From “Cultural Deprivation” to Cultural Capital: The Roots and Continued Relevance of Compensatory Education
by John Spencer - 2012
This article is a case study of compensatory education as it was developed and implemented by an innovative urban school principal in the early 1960s. I argue that while the compensatory education movement was often marred by pejorative-sounding language and inegalitarian ideas, especially as it was shaped and expanded by policy makers and district administrators, it also had roots in the work of school-based educators such as Marcus Foster, who approached it as a mechanism for raising academic achievement in urban schools. Foster won acclaim in the 1960s for his work as a principal and superintendent, only to be assassinated in 1973 by the Symbionese Liberation Army as a protest against an allegedly racist school system. I focus here on his tenure as principal of the Dunbar Elementary School in North Philadelphia from 1958 to 1963. Under Foster’s leadership, Dunbar participated in the Ford Foundation’s Great Cities School Improvement Program, which helped shape compensatory education approaches taken in the federal War on Poverty and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Even as it quickly became a centerpiece of federal policy, compensatory education was denounced by some critics for blaming low achievement on the alleged “cultural deprivation” of students and families rather than on the schools themselves. I suggest that the Dunbar School’s pilot project bridged this divide between “blaming the victim” and “blaming schools.” As practiced in such schools, compensatory education confronted both home and school factors in an effort to raise academic achievement for all urban students. In doing so, this brand of compensatory education anticipated subsequent research on the importance of the “cultural capital” that students bring from home and the quality of the teaching, curriculum, and support they receive once they arrive at school. I conclude by suggesting that, from a historical perspective, the most significant problem with compensatory education was not its emphasis on social and economic disadvantages among some students, but the fact that policy makers promised too much for it as a solution to those and other urban problems. I also suggest that this tendency is evident once again in current enthusiasm for the Knowledge Is Power Program, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and other charter school movements that share some common characteristics with the compensatory programs of the 1960s. As some policy makers and pundits point to these movements as solutions for achievement gaps, racial inequality, and poverty, it is instructive to revisit both the strengths and the limitations of the compensatory education movement of the 1960s.
In 2006, while working on his book about Geoffrey Canada and the social and educational experiment known as the Harlem Childrens Zone (HCZ), journalist Paul Tough wrote a New York Times Magazine cover story on recent efforts to eradicate racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps among American students. In particular, the article spotlighted the work of widely praised charter schools in the HCZ and in the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)schools that recently have gained even greater attention in connection with the much-discussed film Waiting for Superman.1 Tough wrote that students in these schools were often two or more grade levels behind and had missed out on many of the millions of everyday intellectual and emotional stimuli that their better-off peers have been exposed to since birth. In response, he said, the schools were making a conscious effort, using slogans, motivational posters, incentives, encouragements, and punishments, to change the character of those students and compensate for everything they did not receive in their first decade of life. Tough described the work of these charter schools as a new approach to the education of poor children. The approach is not entirely new, however; it is an extension, or a revival, of ideas that rose to prominence 50 years ago, in the compensatory education movement of the 1960s.
