As a nation, we continue to hold fast to a collective belief in education as one of the primary avenues to a more democratic and prosperous future. However, there are too many people struggling to get ahead and stay ahead, especially in the midst of a faltering economy. For over a decade, politicians and presidents have professed a renewed desire to turn around failing schools. The latest legislation calls us to "leave no child behind" and to "race to the top" of educational rankings worldwide; nevertheless, these nationwide policies have yet to ease our educational woes. Opportunity gaps persist between more privileged students and those who have historically been underserved, particularly low-income students and students of color. Two-thirds of eighth-graders cannot read at levels deemed proficient (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011), for example, and students in most industrialized nations outperform U.S. students in math, science, and reading (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2010).
It is easy to lose hope in light of these circumstances, particularly for educators who work tirelessly with students every day. Despite the difficulties, educational reform movements continue. Some small-scale reform efforts include The Eagle Rock School, a residential high school in Colorado that provides tuition-free education to students who have otherwise given up on graduating from traditional schools. Public schools like Gregorio Luperón High School in New York City adopt additive approaches to bilingualism and biculturalism, drawing on the cultural assets of its students (Michael, Andrade, & Bartlett, 2007). Non-profit organizations like Student U in Durham, North Carolina, are aimed at increasing college access for lower-income middle and high school students. Academic and activist Jeff Duncan-Andrade aims to scale up his program of support, called Roses in Concrete, through "looping" and community involvement to create a sustainable model for urban education (see Duncan-Andrade, 2009). Similarly, Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone offers a model for community-based education with wrap-around services such as health care and family support. Many of these local efforts offer potential models for other educational programs around the nation.
At The High School Journal, we welcome empirical studies and theoretical scholarship that examines new and continuing reform efforts. Changes in curriculum and new schooling models offer many possibilities for research. In particular, are there public school projects in which hope is instantiated in the daily work of students and teachers? What does hope in public schools look like, and how is it sustained amidst continued opportunity gaps and other problems facing students and teachers in U.S. schools? In what ways are high schools adapting to funding gaps due to sequestration and tight budgets?
We know that there is a politics and rhetoric of problems that drench them in accusation and despair. We also know that there are real problems and real people working creatively and compassionately to bring vibrant learning experiences to students and to open their lives to possibility. We want to hear from them. Such research [End Page 265] might help us all maintain a sense of the critical hope (West, 2008) needed in order to continue our collective struggle for justice and equity.