A Race against Time: The Crisis in Urban Schooling

By James G.Cibulka; William Lowe Boyd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

Philadelphia's Children Achieving Initiative

the promise and challenge of systemic reform in an urban school district

JOLLEY BRUCE CHRISTMAN, TOM CORCORAN, ELLEN FOLEY, THERESA LUHM

OVER THE PAST THREE DECADES, numerous efforts have been made to improve the performance of public schools serving urban children. A variety of approaches has been tried, including expanded instructional supports for students, decentralization of authority to schools, curricular and pedagogical changes, expanded professional development, whole school-reform models, expanded family and community services, and stronger accountability systems. None of these reforms has produced significant and sustained improvements at scale. Whether they have fallen short of expectations because of poor design, inadequate resources, or flawed implementation has not always been clear, but the pattern of high hopes, initial claims of success, and failure to produce widespread gains has been repeated many times.

Recently some have argued that these previous attempts at reforms have largely failed because they were too incremental, too narrowly framed, and did not attempt to alter the “system” itself. These reforms did not institutionalize high expectations for students and teachers. They did not alter governance and management structures that so often seem unable to remain focused on reforms long enough to implement them effectively. These critics of piecemeal reform, known as “systemic reformers, ” argue that a more comprehensive strategy that addresses standards, supports, accountability, and coheres policy is necessary. They contend

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