If you simply walked around a failing school and then walked around one of these achieving schools, what would be some of the most notable characteristics? First, you wouldn't see students entering through metal detectors. You wouldn't see loitering in the hallways. You wouldn't hear foul language being spoken among the students and to the teachers and staff.
Upon further investigation, you'd learn that parents are supportive of the teachers and involved in their children's schooling -- making sure they do homework, get to school on time and behave once there. The teachers are competent and demanding. None of these ingredients are budget-busters, but if they're not present, no matter how high the budget, education won't occur.
The cruelest hoax of it all is the fraud perpetrated on black students and their parents. This was forcefully brought home to me over the holidays in a conversation with an in-law who boasted about how his son, a senior, was on his school's honor roll at one of Philadelphia's inner-city high schools.
While it was not thrilling, honesty compelled me to inform him that the average black high school graduate has an academic achievement level on par with that of an average white seventh-grader. His son's A's and B's would probably translate into C's, D's and F's at most other high schools.