Where We Teach

By Del Stover

If a sizable number of teachers in America’s urban schools question whether their students can succeed -- no matter how good the instruction -- what does that tell you? That these teachers are burned out? That they’ve given up? That their expectations for children are shamefully low?

Or are they finding 11th-graders in their classrooms who can’t read -- and they’re simply reporting the harsh reality of what it means to teach in a big-city school serving a largely poor, at-risk population?

As many questions are raised as answers provided by Where We Teach: The CUBE Survey of Urban School Climate, a look at the attitudes and perceptions of nearly 5,000 teachers and administrators surveyed in urban school districts across the nation. The report was released in March by the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE).

The survey findings reveal a number of reassuring attitudes inside the nation’s urban schools. For example, the vast majority of adults say they hold high expectations for students and care whether children are successful. For the most part, they also say their students can succeed academically.

Yet not all adult responses are so positive. More than a quarter of urban teachers (28.7 percent) don’t believe students are motivated to learn -- and another 11.6 percent aren’t sure. Nearly one-quarter (23.6 percent) predict most students at their school will not be successful if they advance after high school to a community college or university.

These findings are valuable assets to urban school leaders, says NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “We believe you can’t find solutions to challenges unless you identify them. This report serves as an important starting place for discussion among school board members, superintendents, teachers, students, parents, and the community about the climate in our schools and the resulting impact on our students.”

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