Research Matters / Positive Culture in Urban Schools

Article Description

Urban schools often face such challenges as high student poverty and mobility rates, large numbers of English language learners, and unsafe neighborhoods. Yet even in the face of these challenges, many urban schools provide a high-quality education and produce high-achieving students. Research has identified three ways in which successful urban schools support positive behavior and learning.

The underlying goal of creating a positive schoolwide culture is, of course, to enable urban students to achieve academically. Studies of urban schools find that economically disadvantaged students of color perform better when teachers match high expectations with warm and safe environments and social support (Lee, Smith, Perry, & Smylie, 1999). Thus, to achieve their goal of raising student achievement, urban schools must integrate the supportive strategies discussed here with a challenging curriculum, high standards, and effective instructional practices.

How an Urban School Promotes Inclusion

Article Description

Our students may choose from a variety of ways to demonstrate what they learn, depending on their strengths and learning styles, including written reports, videotapes, and displays. Each group selects a special way of demonstrating its new knowledge, skills, and learning strategies and presents the projects at a bimonthly Parents’ Night. When the teachers evaluate these culminating projects, they do so with an understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Through portfolio evaluation, teachers, parents, and students assess progress in all academic subject areas and set goals for future growth. Both the structure of the curriculum and the use of multimedia technologies allow us to challenge gifted students and to modify for students with disabilities.

These classrooms have a different look and feel about them. There are no neat rows of desks—desks are in groups of four to encourage student interaction. Students do not remain seated— groups huddle around a computer, hunch over tables filled with reference books, and sit on the floor planning, storyboarding, organizing. Teachers are not at the front of the room—they, too, huddle, hunch, and sit on the floor as they facilitate groups. The noise level is often high, but listen in on each group and hear the discussions. Students and teachers are focused, on-task, and excited about teaching and learning. This is Project LINCOL’N.

Urban Students Thrive as Independent Researchers

Article Description

Given a chance to make choices and to apply what they’ve learned in projects that interest them, inner-city students value what they achieve through inquiry learning.