Duncan-Andrade & Morrell reading





Duncan-Andrade & Morrell reading

For quite some time, urban schools have been lagging behind as concerning academic excellence. Varied explanations have been advanced for this situation, with comparisons being made between these schools and others. However, Duncan and Morell feel that the comparison is unfair, right from its inception. This is because the schools have experienced years of underfunding, which places them at a low pedestal compared to their counterparts in sub-urban areas. Duncan and Morell decry the fact that, on one hand, the urban schools fail at alarming rates, while, on the other hand, they are undergoing a systematic, structural design that sets them up for failure. They feel that the academic failure in urban schools is excusable since the situations they are founded under allow for their failure.

Duncan and Morell feel that the academic failure in urban schools is attributable to two things namely, the politics of failure and economics of failure. In the politics of failure, academic failure of urban schools could be traced to the belief system, in which everyone believes that there must be failures in schools. Most schools subscribe to the Darwinian belief system via the existence of a pedagogical testing and grading system that guarantees failure by its mere nature. Varied theories have been advanced suggesting that academic failure results from cultural deficiency on the part of community, family and the individual student. They feel that the system has been perpetuating inequality in the educational outcomes. As pertaining to the economics of failure, Duncan and Morell feel that schools have been reverted into de facto socio-economic sorting mechanism in the country. Wealthy communities have relatively better educational opportunities than their urban counterparts, which create an unfair competition between urban and sub-urban schools.

Duncan and Morell advance a solution to the problem where they insinuate that the reform movement for the urban education must partner with the communities, providing youth with opportunities to succeed without forfeiting their identity as urban youth. In this case, the educational model would concentrate on the design of the curriculum, pedagogy and urban school culture that identifies the communities and cultures of the urban students. These would be viewed as assets and not replaceable things. In addition, the urban schools should be better equipped in terms of teachers just like their sub-urban counterparts.

The changes advanced by Duncan and Morrell have several implications. The customization of education systems, according to the circumstances of the urban schools would be best placed to address the failure (Hill and Celio, 45). It is noteworthy that many students choose to drop out of school instead of giving up their identity as urban kids. In this case, the customization of education would allow for more appreciation of urban culture as an asset rather than an impediment and, therefore, lower the drop-out rate in urban schools.

However, it is noteworthy that the system would also be propagating inequality, with the urban schools being the beneficiaries (Hill and Celio, 67). Preferential treatment in the education systems amounts to spoon-feeding, which is not desirable at all. This would be tantamount to creating a less-level ground in the education system, only that this time round it would be favoring students in urban schools.

While the proposed system would reduce the drop-out rates and probably improve the performance of the urban schools, the symbolic implications are more profound. Having in mind that urban schools accommodate non-white students, the proposed system would propagate the notion that they are intellectually inferior compared to their white counterparts (Hill and Celio).


The low-academic performance of urban schools has been a controversial subject for a long time. Their dismal performance may be attributed to the inequality in the allocation of resources. However, this cannot be remedied by favoring them in the pretext of leveling the ground. In essence, as much as the educational system should be customized to individual circumstances there should be a clear distinction between schools and the community.


Paul Thomas Hill, Mary Beth Celio. Fixing urban schools. London: Brookings Institution Press. 1998. Print