This was the official website for the 2008 full-length documentary, Flunked, directed by Corey Burres .
Content is from the site's 2008 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

Up through 4th grade, American students are above-average when tested against students of other nations. After that, they begin a steady decline to the point where, by the 12th grade, American students are down near the bottom.   
Something is wrong in American education.   
Flunked went out and found some teachers who are doing something about it...

A half century ago, American education began a decline. Presidents lament the decline in their speeches. Politicians pontificate about it...but the problems persist. Now, here comes a movie that's all about fixing it.  J. Caldera KOA Radio, Denver
 "A fine film. Very informative, very challenging..." Michael Medved Film Critic


(2008) Documentary
49 minutes (Not Rated)

Filming Locations
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, USA
Los Angeles, California, USA
Oakland, California, USA
Portland, Oregon, USA
San Francisco, California, USA


Uploaded on Oct 5, 2007
The American education system is failing. It's time to do something. "Flunked", narrated by Joe Mantegna, is a full-length documentary designed to be both informative and entertaining, without compromising the truth of the crisis we are facing in education today. Most people are well aware of the declining test scores and competitiveness of the average American student, as well as myriad other problems facing education today. However, complaining about the problem, while easy to do, produces little productive results. Instead, "Flunked" focuses on many of today's schools nationwide that are "getting it right"---attaining great results in terms of college preparation, high test scores, and graduating competent workers for tomorrow's economy. Flunked is coming soon!

I was eager to see this film, not only because of its content, but also because I happened to be in Portland when they were filming there. I am a film nut, and like a small child looking at a fire truck, whenever I come across a film crew with all their truck, spotlights, and crew, I stop and watch. I had just delivered a designer dining table from a collector in Baltimore to a client. It was an Atlas hand-made dining table by Danny Lane for Fiam Italia. This particular dining table features layers of straight and curved edge glass sculpted entirely by hand. At over $22,000.00, the client wanted it to be hand delivered by me. I used our trusted family Baltimore movers for this long haul, but especially because of the high value of the load. The buyer had negotiated with the collector in Baltimore and special ordered it for my client. Fourteen weeks later I was in Portland making sure is was delivered and assembled according to the specs. Everything was in order. The client was thrilled with the table and I was relieved to get that piece out of the moving van. I left to get something to eat and ran into the film crew for Flunked. They were taking a break at the same cafe as myself. I got talking to one of the crew and learned about Flunked. I thought the premise, showing education alternatives, including charter schools and reform options for fixing troubled public schools was great and said I would look for the documentary once it was released. I was glad to hear that Flunked won Best Documentary at the San Fernando Valley International Film Festival in Los Angeles, Best Educational Documentary at the Bayou City Inspirational Film Festival in Houston, the Award of Merit from the Accolade Competition, and the first ever SPNovation Award.

Later that night I relaxed in my hotel room by playing slots at my favorite online casino, Miami Club. Miami Club Casino is owned and operated by Deckmedia N.V, which is a renowned online casino operator. Miami Club Casino is incorporated in Curacao and fully licensed to operate online gaming by the Central Government of Netherlands Antilles. They offer US slots, as well as poker and other casino table games for US players like myself. It will be nice when all US states allow online casino gambling rather than just sports betting or fantasy play. But the US has really made it difficult for US players with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) that regulates online gambling. I love the parsing of the law after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in November 2002 that the Federal Wire Act prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across telecommunications lines but affirmed a lower court ruling that the Wire Act "in plain language does not prohibit Internet gambling on a game of chance". I hope in another 10 or 15 years, the states will be more open to online gambling in all its forms.

Meanwhile, I can look forward to seeing Flunked.


The Film

America, we have a problem.

Results of national and international tests show that our students are falling further and further behind. The average American student is no longer able to compete with foreign students, and in many cases, they’re failing to meet even basic academic standards.

