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Immense amounts of resources, time and money have been dedicated to enhancing the quality of education available to disenfranchised urban communities. Scholar, administrators, teachers, politicians and the private sector all have worked to develop solutions to curtailing the rate of failing schools and underachieving students. Poverty, drugs, and broken family structures have fostered a spiral of desperation and apathy that have undermined the integrity of educational infrastructure in these urban locales.
From charter schools to federal laws like No Child Left Behind the emphasis on providing better education has been addressed from a variety of angles. At the same time, the role of individual responsibility and accountability has been an approach that traditionally doesn’t receive a great deal of attention compared to the more macro and institutional approaches championed by researchers and government institutions.
Despite an impoverished upbringing in Indiana, Dr. James P. Comer (1995) realized his grand aspiration of becoming a physician as well as a subsequent acclaimed leader of education reform, and expert on race relations. In his piece, What I learned in school: Reflections on race, child development, and school reform (1995), Dr. Comer suggests that the success of students pivots on their ability to take personal ownership of their education and future, despite any obstacles that they encounter.
Dr. Comer stresses that students must have some sort of personal accountability in preparation to meet life tasks. They must claim ownership to the educational system in wish they reside and strive to possess all it offers. Ultimately, this essay will address the issue of failing schools in urban areas as to how it relates to the prescription set forth by Dr. Comer for transforming the standard of education available in these environments, and explore how his approach contributes to expanding the larger discourse on remedying the ills of urban education.
Erik Morales (2010) in his research on high performing students in low-income area schools identifies a set of factors that enabled 50 students to defy the larger trends and experience tremendous advancement and upward mobility. Morales identifies factors through survey research that he believes proved critical for these students to excel. Employing resilience theory, he illustrates how these factors undermined risk factors thereby enabling these student to flourish. Morales also provides pragmatic applications of these factors are explored for implementation by schools institutionally as well.
Echoing the sentiment of Dr. Comer, for enhanced accountability, Lambert (2013) explores how school leadership institutionally including teachers and school principals must be developed and held accountable to ensure enhanced performance, especially in areas where the student population is at particular risk given the socioeconomic landscape. The study examines the current protocols dedicated to leadership and professionals development as well as recommends what should be included to make institutional figures better leaders and thus more accountable for the performance of their schools and students.
Lambert (2013) argues that a vacuum of leadership institutionally only further undermines these schools given the surrounding social and economic conditions existent. It becomes untenable to hold students accountable when the leadership of the schools lack sound development and capacity. The report stresses that the way young black male students are perceived and subsequently within the education infrastructure by teachers and administrators has directly impacted their ability to advance in the system.
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