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Reforming Preschools and Schools.

  • Author(s): Duncan, Greg J
  • Magnuson, Katherine
  • Murnane, Richard J
  • et al.
Abstract

Compared with their higher-income counterparts, children growing up in low-income families in the United States typically complete less schooling, report worse health, and work and earn less in adulthood. Moreover, changes in the American economy over the last 40 years have raised the level of skills and qualifications that children need to obtain a good middle-class job, as well as making it much more difficult for children from low-income families to attend schools that support their learning of these skills. We first review strategies used in the past to improve K-12 schooling-including investing more money, introducing more accountability, and putting in place new governance structures (eg, charter schools)-and show why these strategies have been relatively ineffective. Drawing on the research literature and case studies, we then describe education reform strategies for prekindergarten programs and for elementary, middle, and high schools that may help meet these challenges. All of the initiatives described in our case studies provide ample opportunities for teachers and school leaders to improve their skills through coaching and other professional development activities; incorporate sensible systems of accountability, including requiring teachers to open their classrooms to the scrutiny of colleagues and school leaders and to work with their colleagues to improve their teaching practices; and incorporate high academic standards, such as those described in the Common Core State Standards. By focusing directly on improving teaching and promoting learning, these successful initiatives have boosted the achievement of low-income children. They show that it is indeed possible to make a real difference in the life chances of low-income children.

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