I was fascinated by this Boston Globe article on the way Clark University has partnered with a school in one of the poorest sections of Worcester to increase student achievement. Part of the solution is having higher expectations, but also part of it is creating a "culture of achievement."
Clark is doing a great thing here:
1. They are encouraging people from the professional/professorial class to move to the neighborhood, thus decreasing economic segregation.
2. They are allowing students at the high school to take classes at Clark and to be on the college campus. This reminds me of a community service project a friend of mine does with her oral communications class. She has her students prepare speeches for middle schools on post-high school expectations (one of the things they do, for example, is explain to these kids how very few people actually go on to sports superstardom).
3. They offer lots of support to the schools in terms of tutoring and students working as teacher aides.
It's actually inspiring and it goes to show how institutions need to make investments in the poorest communities--investments of time, attention, and money. There is no reason this has to be limited to Clark or any college. Our local governments could also demonstrate this kind of commitment. The schools themselves have to help to maintain discipline. The problem is not that teachers aren't teaching the right things; it's all the surrounding context--the low expectations, the personal issues, the discipline issues in the classroom.