Time heals all wounds. Or so they say. What about urban schools? Will time heal the problems so evident there?
A century ago, urban schools were the best in the nation. Now they are anything but. Everybody offers their own solution to the problem, but sometimes the simplest solution is best. In this instance, waiting. Give it a couple decades and see what happens.
Why would a couple decades of doing nothing make any difference? Because the most important part of any school's success is the families that send their kids there. And the neighborhoods in many urban areas are changing. As David Villano wrote today, many think that poverty will be concentrated in the suburbs a quarter century from now. In the 20th century white flight meant that many of the well-to-do moved out of the city while many of those with the least were left behind -- both literally and in school.
But the 21st century has seen a rebirth of many urban neighborhoods. Developers have raced to build the latest and greatest condo tower, walkability is ever more desirable, and gentrification is rampant. Indeed, over the last decade the neighborhoods in Nashville experiencing the steepest increase in home values are those clustered near downtown.
The first wave of new urban dwellers consisted mostly of people too young or too old to have school-age children. But as neighborhoods transform, that will likely change. And as more and more families with more wealth and more education move into a neighborhood, the local schools will inevitably change as well. Many of the first arrivals will send their children to private school, but that too will likely change with time.
In other words, by the time we think urban schools have been fixed the larger problem may actually lie in suburban schools.
I am, of course, not seriously suggesting that we simply do nothing. Waiting for neighborhoods to gentrify might help a number of individual schools, but would do little to solve larger societal problems.