Quinta Brunson in Abbott Elementary
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Lynette Mawhinney for The Conversation: How real is ‘Abbott Elementary?’ A former Philadelphia school teacher weighs in

ABC’s mockumentary “Abbott Elementary” follows a group of dedicated teachers who work at a Philadelphia school. The show takes a comedic approach toward issues in inner city schools. Here, Lynnette Mawhinney, a former Philadelphia schoolteacher who is now an associate professor of Urban Education at Rutgers University - Newark, weighs in on whether the show accurately portrays the realities of educators in today’s schools.


Is this show realistic in showing the challenges of urban schools?


Yes, this show humorously speaks to the real-life experiences of teachers. The pilot episode begins with the main character, Ms. Janine Teagues, discussing how she is one of three teachers left from an initial group of 20 teachers hired the year before. This speaks to the issue of teacher turnover, a problem that costs schools an estimated US$7.34 billion annually. These costs come from the problems that schools – and in particular, urban schools – have in keeping teachers on staff as they either move to other schools or leave the profession. Once a teacher leaves, school districts have to spend money to attract, hire and develop new teachers.

As I show in my book, “There Has to be a Better Way: Lessons from Former Urban Teachers,” urban teachers leave the profession due to exhaustion, disillusionment and conflicts with administration. In particular, teachers of color leave urban schools due to racial microaggressions.

“Abbott Elementary” also deals with themes of insufficient resources for teachers and students, as well as misappropriation of school funds. Journalist Dale Russakoff’s book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools”, details how a $100 million gift from Mark Zuckerberg to Newark Public Schools in 2010 was grossly misappropriated by upper administration to consultants and rarely did the money serve the schools themselves.

Read on at The Conversation