Compensatory education unfoldedand, in one form or another, continues to spark interest and controversyin a context of debates over race and inequality in the nations major metropolitan areas. In the 1940s and 1950s, as the big cities struggled with the effects of economic decline and black migration from the Southincluding white resistance to the integration of neighborhoods, workplaces, and schoolsracial liberals sought to ease interracial conflicts, in part through intergroup education programs aimed at eradicating white prejudice.2 By the late 1950s, however, as segregation only worsened, some liberals focused increasingly on economic and cultural factors that seemed to impede progress within black communities. In this context, compensatory education took shape around the idea that low achievement among urban black children was not a matter of race per se, but a problem of poverty and social isolation in declining urban environments. In particular, the children of the ghetto were thought to be educationally and culturally deprived, and it was up to the schools to compensate for the alleged deficits in their attitudes and skills.3
Building on Ford Foundation pilot projects that were based on these ideas, the administration of Lyndon Johnson made compensatory education a core element in federal education and social policy, especially in Head Start, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and the War on Poverty. But while Head Start evolved and remained popular, even in spite of criticism,4 the concept of compensatory education was on its way to being discredited even as the federal government moved to embrace it. The cultural deprivation thesis had originated as an alternative to biological racism, but critics, including a number of African American leaders and educators, increasingly denounced it as a new and more subtle form of racisma liberal way for white-run school systems to blame underachievement on black students and families rather than take responsibility for it themselves.5 In the years since, discussion of the racial achievement gap has often been marked by this conflict between those who point to the shortcomings of the schools and those who emphasize the impoverished background of the students.6
In this article, I aim to rethink the deficit model of compensatory education by focusing on how it was implemented by notable educators at particular urban schools. One such educator was Marcus Foster, who won acclaim in the 1960s for his work as a principal and superintendent, only to be assassinated in 1973 by the Symbionese Liberation Army as a protest against an allegedly racist school system. I focus here on Fosters tenure as principal of the Dunbar Elementary School in North Philadelphia from 1958 to 1963.7 Under Fosters leadership, Dunbar participated in the Ford Foundations Great Cities School Improvement Program, which in turn influenced federal antipoverty and educational policies. An examination of Dunbars pilot project complicates the dichotomy between blaming schools and blaming the victim. In particular, we see that while the compensatory education movement was indeed marred by condescending language and inegalitarian ideas, especially as it was shaped and expanded by policy makers and district administrators,8 it also had roots in the work of school-based educators, like Marcus Foster, who approached it as a mechanism for raising academic achievement in urban schools. For most of the 20th century, white educational leaders had consigned African Americans to separate, nonacademic curricular tracks. Drawing on traditions of African American achievement9 and liberal social science, innovative schools like Dunbar began in the 1950s and 1960s to challenge this legacy of racial inequality. As practiced in such schools, compensatory education confronted both home and school factors in an effort to raise academic achievement for all urban students. In doing so, this brand of compensatory education anticipated subsequent research on the importance of the cultural capital that students bring from home and the quality of the teaching, curriculum, and support they receive once they arrive at school.10
I do not mean to suggest that Foster and others like him were typical, but rather, that they were significantpioneers of approaches that would, over time, become more influential, as indicated by examples such as KIPP and the HCZ. Moreover, the work of these educators suggests that, from a historical perspective, the most significant problem with compensatory education was not its emphasis on social and economic disadvantages among some students, but the fact that policy makers promised too much for it as a solution to those and other urban problems. As current policy makers and pundits again rush to proclaim the power of dynamic urban schools with compensatory-style approaches, this is a lesson that merits serious attention.11
URBAN POVERTY AND SCHOOLING: THE DUNBAR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The history of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School is a reminder that Jim Crow-style segregation was not limited to the U.S. South. The school was built in 1931 in the Temple University area of North-Central Philadelphia. At that time, the neighborhood was racially mixed, though Dunbar apparently was not, since it had a black principal, Tanner Duckrey, and blacks were not allowed to teach in, or be principals of, mixed schools. Indeed, Dunbar was apparently one of a handful of schools that Philadelphia created in the early 20th century to segregate its burgeoning African American population.12
