Cover Story

Reform that works: The community schools movement

The 2010 documentary film Waiting for Superman, about the failures of the American education system, includes the story of a fifth-grader named Daisy. She is bright, passionate and charismatic. Though the child of a custodian and a high school dropout, she dreams of being a doctor or a veterinarian. You can see the American dream gleaming in her eyes.

The filmmakers point out, however, that at the high school Daisy will attend, only six out of ten students graduate and very few of those graduates go on to college. Regardless of Daisy's gifts and motivation, her chances of achieving her dream are very slim.

Nearly everyone agrees that the American education system needs to do better by Daisy and the millions of children like her. Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford University, has charged that America's education system borders on being an apartheid system in which the children of the wealthy enjoy the latest equipment and a rich curriculum and are put on the track to college while only one in ten low-income students goes to college and a higher percentage see the inside of a prison. Some states, says Darling-Hammond, can predict their future need for prison beds based on third-grade reading scores.