Learning from the 'Harlem Miracle'

The lessons of Harlem Promise Academy‘s success, writes Diane Ravitch on Bridging Differences, aren’t the ones columnist David Brooks points to in The Harlem Miracle.

First, spend lots more money. Spend enough so that children in the regular public schools can be in classes no larger than those in the Harlem Promise Academy. Spend enough so that every public school has facilities that are state of the art, and every school has excellent laboratories and a first-class gymnasium.

Second, it is worth exploring why so many public schools in the big cities have been unable to establish a clear, fair, and functional discipline and behavior policy. Is it because of long-forgotten court orders? Have public schools become so wrapped up in procedural rights and processes that they can’t provide an orderly environment for learning? . . . My own view is that schools are by definition middle-class. If they are good schools, they teach the knowledge, skills, and behavior that one needs to function well in work, in higher education, and in life. So, there is a common-sense element to the “no excuses” mantra.

The charter school is part of the Harlem Children’s Zone, which tries to provide a wide array of support services to families in poverty.  However, the study Brooks wrote about compares charter students with zone residents with access to the same services who didn’t attend the charter school.

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  1. Maybe the real lesson is that people are willing to spend more money on public education when it involves choice.

  2. I wonder if Ms. Ravitch has heard of the Kansas City desegregation case wherein a federal judge effectively seized control of the district and showed what could be done with unlimited funding?

    If funding were the central, or even a particularly important issue, then Washington D.C. district schools would be pretty darned good. They’re not.