Have you ever heard of a "failing" public school in a wealthy neighborhood? The worst schools in wealthy areas tend to be better than those rare flash-in-a-pan cases of "good" schools in poor districts.
When you look more closely at the "good" schools in poor districts that get so much attention in media there is often a bottle-neck in the student population, only motivated parents with extra time income or passion are able to get their kids in to these schools. And that's what makes them good schools. It has nothing to do with the textbooks, teacher pay schemes, or charismatic catch-phrase-spouting principals. Also in the end the improvements are hardly ever that big. You might read that the new "Promise-Hope-Leadership Accountability Academy Charter School" has reading scores 20% higher than the rest of the ghetto! But, they don't dare compare it to that suburban public school that sends 96% of graduates to four year colleges.
Injured communities have injured schools. But people so rarely express this explicitly. Instead we are meant to believe that if we could just spend the money "differently" if the kids have on uniforms, or if they don't have on uniforms, if the teachers are more strict or if they are more compassionate, or maybe if the walls are a different color then, some kind of magic will happen.
Don't get me wrong there are improvements to be made, but to take a population of young people under the stresses of poverty, violence, parents who work too much and who are not home enough, poor social services, places where the police are as scary as the criminals, bad parks, bad public transit, stingy welfare benefits, bad public housing and overpriced tenements, inadequate health care, toothaches that never see the dentist, pay day loan sharks, casual racism, explicit racism in hiring practices, inadequate reproductive freedom, crappy "bodegas" instead of grocery stores, gangs, rich kids who come to the ghetto to buy drugs, highways that pollute the air giving half the kids asthma and raising the risk of young people getting hit by cars, no safe place to play outside, short childhoods where boys are treated like little men, you take all of this stress and all of this BS-- but then you go to the school and say "you know what the problem REALLY is? These clases are 50 min long the should by 45min long. That will fix it." It's absurd.
And it's always city kids who get experimented on with crazy new school ideas-- I mean, what's there isn't working so why not try, huh?... oh ANYTHING. Let's try getting rid of extracurricular activities and putting them in math class for two hours every single day-- or let's try paying students for grades. Yeah. Or I know... what if it's like survivor and you fire half of the teachers every two years based on the student's test scores! Let's try that! Experimental schools should be restricted to student populations that are stable and well off-- prove that it works first THEN try it on the most vulnerable. Is that too much to ask?
This isn't as mysterious as some people pretend. If you are willing to talk frankly about social class (and most people aren't for some reason) it becomes a lot easier to address the problem. And that's when you find out what no one wants to hear: we need to invest more money in social services and schools to make them better.
But, I think most people would rather hear that it can all be fixed with an "innovate new teaching method" or "computers" or some such BS. As long as their kid doesn't have to go to a school like that, it's musch easier to assume that the teachers and students and parents simply aren't trying hard enough-- and if they did everything would change.