Racial segregation, in itself, did not make Dunbar a troubled school. In fact, the school appears to have had a positive reputation in its early years. In 1943, veteran African American educator Daniel Brooks extolled the modern facilities of Dunbar and several other black elementary schoolsa big improvement, he reminded the black readership of the Philadelphia Tribune, over a not-so-distant past of old, frame buildings, gas-lighted, with coal stoves in many rooms and out-door water-closets!13 Even more important than the attributes of its Art Deco-style brick building, however, was Dunbars leadership. In pre-World War II Philadelphia, the school was one of only a few places where talented African American educators like Duckrey could get a job. Even as they suffered the ills of segregation, educators like Duckrey held high expectations of black children and worked to create caring and committed school communities.14
Still, when Foster arrived in 1958, he reported that the schools better days seemed to be in the past.15 What had changed since the 1930s and 1940s? Not race: the school continued to have an entirely black student body and staff, with the exception of two part-time secretaries (as of 1955, Dunbar was one of 39 schools in the city with more than 97 percent black enrollment).16 Nor had the staff changed dramatically in other ways; Dunbar continued to draw strong black educators who had few other opportunities within the system. What had changed, though, was the socioeconomic profile of the school community. North Philadelphia underwent the same prolonged process of economic decline and demographic change, or urban crisis, that afflicted many of the nations big cities after World War II.17 White and middle-income black residents migrated to the outer city and suburbs as low-income blacks from the South moved in. Facing the effects of employment discrimination and the flight of industrial jobs out of the inner city, the new residents were two or three times more likely than other Philadelphians to be unemployed. Their average income was lower by about half.18
Poverty and population growth led to the physical decline of the neighborhooddecline that was exacerbated, rather than alleviated, by government policy. Old two- and three-story row houses fell apart as a rising number of absentee landlords subdivided and failed to maintain them. It no longer paid to maintain or renovate such buildings because, as one observer noted, Federal Housing Authority subsidies for new construction in the suburbs and outer city (where African Americans were excluded) drove the inner-city real estate market through the floor.19 In response to these conditions, city planners marked the greater Temple University area for urban renewal, and indeed, they leveled and rebuilt some sections in the 1950s and 1960s.20 Redevelopment provided some low- and moderate-income housing and enabled Temple University to undertake a vast expansion. But it hurt the neighborhoods poor residents. Most who fled the wrecking ball ended up in nearby rowhouses where the crowding was worse than beforeeven as the city, unable to find private developers willing to rebuild, often left vacant, rubble-strewn lots. Bob Blackburn, who later accompanied Marcus Foster to Oakland to serve as his deputy superintendent, remembers traveling through this landscape in the fall of 1960 to visit the Dunbar School and meet Foster. Blackburn was then a 25-year-old director of the advocacy group Philadelphia Citizens Committee on Public Education (CCPE), and as he made his way through North Philadelphia, he thought of pictures he had seen of European cities after World War II. A lot of buildings were empty, and some were boarded up, and some they didnt even bother to board up. There were row houses, and bad corners, and wrecked areas. And I just remember . . . feeling that hes in a particularly difficult neighborhood.21
Physical dilapidation went hand in hand with social and educational decline. Crime rates rose, youth gangs thrived, and students in neighborhood schools performed below grade level.22 Ida Kravitz, a school district reading specialist who worked with Dunbar during Fosters tenure, recalled that the schools reading scores were among the lowest in Philadelphia.23 According to Foster, neighborhood change and the influx of lower-income blacks had created a new teaching-learning problem at Dunbar. Dunbar was not a case of white teachers disparaging black students, but Foster still believed low expectations to be an issue; as he later wrote, People have often said of these youngsters: They cant read. They cant learn. They are natural hoodlums. In turn, he continued, this view helped to fuel a self-fulfilling prophecy: When the children, already handicapped by poverty, absorb this kind of thinking, they present a different teaching-learning problem to the school, and this was the situation at Dunbar. The teachers, however well intentioned, did not know how to begin teaching their increasingly poor and working-class clientele. They were saying to Foster, What can you do?24
This was the complex of problems Marcus Foster faced when he went to Dunbarbut he did not face these problems alone. At Dunbar, Foster would become part of a larger network of civil rights activists, educators, and researchers who were responding with ever-greater urgency to the problems of urban education in an age of urban crisis.
PILOT PROJECTS: THE 1950s
In the 1950s, some racial liberals who were concerned about urban education began to shift from an emphasis on the problem of interracial or intergroup conflict to that of academic achievement in one-group (i.e., all-black) schools like Dunbar. The earlier focus on interracial conflict had been a product of the social and demographic upheavals of World War II; as blacks migrated into the cities and came into conflict with hostile whites, liberals increasingly looked to the schools (in addition to the law) for solutions to these social problems. In particular, and in keeping with the liberal social science paradigm that was encapsulated in Gunnar Myrdals An American Dilemma (1944), they looked to the schools to prevent and eradicate white prejudiceincluding white teachers low expectations of black students.
