Book Review

Waiting for ‘Superman’

How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools

edited by Karl Weber, PublicAffairs, New York, N.Y., 2010, 288 pp. with index, $15.95 softcover


Sometimes Hollywood comes along to turn a book that receives intense interest into a major motion picture. In this case, the media’s hype over the movie “Waiting for Superman” preceded the release of this book as a participant guide that reveals further details about sections of the movie.



In the book, the issue with public schools is reviewed and the film director explains his desire to create a documentary that follows several students as they attempt to escape failed public education systems. The director looked for hopeful pockets of success — reformers with schools around the country that have beaten the odds and managed to produce consistently excellent results.

The schools highlighted have one thing in common — pragmatism. The successful schools did not allow ideology to get in the way of meeting students’ needs. A “no excuses” attitude is repeated over and over.

Each student’s background is examined, and parents explain the need to find better opportunities for their child. The part of the book that departs from the movie is what makes the book a true participant guide, going into much greater detail about the individuals and the school programs that have proven successful.

The book’s strength comes in the references to various reformers’ ideas for student success. Each reformer provides strategies he or she has implemented that moved students forward.

I suggest using the book to accompany the viewing of the movie by administrators and board members.

Reviewed by William A. Clark, superintendent, Manheim Central Schools, Manheim, Pa.