In recent years the problems of the nation’s educational system have become a primary concern of American voters and consequently of their elected officials. The concern is especially intense in large central cities, where there is an increasing consensus that economic inequality will persist as long as educational inequality does. A variety of reform proposals, from for-profit schools to school vouchers, have polarized educators and befuddled parents. Yet there has been relatively little effort made to improve the general social conditions in which inner-city students live, a factor on which educators themselves place major emphasis.

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