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Reinterpreting Urban School Reform

Have Urban Schools Failed, or Has the Reform Movement Failed Urban Schools?

Louis F. Miron, Edward P. St. John

Publication Year: 2003

Have urban schools failed, or has reform failed urban schools? This book examines existing urban school programs, ranging from desegregation to reading improvement, in light of available historical, empirical, and case study evidence. Mirón and St. John and their contributors probe the underlying theoretical, normative, and political assumptions embedded in specific reform initiatives. They explore how reforms might be reconstructed to better address the underlying challenges and they demonstrate that reforms can be constructively critiqued throughout the stages of implementation, arguing that greater attention should be paid to ethnic and cultural traditions within urban educational settings.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Reinterpreting Urban School Reform: Have Urban Schools Failed, or Has the Reform Movement Failed Urban Schools?

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Introduction: Rethinking Urban School Reform

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pp. 1-12

The desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas, schools, after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, unleashed nearly a half century of externally generated reforms of urban schools. At the turn of the century, the array of education reforms that have been attempted in urban schools are extensive, their effects...

Part I: The Courts and Urban Schools

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1. School Desegregation Is Over in the Inner Cities: What Do We Do Now?

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pp. 15-34

“The mark of the age,” novelist Walker Percy wrote, “is that terrible things happen and no evil is involved.” Surely Percy’s observation rings true when we ponder racial isolation in our nation’s inner-city schools. In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court ordered an end to racially segregated public education...

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2. The Need for Issues-Driven School Funding Reform in Urban Schools

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pp. 35-52

The previous chapter in this volume demonstrates the crucial roles that both federal and state governments have played since the 1950s in regulating the operation of urban schools. This chapter focuses on the impact of school finance reform on urban districts during this period. Therefore, it necessarily focuses on state...

Part II: Government Initiated, External Reforms

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3. Federal Title I as a Reform Strategy in Urban Schools

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pp. 62-76

In public education, the federal government has focused on social redistribution by promoting racial integration, protecting the educational rights of the handicapped, assisting those with limited English proficiency, and providing supplemental resources to children who come from at-risk backgrounds. By far the largest federal program in elementary and secondary education...

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4. Inclusive Education in High Stakes, High Poverty Environments: The Case of Students with Learning Disabilities in Indiana’s Urban Schools and the Graduation Qualifying Examination

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pp. 77-94

The inclusion movement, and the introduction of high stakes, minimum competency tests (MCT) as a requirement for graduation, are two school reforms that have particular implications for high poverty secondary schools. High-poverty schools generally have a higher percentage of students who are low-achieving, drop out, and fail MCTs...

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5. Race, Restructuring, and Educational Reform: The Mayoral Takeover of the Detroit Public Schools by Barry M. Franklin

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pp. 95-126

On May 4, 2000, Detroit’s reform school board selected Kenneth Burnely, the then superintendent of the Colorado Springs Public Schools, as its choice for the city schools’ first permanent chief executive officer (CEO) (Miller 2000; Nichols and Harmon 2000; Walsh-Sarnecki and Schmitt 2000). His appointment marked the culmination of a year and a half struggle, modeled...

Part III: Independently Adopted Research-Based Reforms

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6. Research-Based Reading Reform: The Impact of State-Funded Interventions on Educational Outcomes in Urban Elementary Schools

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pp. 129-154

With passage of the Reading Excellence Act, many states now have the opportunity to develop programs that support local efforts to improve early reading. It has long been known that young children who attend urban schools are at greater risk of not learning to read compared to students attending other types of schools (Slavin 1991; Snow, Burns, and Griffith 1998)...

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7. Comprehensive School Reform: An Exploratory Study

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pp. 155-176

Comprehensive school reform (CSR) models were originally developed and tested by independent reformers, but are now widely available for school adoption through Title I. Accelerated Schools (developed by Henry Levin), Success for All (developed by Robert Slavin), and School Development Program (developed by James Comer) were the early models that were targeted...

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8. Private Scholarships and School Choice: Innovation or Class Reproduction?

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pp. 177-206

During the 1990s private donors in several urban communities organized private scholarship programs that partially subsidize the costs of attending private schools for children with financial need. Two major, publicly funded voucher programs—in Milwaukee (Witte 1998) and Cleveland (Metcalf et al. 1998)—have received a great deal of public attention...

Part IV: Community-Based Reforms

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9. Parental and Community Empowerment: The Chicago Model

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pp. 209-228

One of the major school-reform experiments using parent and community involvement was created by the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988. The Act created a number of changes to a centralized system, among the most important being the creation of “local school councils” (LSCs) at each of the nearly...

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10. Joint Ventures Between Public Schools and City Government: Implications for Community Development

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pp. 229-248

School districts located in major urban centers throughout the United States appear to suffer from chronic underachievement. Although schools are expected to serve multiple functions ranging from implementing a curriculum aligned with state frameworks to providing after school care, they nonetheless elicit criticism when students do poorly on standardized achievement tests. Society holds schools and school districts accountable for academic...

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11. Rediscovering the African-American Tradition: Restructuring in Post-Desegregation Urban Schools

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pp. 249-276

The desegregation of racially isolated educational systems did not result in integrated schools as many social reformers had envisioned. The dream shared by many was of racially integrated schools with African Americans, European Americans, and children of other races learning together, in just environments...

Part V: A Critical-Empirical View

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12. A Critical-Empirical Perspective on Urban School Reform

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pp. 279-298

Urban schools continue to be at the center of controversy. There are many new initiatives, including reading and comprehensive reforms, which encourage urban schools to adopt “proven,” “research-based” methods. There other new initiatives, including state and mayoral takeovers and efforts to push vouchers, which indicates that some policymakers apparently have given up on urban schools as they are currently structured...

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13. Implications of the New Global Context for Urban Reform

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pp. 299-312

This book has admittedly been an ambitious undertaking, for in this project we have sought to present a new methodology for studying and arriving at tentative understandings of the impact of educational reform in inner city, public schools—the critical-empirical review method. In addition we have sought to turn the common sense understanding of the failure of inner city schools upside down. We posed the question...


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pp. 313-316


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pp. 317-329

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486924
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457078
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457079

Page Count: 329
Publication Year: 2003