Turning Around Low-Performing Schools: The Case of the Washington, DC Schools
Margaret C. Wang
As we enter the next millennium, the United States is experiencing marked transformations in a variety of critical realms. What was once a land of secure jobs, effective laws, and well-knit homes is rapidly becoming defined by the homeless, the jobless, and the lawless. This is especially true in urban communities across the country, where rates of poverty, crime, and unemployment far exceed those of suburban and rural areas. In the end, the schools are hardest hit. Their students are often woefully unprepared, lacking good nutrition, medical care, safe transportation, and adequate academic preparation. Urban schools in their current condition are clearly unable to withstand the social forces that affect them. For the nation and its cities to remain vital, schools must not only anticipate changes but also lead toward solutions. Otherwise, the current generation of children in urban communities, which are plagued with modern morbidities of our time, will be consigned to lives of academic, economic, and social marginalization.
Making these general statements about the severity of urban problems (e.g., widespread academic failure) is relatively easy; the real challenge is finding feasible, practical, affordable solutions to these problems. How can we transform our urban schools to achieve student