Schooling Students Placed at Risk: Research, Policy, and Practice in the Education of Poor and Minority Adolescents

By Mavis G. Sanders | Go to book overview

14
Small Learning Communities Meet School-To-Work: Whole School Restructuring for Urban Comprehensive High Schools

NETTIE E. LEGTERS Johns Hopkins University

This chapter describes specific reform practices schools are implementing to realize the vision for high schools in the United States set forth in Breaking ranks, a report published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The first section of this chapter reviews a general critique of public high schools articulated in the 1980s and describes the reform practices that have emerged over the past decade in response to this critique. The second section offers examples of schools that have pulled together a number of such reforms into a comprehensive school restructuring effort, focusing on one school in depth. The third section identifies challenges schools can expect to encounter when implementing the set of reforms. This section draws on the experiences of several schools the author and a research team at Johns Hopkins CRESPAR have worked with since 1994 as part of the Talent Development High Schools project.

The opening scene of the 1989 film Lean on Me is designed to shock. It portrays a gritty urban high school filled with thugs, drugs, and overt violence. The fast-moving clip ends with the hospitalization of a teacher who tried to break up a student fight as the graffiti-filled hallways echo with a student crying, "Somebody help!"

If you ask real urban high school students what they think of that scene (which a colleague and I did in recent focus group interviews), most will say

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