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Growing Smaller: Three Tasks in Restructuring Urban High Schools

In this article from Urban Education, the authors offer a framework, derived from five years of research in Philadelphia high schools, to illuminate the vision and labor necessary to make urban high school reform both systemic and doable. The report identifies three tasks essential for engaging participants with the substance of education: building community, generating knowledge about change, and reinventing curriculum. These tasks encompass the work of changing the culture of teaching and learning to implement change. In their conclusion, the authors argue (among other points) that, ‘The inside of most comprehensive high schools in Philadelphia is perceived as unsafe for reflection’ (164). Also: ‘With an insufficiency of mandates, of supports, and of whole-community participation in reform, teachers are struggling to make wholesale change using patches of volunteer effort. Their reform vision is extensive and intensive: changing an embattled system while building safe learning communities for all kids’ (164).