Schools Betrayed: Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education

By Kathryn M. Neckerman | Go to book overview

Preface

Recent education reforms take aim at racial and class inequality in public schools by demanding that they raise all children to a common standard of achievement. There is an admirable impulse here. For too long, low-income and minority students have received a substandard education. Fixing urban schools has become more critical now with recent changes in the job market. In our society, the educated stand on one side of a widening economic gap, the uneducated on the other. At a time when it is difficult to find a good job without a college degree, more than half of inner-city youth do not even graduate from high school. Those who do graduate are ill equipped to compete in the global economy. Poor schooling condemns them to permanent economic marginality.

Yet when we demand that schools reach a common standard of achievement, we are trying to do a new thing with an old institution. Urban schools were never designed to produce equality of achievement. If there was a standard of equity, it was simply that school funding and resources should be distributed fairly—and even that standard was seldom met. When an institution is created with one purpose in mind, it is not easy to redirect it. Educators talk of reinventing urban schools: indeed, in every city there are exciting experiments with governance change or school choice or new curricula. But these innovations are usually short lived, just as a tree branch, pulled aside, springs back to its old position when released.

We have not taken seriously the staying power of institutions such as the urban schools. An institution is more than a rulebook and an organization chart. It has stability. In part, this stability is political: an institution creates constituencies who benefit from it and have a stake in defending it. An institution's stability is also cognitive: beliefs and

-vii-

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Schools Betrayed: Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Urban Decline 11
  • Chapter Two - Labor Markets 32
  • Chapter Three - Communities and Cultures 60
  • Chapter Four - Racial Segregation and Inequality 81
  • Chapter Five - Vocational Education 107
  • Chapter Six - Remedial Education 127
  • Chapter Seven - Classroom Dynamics 152
  • Conclusion 172
  • Appendix A - Quantitative Evidence 185
  • Appendix B - Some Historical Evidence About Language Styles and Schooling 193
  • Notes 197
  • Selected Bibliography 243
  • Index 253
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