The Urban Challenge
Against the odds in city schools
The Race Challenge
It is a taboo subject, acknowledged but rarely discussed in public. Everyone is aware it is there and acts accordingly—to the benefit of some and the detriment of others. The subject is race. What is the impact of race and ethnicity on city schools? Reluctance to talk about this core question could be a major obstacle to urban school reform.
The Governance Challenge
In St. Louis, city officials pin big hopes—and big money—on an outside turnaround firm in what proves to be a cautionary tale for urban boards elsewhere. In the end, the proof will be not in the number of schools closed or consolidated or the number of jobs outsourced. As in any district, it will be in student achievement: Are the children learning? And, as it stands now, too many of them aren't.
The Social Challenge
Urban school districts, which educate a substantial portion of poor and disadvantaged children, are working day and night to eliminate the barriers to learning that poverty raises. They offer early childhood and preschool classes. They keep schools open after hours and hold parenting workshops and adult education classes. Some schools even have laundries so parents can wash their clothes. Others open health clinics so children can get their immunization shots and regular checkups. All of these efforts have the same goal: to take care of children's social, emotional, and physical needs so they can learn.
The Perception Challenge
Complete this sentence in five words or less: Urban schools are ... Now look at your answer. Is it based on fact or perception? Nostalgia, rumor, and media reports are powerful shapers of public opinion, so it's up to urban schools to tell their own stories—and base those stories on fact, not fancy.