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In Chicago, for instance, when funders asked Dr. James Comer to begin his school development program in sixteen schools, he suggested that two schools would be more appropriate.

What Is an Urban School?

Such pressure to act big with reforms has persisted, as is apparent in efforts at systemic reforms that have sought broad solutions to city problems that run across different socioeconomic and political domains Stone et al. The progress of turnaround, a school reform approach that gained national prominence in urban education in the late s, provides insight into the tension between small- and large-scale reform.

Originating in the business sector, turnaround referred to rapid school improvement achieved through dramatic interventions such as staff reconstitution Duke, After NCLB was signed into law in , the search for and promotion of schools that demonstrated quick academic growth intensified. Major policy action soon followed. In , the U. Although turnaround—as reform idea and enacted policy—appeared to provide a clear, generic, and scalable prescription for the improvement of failing schools, it proved problematic upon implementation in urban areas.

Also, a central element of many turnaround efforts, staff reconstitution, had proven ineffective when implemented as an improvement strategy in the s in cities such as Chicago and San Francisco Trujillo, At the same time, empirical studies demonstrated minimal evidence that turnaround strategies have led to demonstrable school improvement Aladjem et al. In these ways, the prospect of turning around an urban school or a few urban schools remained plausible, but turning around thousands of urban schools seemed unlikely at best.

In the end, the temptation to do grandly what was successful locally has endured in urban educational reform. Scholars have demonstrated that making incremental changes to schools is possible, but the fundamental changes often promoted in reform rhetoric rarely materialize. Hence, the idea that U. A final tension, then, resonates in the idea that small-scale reforms have demonstrated success, but policymakers and external funders prize large-scale reforms. Urban schools and reform have historically proceeded together, and this dynamic has deepened since the s.

Despite so much reform, however, there is still too much failure. Moreover, there appears an assertive, pervasive unwillingness from American society to engage fully with the fact that sociocultural factors such as race, ethnicity, and poverty can and do matter greatly in urban schools.

Finally, it is too easy to find and agree with accounts that suggest that urban schools and districts, despite some documentable improvements in some cities and programs in the s in particular, too often remain stultifying arenas of dysfunction. Faith in urban school reform, though, has persisted thanks to exemplary city schools and programs that have helped students thrive academically.

For many reformers, such success stories demonstrate that viable routes toward enabling academic achievement for more children living in urban areas do exist. Indeed, latent in each of the tensions explored in this article is the belief that circumstances can improve, even if sociocultural and economic forces may challenge or complicate that improvement.

In , Kenneth B. Ronald Edmonds, the leader of the Effective Schools movement, emphasized three points:. Edmonds, , p. In the end, urban school reform follows a cycle of start, try, fail, try again, simply because it must be sustained. And one day, the belief continues, school reform will succeed at a significant scale. Aladjem, D. Achieving dramatic school improvement: An exploratory study. Washington, DC: U. Department of Education. Find this resource:. Anyon, J. Ghetto schooling: A political economy of urban educational reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

Berends, M. The evolving landscape of school choice in the United States. Lomotey Eds. New York: Routledge. Berger, M. Why communities protest school closings. Education and Urban Society 15 2 , — Bryk, A. Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Organizing schools for improvement: Lessons from Chicago.


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Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Buckley, K. Between public and private: Politics, governance, and the new portfolio models for urban school reform.

The Positive Impacts of Education and Job Training on Urban Youth

Chafe, W. Civilities and civil liberties: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the struggle for Black freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapman, T. Charter schools and urban education reform.

Chenoweth, K. Clark, K. Alternative public school systems. Harvard Educational Review, 38 1 , — Social policy, power, and social science research. Harvard Educational Review, 43 1 , — Coleman, J. Equality of educational opportunity.

Craig Peck

Comer, J. What I learned in school: Reflections on race, child development, and school reform. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Cuban, L. Urban school chiefs under fire. Reforming again, again, and again. Educational Researcher, 19 1 , 3— As good as it gets: What school reform brought to Austin. What happened in the six cities?

Usdan Eds.

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Cucchiara, M. Urban Education, 50 3 , — Davies, G. See government grow: Education politics from Johnson to Reagan. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press. Delpit, L. New York: New Press. Dixson, A. School reform and school choice. Duke, D. Tinkering and turnarounds: Understanding the contemporary campaign to improve low-performing schools. Journal of Students Placed at Risk, 17 1—2 , 9— Edmonds, R. Effective schools for the urban poor.

Educational Leadership, 37 1 , 15— Edwards, D. Historical trends in educational decentralization in the United States and developing countries: A periodization and comparison in the post-WWI context. Education Policy Analysis Archives 22 40 , 1— Foster, M.

Dignity's Urban Youth Education Village

Noblit Eds. International handbook of urban education.

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The Difficulty of Motivating Urban Youth

Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. Freedman, S. Small victories: The real world of a teacher, her students, and their high school. New York: Harper Perennial.

Gay, G.