How do we create effective schools for ALL kids? How do we teach so that test scores are not racially predictable? How do we eliminate the glaring racial gap in our public schools? To quote the authors of “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning“: What have these few inner-city schools done, in neighborhoods “rampant” with “illiteracy, drug abuse, broken homes, gangs, and juvenile crime?” (page 67) Here’ s a list of their common characteristics:
1. Successful schools establish a culture of community and clear expectations for conduct. Mission statements of respect, caring for others, and responsibility are taught explicitly. Appropriate social behavior is practiced and rewarded.
2. Successful schools establish a “culture of work.” There is no wasted time, even in the hallways.
3. Successful schools create a sense of teamwork (or even “family”), so that kids learn to support one another.
4. Successful schools create an economic system that parallels the real world, such as pay for performance and creation of a “microsociety” in which students interview for jobs, create businesses, and establish a police force, courts, and legislature.
5. Successful schools teach “desire, discipline, and dedication.” They promote ambition to succeed, steps toward social mobility.
6. Successful schools teach students “to think of themselves as unique, free to choose their identity, to emphasize thier racial and ethnic ties as much or as little as they wish….” (page 78)
7. Successful schools teach cultural acquisition, which means learning the social code of a workplace.
The next step is to examine the role of teacher quality in the schools which overcame racial gaps in learning. Do their teachers have higher expectations? Are they more likely to be black or Hispanic? You may be surprised, so stay tuned!