Of course, the concern with white prejudice did not disappear in the 1950s and 1960s; it fed into a larger school desegregation movement, in northern cities as well as in the South.25 Likewise, as Barbara Beatty shows in her article, interest in social and cultural influences on the development of poor children (including African Americans) did not come out of nowhere in the 1950s.26 That being said, however, the 1950s did witness a rising preoccupation with low performance among black students, in two kinds of settings: newly integrated schools, where a blackwhite achievement gap became increasingly apparent in the years after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and a growing number of all-black schools (like Dunbar), where achievement was suffering in general. At some of these schools, urban educatorsincluding a rising number of black principals and administratorsplayed a pioneering role in confronting the problem of underachievement among black students, developing programs that resonate to this day. Those programs not only expressed a tradition of African American achievement, raising academic expectations of students who previously had been stigmatized as less capable because of their race, but also focused on augmenting what would now be called a lack of cultural capital, associated with the students being poor.
The most famous of the 1950s pilot projects aimed at raising achievement for urban students was New York Citys Demonstration Guidance Project at Manhattanville Junior High School (JHS 43) in Harlem. It is worth discussing the Demonstration Guidance Project in some detail, given the influence it had on Marcus Foster and other urban educators across the nation. The project was launched by the New York City Board of Education (Commission on Integration) with the input of Dr. Kenneth Clark, the Harlem psychologist and civil rights advocate whose doll experiments had been cited in the Brown decision as evidence that segregation did damage to the psyches of black children. In 1956, when the project began, the average IQ scores of black and Puerto Rican students in Harlem (and elsewhere in the nation) actually tended to drop over the course of their school careers, from around 100 in third grade to just above 80 in eighth grade. If one dared to be facetious about so serious a problem, said Daniel Schreiber, the JHS 43 principal, one could say that the longer these children remain in school, the dumber they become. Of course, this is bosh and nonsense. Indeed, nonsense it was proved to be, as the Demonstration Guidance Project worked what looked like a miracle: quantifiable improvements in its students IQ scores, reading grade level, and high school graduation and college attendance rates.27
What had been the problem? And what did JHS43 do to achieve such hopeful results? Clark later wrote passionately in Dark Ghetto (1965) of a vicious circle of low achievement and low expectations at JHS 43 and other ghetto schools. Like Foster arriving at Dunbar, Clark found at JHS 43 a custodial program. The teachers felt helpless to teach. Their students seemed then to be hopeless, and considered themselves failures, their teachers as enemies.28 The Demonstration Guidance Project broke this vicious circle of failure and mutual disparagement by attacking both aspectshow the students related to school and how the school viewed the studentsin mutually reinforcing ways.
