After nearly two decades of school reform, why do we have so little to show for our efforts? Part of the answer is that we’re not always looking at the right problems; another is that we rarely question how our schools are organized and function.
Those conclusions lie at the heart of two important new volumes from the Brookings Institution Press, A Legacy of Learning, by David T. Kearns and James Harvey, and It Takes a City, by Paul T. Hill, Christine Campbell, and James Harvey.
The former argues for uniform standards, more choice among elementary school designs administered by traditional districts, and a new definition of public schools at the secondary level. The latter focuses tightly on urban school districts that have fallen apart, arguing that civic and community leaders need to take over academically bankrupt systems and providing step-by-step guidance on how they should proceed to fix the non-performing schools.