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Crystal Davis

Research Paper

Dr. Cassel

17 April 2018

Urban School Failure

American Inner-city schools are overwhelmingly failing. This is not a great

debate. The debate lies in why people think these schools fail. There is no shortage of

opinions as to why these schools fail but one thing is for certain when these fail the

American public-school system is failing to do their job for the children of the country.

The students' right to a fair and adequate education is being ripped from them when

they are too young to make any change. People will credit the failing schools to a lack

of parent involvement, households that don't value education or bad home lives of

students. Some people think that these students just don't care, but these school's

troubles don't lie fully in one issue. There are multiple factors to the urban school

failing rates, but two truly stand out. Inner-city schools fail because of the

socioeconomic status of many of the students and the lack of adequate educational


Poverty is very prevalent in the urban school system and many urban students

live at or below the poverty level. More than half of urban qualify for the free or a meal

price reduction program (Hudley). These students’ families are struggling to get by

and can’t put money into the school system. When the schools don’t do well because of
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a lack of money coming in, they can’t afford up to date textbooks, let alone the new

technology making a presence in suburban schools. This puts the students behind their

peers when entering the work field or college, so the cycle repeats itself and their

children end up in the same type of school that failed them.

Children growing up in poverty are more likely to have health concerns such as

developmental delays (Chamberlain). Developmental delays and other health concerns

can put children behind in school. These delays start early and effect the earliest base

concepts in schools like reading and basic math skills. When students don't learn these

fully these concepts then they will struggle for the rest of their academic career.

Poverty also causes children to experience emotional challenges, health and

safety issues and other stressors (Jensen). Stressors can distract a student from their

schools day, it is difficult to focus on work when the student is worried about intense

issues. Poor students are more likely to be exposed to contaminated air and drinking

water (Jensen). Being exposed to harmful substances from an early, like contaminated

air and water can cause major health and developmental issues. This again puts them

further behind in learning.

Students in poverty are also more likely experience a number of other risk

factors such as living with a single mother, being evicted from their home and having a

parent in prison. They often have less support at home and have fewer books in their

home. (Jensen) Students in poverty face are more likely to face hardships than their

middle class and wealthy peers and their struggles make it harder for them to focus on
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school and learn in the first place.

Figure 1 Number of Stressor Children Face Poor vs. Non-poor (Jenson)

Race is also a big factor in why urban schools fail. Many students in inner-city

schools are minorities and minorities are more likely to face dispensary actions (Klein).

This causes minority students to miss more school. This issue is made worse by the fact

that the average teacher doesn’t look like the average urban student. Research shows

that 16% of black male students faced suspension or explosion when they had white

female teachers. This number drops significantly when they’re taught by black

teachers. This is also true for black female students. The teacher’s race did not affect

white students’ punishment (Klein). When students are out of school often due to

being suspended, they miss important lessons and work that they can’t make up. This

puts students behind.

Urban Schools have a lack of adequate learning materials, the most important

one being a lack of qualified teachers. Math in poor urban schools is twice as likely to
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be taught by a teacher certified in area that is not math. This rate jump to three times

as likely for science (Hudley).

Teachers in these schools often aren’t heavily educated in the field they end up

teaching which makes it hard to teach, especially when it is in higher levels of math

and science which then makes it hard for the students to learn the new material. Urban

schools often have only a small amount of outdated textbooks, computers and may lack

science labs and equipment altogether (Hudley). Due to the little amount of money

these schools have, they can't afford new resources every few years. The students must

share a small number of old books, that no longer have much factual information in

them. Schools that have computers often have old ones that are often down,

prohibiting them from accessing the internet that they could use to find better

information. This puts them behind their suburban peers because they are learning old

information and don't have the means to search for more information further than

their textbooks. When students don't have the proper educational aids, especially

proper teachers they cannot learn and work to their full potential.

People often credit the student’s parents for their children’s struggles in school

or the students themselves not caring. Former Mayor of New York City, Michael

Bloomberg credits parents with poor education themselves for the failure of to days

students. Tony Norman, a Pittsburg Post-Gazette columnist says, “You could transfer

the most accomplished teachers from the region's best schools in the North Hills and

South Hills to Pittsburgh tomorrow and still face a painful reality -- the bored and

unmotivated African-American students counting down the minutes until the end of
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the school day.” But, these claims simply aren’t true. In New Orleans, parents will wait

outside for hours to get their child into a better school than the one their child was

matched with and 90% of African Americans and 78% of Latinos think that post-

secondary education is important for success (Perry). Urban students must find school

important when a large majority of them think going to college or other further

education paths is important to be successful but finding it important and having both

the finical means and the tools need for post-secondary education are two very

different things. This misunderstanding is harmful to students, it sends the message

that no efforts should be made in improving inner-city schools because their students

just don’t care. It lets the cycle of failing students in urban schools continue.

Urban schools fail for many reasons. Poverty, race and a lack of adequate

learning materials are just a short list of the challenges inner-city schools fail. But one

thing is for certain, these schools don’t fail because of the attitude or lack of motivation

of their students. The American school system is set up in a way that causes these

students to fail. With our current Secretary of Education, Betsy Davos’ views on the

public-school system there is unlikely any change for the better in these schools in the

foreseeable future. The current system fails the students currently in it and creates a

system where their children are forced into similar failing systems. The students living

in this country’s urban environments have the same right to an education as every

other child in this nation. These students cannot succeed until these issues are

addressed and the system is changed until then the gap between urban and suburban

school success will continue to be seen.

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Works Cited

Chamberlain, Lisa J, et al. "Childhood Poverty and Its Effect on Health and Well-

Being: Enhancing Training for Learners across the Medical Education

Continuum." Academic Pediatrics, vol. 16, no. 3 Suppl, Apr. 2016, pp. S155-

S162. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.acap.2015.12.012.

Hudley Cynthia, Ph.D.


schools.aspx. May 2013. 20 March 2018.

Jensen, Eric. Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains

and What Schools Can Do about It. ASCD, 2009. EBSCOhost,



Klein, Rebecca. “Black Students Are Less Likely To Get Suspended When They Have

Black Teachers.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 1 Nov. 2016,



Perry, Andre M. “Stop Blaming Black Parents for Underachieving Kids.” The

Washington Post, WP Company, 30 July 2014,