The Demonstration Guidance Project was based, above all, on the belief that black children could achieve and that Harlem teachers needed to raise their expectations accordingly. Granted, JHS 43 did not apply this belief to every child; it aimed to identify the most able one-third of the student body. However, even this act of selectivity helped reverse a legacy of low expectations: to identify its unpolished diamonds, the project augmented standard IQ tests with nonverbal tests that yielded higher (that is, normal) scores, giving a tremendous lift to what teachers thought of their students abilities. For the students selected by this process, the project set no limits to achievement, urging above all that they set their sights on college. This was in sharp contrast to decades of realistic counseling that held that African Americans at schools like JHS 43 should limit their academic expectations to stay in tune with the discriminatory job market they would face on graduation. Meanwhile, JHS 43 not only raised expectations but also helped realize those expectations with improved curriculum and instruction. Spending an extra $250 of district funds per pupil, the Guidance Project provided smaller classes, after-school programs, individualized tutoring, professional development for teachers, and, above all, an increased emphasis by all teachers on reading skills, especially in content areas.29
As the Demonstration Guidance Project set out to alter the beliefs and practices of the JHS 43 staff, it also attempted to change the students and their familiesin effect, to increase their supply of cultural capital. Schreiber provided an apt example of cultural capital in one of his presentations on the project: in the middle-class home, he said, a child of nine or ten years of age knows that he will attend college. That child was familiar with the names of colleges and had visited college campuses. As early as eighth grade, that child knew to take the algebra and foreign language classes necessary for college admission. As Schreiber saw it, JHS 43 families had none of this knowledge or sense of social power, which college-bound students needed but did not learn in school; indeed, for his more economically marginal students, school typically had discouraged such ambitions. So the project set out to fill the gap in students knowledge and aspirationsto give them an image of [themselves] as college students. Schreiber and his staff put college pennants and pictures of successful heroes and heroines all over the school. They invited admissions officers and successful alumni to give presentations. They provided more intensive counseling. They reached out to parents, soliciting their support and educating them on the potential benefits of the program. Perhaps most important, in Schreibers view, the project sponsored field trips to colleges, research centers, and professional schools. These excursionsalong with other field trips to plays, movies, and concerts at Carnegie Hallwere supposed to give the students a sense that all avenues were open to them.30
With its mix of elevated academic expectations and cultural enrichment, the Demonstration Guidance Project (soon renamed Higher Horizons and expanded to dozens of New York City schools) had a significant influence on educators across the nation. In 1958, for instancejust as Marcus Foster was beginning his work at DunbarPhiladelphias pioneering black educator Ruth Wright Hayre launched a similar program of her own. Like Kenneth Clark, Hayre attacked both low expectations and low cultural capital. In the 1950s, she had become the citys first black high school teacher and, eventually, principal at William Penn High School for Girls. Unfortunately, she found that William Penns mostly white faculty reacted to an influx of black children by dumbing down the curriculum (the ill-defined Common Learnings replaced English, for example) and making derogatory comments about how the school was nothing like what it used to be. In keeping with the liberal world view of her era, Hayre believed that low teacher expectations not only degraded the curriculum for blacks but also did damage to her students already fragile self-esteem and attitudes. In response, Hayre and some of her colleagues developed a program called WINGS (Work Inspired Now Gain Strength). WINGS sent students to the opera, plays, museums, and art exhibits; reached out to parents; provided extra counseling and guidance; and featured inspirational assemblies and conferences on job opportunities. By 1961, the program had boosted attendance, reduced lateness and disciplinary problems, and cut the dropout rate from 80 percent to 60 percent. Twenty-seven girls were headed for college, a family first for all but one, and a goal none would have reached without the program, Hayre said.31
A PROGRAM TO LIFT YOUR CHILD ABOVE THE ORDINARY AND MAKE HIM OUTSTANDING
Marcus Foster was well suited to become part of the growing network of urban educators who were looking for ways to succeed with low-achieving, predominantly African American students. He was energetic and charismatic, but this was not the only key to his capacity for effective leadership. Even more important were his deep faith in the capacity of all students to learn, whatever their background, and a commitment to engaging all members of a school community, including parents, in the life of the school. These were core values shaped by life experience. Foster was educated in a Philadelphia public school system that held low expectations of black students, and he grew up in the gritty streets of South Philadelphia, where he was a member of a youth gang. And yet, his life outside school also enabled him to transcend those apparent obstacles to success and become a model student whose story embodied African American dreams of racial progress and self-improvement through education. Foster was raised by a single mother who named him after the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and nurtured a family legacy of striving and learning. And as she imparted that legacy of African American achievement to her five children, Alice Foster also endowed them with forms of cultural capitalespecially literacy in standard Englishthat would help them succeed in a school system run by white educators who often disparaged blacks. As an educator, Foster communicated effectively with various constituencies, and in particular, he understood and sympathized with urban African American youth in a visceral way; as a journalist once wrote, he seemed equally at home swapping freedom handshakes with teenage black militants and exchanging scholarly quips with those who understand them.32
Whatever his personal qualities, however, Foster did not operate in isolation when he became principal at Dunbar Elementary. Just as Higher Horizons was created in collaboration with Kenneth Clark, Fosters program at Dunbar developed, in consultation with the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission, an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that mobilized during the 1940s and 1950s to end segregated housing, employment, and education. In the fall of 1959, the Dunbar teamFoster, three teachers, and one parentbegan to meet at the Fellowship Commission offices for monthly sessions with social science consultants and teams from seven other schools. The program they created for the 19601961 school year bore the mark of liberal social science, with its rising emphasis on addressing the alleged cultural deficiencies of the black poor. But the tone of the program, like that of Higher Horizons, was strikingly positive, with a focus on higher academic expectations among students, parents, and teachers alike.
