Fixing Urban Schools

December 1998

Every year, in one out of three big cities, the school superintendent leaves his or her job, sending local community leaders back to square one. Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., are struggling to recreate their failed school systems, and many more cities are likely to follow. City leaders need more than new superintendents. They need stable reform strategies strong enough to move an entrenched system. Unfortunately, it is not clear where they can turn for help. Education experts are deeply divided about whether teacher retraining or new standards are enough to reform a struggling city system, or whether more fundamental changes, such as family choice and family-run schools, are needed. This book identifies the essential elements of reform strategies that can transform school performance in big cities beset by poverty, social instability, racial isolation, and labor unrest. It also suggests ways that local leaders can assemble the necessary funding and political support to make such strategies work. This is the first volume in a trilogy of books designed to describe the politics of reform in urban school systems and clarify reform options available to mayors and other community leaders who want to improve school performance dramatically. The other books in this series are It Takes a City (2000) and Making School Reform Work (2004).


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