In the littered landscape of urban school reform, many promising programs haven’t survived their first plantings. And few of the reforms that seem to work so well in individual settings have achieved success on a broader scale.

In their 2003 study for the Learning First Alliance,1 Wendy Togneri and Stephen Anderson found that the “familiar prescriptions for improving achievement in high-poverty schools” – such as heroic principals, inspiring teachers, and creative charter schools – generally...


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