Effective Schools for the Urban Poor (1979)


Questions of equity loom large for urban educators. Do children who come from poverty receive the same attention and resources as their middle-class counterparts? Does the environment outside of the classroom affect a child’s ability to learn? Should the urban poor be held to the same standards as their more privileged peers?

In the October 1979 issue of Educational Leadership, Harvard professor Ronald Edmonds tackles these important questions with an emphasis on research and an eye toward social justice. In the process, he outlines the fundamental principles that lead to effective urban schools.

Read the article: Effective Schools for the Urban Poor (PDF)

“Inequity in American education derives first and foremost from our failure to educate the children of the poor,” Edmonds laments. At the heart of this shortcoming, he contends, is not a failure to evaluate the many hurdles these students face, but rather a lack of political will to overcome them.

Noting that “all students are eminently educable,” he maps out the three research-based principles that lead to student success: strong institutional leadership, high expectations, and a supportive atmosphere. Arguing that these approaches have been proven effective by research, Edmonds concludes, “We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us; we already know more than we need to do that.”

More than 30 years later, Edmonds’s impassioned essay on urban education is still one of the more requested Educational Leadership articles from our archive. Brimming with provocative ideas and insightful analysis, this is an engaging read for educators interested in urban schools.

In “My Back Pages,” we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members can access EL issues from 1943 to the present by signing in at www.ascd.org.