The Fellowship Commissions education programs showed how some racial liberals were shifting their focus from whiteblack tensions to problems such as low achievement within African American communities. In 1946, the organization had started the Early Childhood Project (ECP), which exemplified the postwar liberal view that Americas racial problems were rooted in a vicious circle of white prejudice and black cultural pathology. To break this cycle and promote social harmony, the project proposed to educate young children and their teachers, especially whites, not to be prejudiced. By the time Foster became involved in the program (now called the Action-Research Seminar), however, participants were even more eager to address social and educational problems in a growing number of one-group (all-black) schools. During the 1950s, the principals and teachers from such schools increasingly complained of home conditions, including anti-social children from broken homes, and behavioral problems such as fighting, lying, and stealing. The educators who worked with the Fellowship Commission did not use the word poverty, but they did see their students problems as being rooted in economic conditionsnot only in the sense of material deprivation, but also, just as important, in a psychological sense. In this focus on the negative psychological effects of segregation and disadvantage, the participants were influenced by social scientists who served as consultants for the programmen such as H. Harry Giles, professor of education and director of the Center for Human Relations Studies at New York University. So, for instance, participants in the program believed that isolation from the mainstream society dampened their students aspirations for success in school and diminished their pride in themselves and their community. The educators were also concerned that parents had little contact with the school.33
These were the kinds of concerns that Foster and his colleagues had foremost in mind as they planned an intergroup education program during the 19591960 school year. Like Daniel Schreiber in Harlem, or Ruth Hayre in Philadelphia, Foster and his team intended to take aim at a vicious circle of low aspirations and achievement on the part of students and low expectations on the part of their teachers. In an urban context in which teacherstudent relationships were increasingly adversarial and custodial, as Kenneth Clark had put it, Dunbar teachers received summer homework assignments aimed at helping them better understand and serve their students. The planning team gave the faculty a list of recommended books, such as Clarks Prejudice and Your Child and Bruno Bettelheims Overcoming Prejudice. The Dunbar team also planned to improve teacherstudent relationships by having faculty members share their talents in a variety of clubsorchestra, chorus, social dancing, Negro history, science, poetry, good literature, sewing, scouting and red cross, and handicrafts.34
As the Dunbar program focused on teacher attitudes, however, it also placed a heavy emphasis on raising the academic aspirations of students and their families. Like predecessors such as Tanner Duckrey, Foster attempted to motivate his students for academic and life success by invoking a long-standing legacy of African American educational achievement. The Dunbar team planned that when the students entered the building, they would see displays about outstanding African Americans and their accomplishments on large hero bulletin boards. They brought in successful Negro guest speakers as role models of achievement. They planned a curriculum with more black history. They encouraged teachers and other school personnel, even custodians and cafeteria workers, to use all these activities and materials to motivate studentsto remind them that they too could achieve great things if they remembered the words I CAN and I must WORK.35 Of course, the most omnipresent role model of this ethic of striving and black achievement was Foster himself; in many ways, his program aimed to equip Dunbar students with attitudes that had helped carry him through school and life.
