms with union behavior, it’s ultimately about the impact of superior teaching, the need to foster more of it and the importance of school accountability. Who could quibble with any of that?
I wish I could tell you that I'm amazed that pundits think they can wade into writing about education on the basis of merely seeing a movie - but I've lived through "Waiting For Superman." Davis Guggenheim, however, at least went through the trouble of pretending his movie was a documentary, based in fact. "Won't Back Down" is making the case for a specific education policy on the basis of pure fantasy.
What does it say about our nation's discussions on important issues when we substitute facts and data analysis with movie reviews?
One more thing: Joe Williams, like all reformyists, loves to tell us how he wants to treat "our very best teachers" better. But he never says how he would do that in specific terms. Does he want to pay those teachers more? How much more? Where will he get the money - by paying other teachers less? How will he decide which students get the "very best" teachers? How will he determine who these teachers are - test scores? What about all the teacher who teach subjects that don't have standardized tests? What happens when a "very best" teacher has a change in their test-based ranking, as will inevitably happen with the error-prone methods used to determine those rankings?
Enough of the platitudes, Joe. Show us the plan. I suspect those of us who actually work in schools may find a flaw or two.
ADDING: Larry Ferlazzo has more.