After a major media push including premiere coverage, “Won’t Back Down,” starring Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Holly Hunter, opened in theaters nationwide on September 28.
The film pushes parent trigger laws, which are currently on the books in California, Texas and Mississippi and are being considered in other states. Such laws allow parents to petition to “trigger” changes that drastically affect so-called low-performing schools – such as the replacement of staff or conversion to a charter.
Fictionalized accounts of public schools that pit parents against school employees may make interesting and dramatic story lines and generate dollars at the box office, but they don’t reflect the on-the-ground reality. In Massachusetts towns and cities, as in school districts across the nation, educators and parents are working together to improve public education and find sustainable solutions that put children at the center of reform.
Massachusetts is the highest performing state in the country in both reading and mathematics – and has been for the past four years. It is also one of the most highly unionized states in the country. And it’s not just Massachusetts. Study after study has shown that students in states with strong teachers’ unions typically perform better than students in states with weak teachers’ unions. Why? Because teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and unions fight for both. The Commonwealth’s success helps illustrate the false premise on which the movie is based.
Educators throughout Massachusetts are working every day to narrow the achievement gap and ensure that every student’s story is a success story. We are currently leading efforts to improve evaluation systems, as well as to make sure our public education system has adequate resources to serve every community. The truth is far stronger than the movie’s fictional story line.
Demonizing teachers is not a solution. As Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson wrote September 17, “Portraying teachers as villains doesn’t help a single child. Ignoring the reasons for the education gap in this country is no way to close it.”
Ten Reasons Not to See "Won't Back Down", from Working America
Critic and Audience Reviews via Rotten Tomatoes
More information for MTA leaders and members