'Waiting for Superman' documents decline in public schools

When Waiting for Superman — a documentary critique of this country's public education system — was released last fall, it was attacked as much as it was praised.

From the Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim, the film was criticized by teachers, administrators, parents and politicians.

Of course, all of the carping simply obscured Superman's goal of raising questions about our failing schools. If you don't have children, you might not think it affects you, but as one segment of the film points out, our chronic inability to educate most of our students leads to problems that ripple throughout society.

The documentary states: "Since 1971, educational spending in the United States has more than doubled, from $4,300 per student to more than $9,000 per student, adjusted for inflation.

"In that same time period, reading and math scores have remained flat in the U.S., and risen in virtually every other country."

For many, even in good public schools, if they are not put on a college track, they have little chance of a higher education. For those in poor schools, the odds grow astronomically.

Superman follows five students and their parents from various parts of the country who hope to get into charter schools as a way toward a better future. Their fates are shown at the end of the film, and the results for the most part are heartbreaking.

The filmmakers also show that charter schools don't guarantee success. And they feature innovative educators who offer some new possibilities.

The DVD offers inspiring teacher-student stories and a look at some innovative programs that are changing public education, changes that have occurred since the film was released, and a conversation with Guggenheim.

Waiting for Superman retails for $29.99 or $39.99 on Blu-ray.