Success rates are plummeting, and remediation and dropout rates are skyrocketing.  Students entering the current American education system are in for a grim ride. It truly is a national scandal.

One size does not fit all...

Complaining about the problem is easy, but it produces few productive results — especially when many schools nationwide are truly “getting it right.” Flunked is the story of these schools—their founders, leaders, and students—who are breaking the mediocre mold by attaining great results in terms of college preparation, high test scores, and graduating competent workers for tomorrow’s economy. Discovering that one size truly does not fit all, they are finding different ways to make it work in their area, with their students.

The main characters of Flunked are our “heroes,” men and women from all walks of life—parents, teachers, principals, business professionals—who are making a difference to our students.  These individuals have defied the odds, pressed the system, and succeeded in seemingly impossible situations.  Through it all, they have proven that solutions in education are available here and now, if we will only follow their examples…


What Do You Know?


In The Decline and Fall of American Education, Paul Peterson writes:

The longer students are in school, the worse things get. Among fourth graders, U.S. students rank high on the International Test of Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Despite this head start, by eighth grade, American adolescents have slipped to the midpoint on the TIMSS; by age 17, their scores trail all but those in a few developing countries.

So, we start out okay in 4th grade, but by the time our kids have gone through eight years of school, they’re down near the bottom. How does something like that happen?

What’s worse, the TIMSS test upon which that disturbing statistic is based might actually have been skewed in our favor…

Only 74% of the 4th grade math  test questions were "considered appropriate" by Singapore, while 100% were approved by the United States. The percentage for Korea was even lower at 43%. Yet Singapore and Korea ranked first and second on the TIMSS 4th grade math test, scoring "significantly higher" than the United States.

Similarly, the TIMSS test may have favored us in another way:

…some of the superior countries in grade 8 (especially the Asians) were not included in published 12th grade results.

The TIMSS test, which shows the disturbing fact that the longer our students stay in our schools, the WORSE they perform, actually may have given us a better ranking even than we deserved. That is bad.

Keep reading for more disturbing facts…

The Decline and Fall of American Education
By Paul E. Peterson

Americans barely reach the international literacy average set by advanced democracies… Despite the high expenditures on education in the United States—and the large numbers of students enrolled in colleges and universities—the United States ranked 12th on the test.

The United States is living on its past. Among the oldest group in the study (those aged 56–65), U.S. prose skills rose to second place. For those attending school in the 1950s, SAT scores reached an all-time high.
As the years go by, the United States slips down the list. Americans educated in the sixties captured a Bronze Medal in literacy, those schooled in the seventies got 5th place in the race. But those schooled in the nineties ranked 14th…

All signs point to a deterioration in the quality of American schools. Europeans and Asians alike have rapidly expanded their educational systems over the last 50 years. In the United States stagnation if not decline has been apparent at least since the 1970s. Even our high school graduation rates are lower today than they were a decade ago.

Education Statistics: International comparisons

Despite higher than average per-pupil expenditures, American 8th graders ranked 19th out of 38 countries on the most recent international mathematics comparison, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study-Repeat (TIMSS-R) of 1999. American students scored 18th out of 38 countries in science.On the TIMSS 1995 study, which tested 12th graders, American students were ranked 19th out of 21 countries in both math and science general knowledge.

Keep checking back here; we’ll be updating the page regularly!


Voice For Liberty in Wichita

Individual liberty, limited government, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas

Flunkeds Steven Maggi Interview

by Bob Weeks on October 19, 2008

On October 8, 2008, Citizens for Better Education, the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, and Americans For Prosperity Kansas sponsored a screening of Flunked the Movie. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Steven Maggi, the films executive producer. Following are some excerpts from our conversation.

Q. The reform measures in the movie Flunked: Did they end up costing more money?

A. They actually saved money. Certainly the charter schools did. In every case they paid their teachers more than teachers in the traditional school, and still did it with less money. Teacher pay is an important thing, but people have to think beyond just paying teachers under the same system. Its still rewarded off seniority. We have to find ways to attract the best teachers. How do we keep the best teachers?

