Where you find distressed neighborhoods, you will also find poorly performing public schools. Yet many contemporary school reform efforts ignore neighborhood-level factors that undeniably impact school performance. The purpose of this study is to use a case study approach with social institutional and urban school reform regime frameworks to demonstrate why school reform and the re-creation and redevelopment of distressed neighborhoods should occur simultaneously. At the same time, researchers will examine the role of higher education in catalyzing partnerships with so-called anchor institutions for the explicit purposes of simultaneously improving neighborhoods and reforming schools. By focusing on a federal Choice neighborhood initiative, the study will not only make the case for connecting school reform and neighborhood development but also present a model that demonstrates how this can happen. The study will also make a strong case for the university’s unique role in fostering neo-collaborative structures fit to take on wicked problems of neighborhood distress and urban decline.
The present study investigates the extent to which a program guided by the principles of critical pedagogy, which seeks to develop critical consciousness, is associated with the improved academic performance of students attending a low-performance middle-school in Buffalo, New York.
The students were enrolled in an in-school academic support program called the Community as Classroom, which used critical project-based learning to show students how to improve neighborhood conditions. The study found that the Community as Classroom program bolstered student
engagement as reflected in improved attendance, on-time-arrival at school, and reduced suspensions. Although class grades did not improve, standardized scores, particularly in Math and Science, dramatically improved for these students from the lowest scoring categories. We suspect that given increased student engagement and dramatically improved standardized test scores, teacher bias might be the cause of no improvements in class grades. We conclude that critical pedagogy, which leads to increased critical consciousness, is a tool that can lead to improved academic performance of students. Such a pedagogy, we argue, should be more widely used in public schools, with a particular emphasis on their deployment in Community Schools.
Chapter 18 in the Higher education for diversity, social inclusion and community: A democratic imperative publication.
This essay analyzes and syntheses key theories and concepts on neighborhood change from the literature on anchor institutions, university engagement, gentrification, neighborhood effects, Cold War, Black liberation studies, urban political economy, and city building. To deepen understanding of the Columbia University experience, we complemented the literature analysis with an examination of the New York Times and Amsterdam newspapers from 1950 to 1970. The study argues that higher education’s approach to neighborhood revitalization during the urban renewal age, as well as in the post-1990 period, produced undesirable results and failed to spawn either social transformation or build the neighborly community espoused by Lee Benson and Ira Harkavy. The essay explains the reasons why and concludes with a section on a more robust strategy higher education can pursue in the quest to bring about desirable change in the university neighborhood.
By focusing on a federal Choice neighborhood initiative, this study will not only make the case for connecting school reform and neighborhood development but also present a model that demonstrates how this can happen. The study will also make a stronger case for the university’s unique role in fostering neo-collaborative structures fit to take on wicked problems of neighborhood distress and urban decline.