The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman

A Grassroots Education Movement and Real Reform Studios Production

A compelling new book from two of the creators of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”


American Classroom: Portraits from a Public School in Harlem

by Darren Marelli and Mollie Bruhn


Now available on in hard cover and PDF:

“Marelli and Bruhn’s moving story amplifies the voices of P.S. 241’s dedicated teachers and staff as they do their best to serve the City’s most vulnerable students despite grinding poverty, know-nothing bureaucrats and strangled resources.”

—Noah E. Gotbaum, Harlem Community Education Council 3

About American Classroom:

In the spring of 2009, Darren Marelli, a public school social worker, photographed and interviewed the teachers at his school in Harlem. Months before, the New York City Department of Education had announced plans to close Marelli’s school—P.S. 241, The Family Academy—claiming that the school and its teachers had failed. Marelli had worked side-by-side with the teachers at his school since 1999. What he saw was far from failure. Every day he witnessed dedicated, courageous teachers working hard to serve a high-needs student body, while necessary support and resources dwindled away. In his portraits we see the brave, persistent faces of educators, captured as Marelli knew them—not as failures, but as heroes. “American Classroom” tells the story of P.S. 241 and gives voice to the teachers, students and community, who were, in actuality, far from failing. While the portraits Marelli made are of teachers in just one school, the story of his public school and the questions it raises are powerful symbols of the fate many of our nation’s public schools are facing.

From American Classroom:

“With the onslaught of negative attention and the all-out attack on our school in the fall of 2008, I found myself shifting my focus to defending not just our school, but the future of public education. Our school was just one example of the war on public schools that had begun. Through this ongoing fight, I became an education activist. I spent countless hours attending rallies, meetings, and organizing with fellow activists. Our school was spared from closing through this process, but the battle had only begun.” —Ellen Darensbourg, P.S. 241 Literacy Coach


3 thoughts on “A compelling new book from two of the creators of “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman”

  1. In the beginning of this, I was extremely appalled by the hatred of charter schools. Once the documentary was about 2/3 through, I understood the hatred of charter schools. Though, I do see them as a step to reform, at least the one I go to. It may be an isolated case, but if my calculations were correct, my school gets about 1/9 of what the average student in America gets, and that is including private grants, even though we are consistently ranked one of the highest schools in the nation. Along with that, we have a diverse student body, maybe not the most diverse, with approximately 75% of the student body being white, non-Hispanic peoples. Also, my argument to the argument that charter schools say they can’t accommodate special needs kids is because they don’t receive the money to literally be able to accommodate them. I have not researched many other charter schools, so my situation may, as I said, be isolated, but in my experience, yes, my teachers are hard and there is no way my curriculum could be introduced into the public schools sphere, there would be way too many dropouts, but it does show that there is hope for the future, and maybe charter schools are not the only way to go, but they definitely are not completely negative.

    A couple more points. Charter schools are also public schools, even if they do not follow the same guidelines as other schools in that district. Many times throughout the documentary people referred to public schools as if they did not include charter schools, and they do. I do not wish to go too far with my comment here, but my last point is that, yes, I completely agree with the documentary that teachers do not get enough of a chance, but I also see the teachers at my school doing whatever they can do make sure the students succeed, not only on the tests that we must take to uphold our charter, but also on the basis of the love of learning, I don’t tend to see the advocacy of the love of learning in any of the public schools in my district. Hence, I believe that the main step for schools to take action upon is to not increase budgets for schools, but reallocate them in order to have a more balanced and practical budget and to allocate more to paying teachers just as much as they would if they were participating in their field in order to draw in more qualified teachers and to educate our future generations in order to get out of poverty. however, to do this class sizes would have to increase because teachers can’t get paid more if there are 100 of them in one school, the budget for teacher salaries would be forced to go up incredibly.

    Again, this is just based on a small set of research that I have personally done, but is not in any way a completed statement of my full opinion on the matter. If anyone would like to email me, please do! I would love to talk about education policy with someone personally.

  2. Your fight against the KNOW-NOTHING bureaucrats is a fight for each and every teacher across the nation. If we do not find our way to an organized resistance against the invasions of Big Money we will soon have no public schools at all. THANK YOU for your words and wisdom.

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