Q. Some of the schools successfully serve student populations that are poor and disadvantaged in many ways. Often public schools use poverty as an excuse for their failures. Does poverty doom children to failure?

A. Absolutely not. What dooms failure is not challenging them. In each of these cases, we saw that when someone came into a failing school, when kids are challenged, they respond. In Watts, when Howard Lappin, one of our All-Stars came into the school it, was 95% minority students. He saw that most people were taking remedial math. He said This is ridiculous. Were going to start taking algebra. And of course there was an upheaval in the community. By God, these kids cant get through fourth grade math! How are they going to get through algebra? Well now, not only do they all pass the algebra, they take honors courses. You just have to believe in the kids.

It makes sense if you think about it. Did kids all of the sudden get stupid in the country? No! In each of these cases theyre not cherry-picking the best kids. Theyre coming from the same areas as before, and theyve managed to turn decades of failure around.

Q. Opponents of special schools such as charter and private schools claim that because these schools are able to select their students, they cherry-pick the best and leave the most problematic children for the public schools. Did you find evidence of this?

A. In terms of the charter schools, everyone that we looked at, you applied and there was no entrance exam. It was luck of the draw. The only thing is you had to want to go there.

Q. Often we hear that poor parents cant be trusted to select a good school for their children, or that they wont take extraordinary steps to make sure their children get a good education. What does your film say to this?

A. First of all, what an insulting statement that is. I do believe this is one of the last bastions of the civil rights fight that needs to be fought. Just because on the basis of income, people are stuck with traditions, generations of kids going to bad schools.

We went into some of the communities [in southern California] and it was heart-breaking. You would talk to people and theyd say You know, Ive got to do whatever I can to get him into the charter school. Because if they go to the school theyre supposed to go to, their life is over. Theyll become a criminal. Its a horrible environment, and theyre doomed to failure. Imagine how that would make one feel. So when these charter schools and other areas where options are open, what a great thing. Theres hope all of the sudden.

Q. Weve invited school board members, school administrators, and newspaper columnists to this screening. Do people like this attend screenings in other cities? What is their reaction to the movie?

A. Its very encouraging. Reaction has been very good. Even union members that have said they cant find much to argue with. School board members are encouraged.

Q. In one of the schools, the teachers union agreed that teachers could be fired for cause. Was that a big factor in the schools success? What does this say about the role of the teachers unions in blocking reforms?

A. Those are the Green Dot schools in Los Angeles. Steve Barr worked really well with the unions to try to come up with a different approach. So what he did was he said okay, well give you more money right up front, youre going to work in smaller schools, youre going to have a lot more input into whats taught. But in exchange for that, were going to go from, literally, no way to be dismissed to to a for-just-cause system. And he has one hundred people for every one position that comes open from the traditional Los Angeles school union.

Q. In Kansas our charter school law is so weak that rarely does someone try to start one. What are we missing out on by having such a law?

A. We need to empower parents. And the one way you can really empower parents is to give them some choices. Charter schools do that. Charter schools are not the silver bullet. Let me say that right up front. There are some charter schools that dont work. But heres the important thing and the really good news: When charter schools fail, they go away! Its great! When the regular traditional school fails, it just stays there.

When we researched the film, in Dade County Florida, they failed, and as part of the no Child Left Behind Act, they all of the sudden had to have school choice. Well, what happened there is that the public schools got together and said you know what, were losing students and this isnt good. What can we do? So they looked at what are the things they do best. They found that in some cases they could offer things like Cantonese and more technology classes. So they did that. They've gotten a lot better. All of the sudden those schools are way better than they were before because they were pushed into it. They had to compete.

Q. So the public schools respond. They don't like to lose students, do they?

A. No, absolutely not.

Q. So theyll undergo meaningful reforms, if they find they need to in order to retain students?

A. Absolutely.