America must find ways to let teaching innovation spread across the country, a pioneering leader of education reform said Sunday on a special msnbc TV show.
"We're in a crisis," Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer for Harlem Children's Zone said.
Canada was part of a panel convened to discuss the movie "Waiting for Superman," a documentary directed by Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), who also discussed education progess with hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in a one-hour live broadcast. The show was part of NBC News "Education Nation."
"How do we let every kid win?" asked Guggenheim, whose film that opened Friday focuses on public school system erosion and spotlights the success of Canada has creating programs at Harlem Children Zone.
"The answer is we need great public education for all our schools," Canada said. "We've seen innovation spread."
Panelist Randi Weingarten, president of the union American Federation of Teachers, said that despite union depiction in the film as a barrier to progress and innovation, "We all care passionately about children."
Scarborough said the union stands in the way of firing bad teachers.
"No one wants lousy teachers," Weingarten said. Critics focus on failure rather than success, she said.
Teachers are fighting to help kids get what they need and to participate in developing standards on what constitutes a good teacher so evaluation processes can be clear, she said.
Panelist Michelle Rhee, Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor, said the AFT showed its opposition to reform by spending $1 million to defeat a pro-school reform Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
Weingarten said support for Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray went beyond reforms sought by Rhee.
"There's no turning back on reform in Washington, D.C." she said.
Singer John Legend joined the panel to say his involvement in the film for which he wrote the original song, "Shine," said has been amazed about hearing what's possible in educational success.
But, he said, "I'm hearing what’s possible can’t be replicated because of barriers in the way."