Bringing Order to an Inner-City Middle School
Stanley G. Sanders Janis S. Yarbrough
For seven of the past eight years, the public's number one concern with respect to American public schools has been discipline, according to the annual Gallup polls of attitudes toward education.1 The problem is most acute in secondary schools, especially in metropolitan areas. Its persistence indicates that, in general, school administrators have found no workable solutions.
However, one inner-city middle school in a poverty area of a large metropolis has been the object of a complete reorganization aimed at developing an atmosphere of constructive and orderly student behavior in which learning can occur.2 This school's neighborhood attests to the low socio-economic environment of most of its students. The student body is 99 percent black; 92 percent of the students qualify for the free lunch program. It is typical of inner-city schools stereotyped as violent and disorderly.
The reorganization began as a pilot project funded under the Emergency School Aid Act, U.S. Office of Education. It was called Project ORDER (Organization for Responsibility, Dependability, Education, and Reality). Its general aim is to overcome adverse effects of minority group isolation. More specific objectives include: (1) improving the general school atmosphere as perceived by faculty, students, and parents; (2) improving pupil behavior; and (3) improving the teaching/learning environment so that affective objectives can be achieved and eventually contribute to greater cognitive gains.
The program design incorporates a systems approach based on four assumptions. The first assumption is that much misbehavior results from a feeling of impersonalness and anonymity due to large enrollments and lim-
This essay first appeared in the Phi Delta Kappan 58 ( 1976), no. 4, pp. 333-334.