- Many urban schools are improving graduation rates and college attendance rates, and test score gains for urban schools are generally double the U.S. average — however, a recent study published in the journal City & Community indicates white middle-class Americans still tend to view urban schools with a negativity tinged with racial bias, the Atlantic reports.
- This "gap in perceptions" extends even to how middle-class white citizens define the terms "urban" and "suburban" when it comes to schools and causes them to view their own neighborhood schools more favorably than public education as a whole, the article states.
- Some urban schools are working to attract more white students by offering such incentives as the International Baccalaureate program and building new schools in predominately white neighborhoods, but, armed with more school options, some white parents still tend to view urban schools more negatively and make choices that increase the trend toward segregation.
In education, as in many areas of life, perception tends to be reality for many people. Urban schools have been showing some improvement in recent years, especially in comparison to public education as a whole, but the urban stigma seems to remain.
Urban schools can offer many advantages to suburban schools because of their access to cultural sites and museums. They also are usually closer to institutions of higher learning that can partner with schools in offering greater access to resources and teachers. Also, because there are greater numbers of students, urban schools are likely to have the ability to provide more course offerings and student clubs than some suburban and rural schools.
However, urban schools need to take advantage of these positives and employ them to their benefit when communicating about their schools. Building confidence in urban schools must start within the district by improving the perceptions of students, parents and teachers, as these are the biggest advocates — or detractors — of a school’s reputation. Attempts at simple rebranding have failed in the past. An improved image takes not just real improvement, but adequate communication of that improvement to others.
It also may require a change in the approach toward teaching. As Yvette Jackson, chief executive officer of the National Urban Alliance, said in a 2015 article: "Labeling urban schools as failures causes real stress and fear. It inhibits teachers' creativity and their ability to bring forth the potential of their students."
The key, she suggested, is developing pedagogy similarly to the way it's approached in gifted education, with a design focused on identifying students' potential and their strengths, using that to flesh out underdeveloped skills before providing further enrichment opportunities — a model she called "the pedagogy of confidence."