The Dunbar staff not only brought a wider world of black achievement to the students but also took the students beyond the school to expand their sense of belonging and agency in the larger society. Field trips took place not just during school time but on Saturday mornings. And while many of the trips were designed to expand the students horizons beyond North Philadelphia (the most ambitious outing was to the United Nations in New York), the school also made use of less obvious destinations closer to home: Temple University, the Bayuck Cigar Co., the R. W. Brown Boys Club.36
For Foster, as for Schreiber or Hayre, the most important form of cultural enrichment was to build academic skillsin particular, the ability to read and write in standard English. Dunbar students spoke what scholars have come to recognize as a linguistically coherent dialect, African American Vernacular English. Foster believed his students needed to assimilate the prestige dialectstandard Englishto function successfully in the classroom and in society.37 Black history materials and other enrichment experiences not only were meant to expand students aspirations but also were part of what Foster called a schoolwide conspiracy to bombard the students with standard Englishas when, for example, teachers and other staff members made a point of using the hero of the week display as a springboard for thoughtful exchanges with students.38
Cultural enrichment rested on a notionsometimes implicit, other times openly statedthat the school needed to teach information and skills that families had not provided. In particular, Foster and his staff saw the school as needing to compensate for low motivation and inadequate academic preparation. I was a disciple of early intervention a long time ago, Foster later said in a speech at Stanford University that touched on his years at Dunbar. Back in those days, learning for preschool children had to be a play experience. It couldnt look like real concept building. And we dared to say that we needed to consciously help fill some of the gaps in the childrens background.39 By the late 1960s, this was indeed a daring thing to say insofar as some might have called it an example of blaming the victim. With the rise of what came to be called compensatory education, a potentially harsh and uncomfortable spotlight began to shine on the child-rearing practices of black parents (or, to be more precise, poor and uneducated black parents).
Still, as the Dunbar team conceived it at their school, filling gaps did not mean blaming parents or supplanting them; it meant engaging themindeed, in some cases educating themto be more effective. As Foster went on to tell his audience at Stanford, he had never met parents who didnt respect education and want their children to be fully educated. The frustration was that they did not always know how to go about it, and we were saying. . . we were going to help them help their children. One of the most striking examples of this effort to enlist parents as partners in their childrens academic growth was Dunbars preparation of a 30-page booklet, Hints for Helping the Preschool Child. Foster, his English teacher Alice Campbell, and others created the guide in the summer and discussed it with parents at a get together and sing-along a few weeks before the 19601961 school year began. The booklet told parents, You too are a teacher, and it gave them advice on how to use nursery rhymes, stories, riddles, and other creative activities to prepare their child for success in school and especially the language arts. Middle-class people do this all the time, automatically, Foster wrote later, and while it seemed odd to formalize it in a handbook, he felt his staff had an obligation as educators to help them learn how to do it.40
The book of parenting tips was part of a larger strategy of parental outreach spearheaded in large part by one especially dynamic parent. Eloise Holmes was an active member of the Home-School Association (Philadelphias version of the Parent-Teacher Association) and other civic organizations. As the parent representative on Dunbars intergroup education team, she developed activities to get her fellow parents more involved in the school, such as talent night, at which parents shared their often-unsung skills with the school community, and Saturday morning field trips. She also arranged for parents to be invited to faculty meetings and sessions at the Fellowship Commission.41
Dunbars outreach to parents was partly an attempt to address what some were beginning to describe as deficits in students backgrounds. As it did so, however, the school conveyed a proactive sense of optimisma feeling that by addressing impediments to achievement both at school and outside of it, urban educators could help their students fulfill a long-standing dream of African American uplift through education. Foster captured that sense of optimism in a letter to Dunbar parents at the end of the 19591960 school year. The letter focused on how the parents could help prepare their children for academic success. Foster urged them to take their children on educational excursions at least once a week. Do you believe that your child deserves the best? he asked them. We think that he does; and that nothing is better than a worthwhile firsthand experience. The letter contained a five-page list of such experienceseverything from museums and historical sites to a trip to the airport to see large jets land and take off. In describing the importance of these outings, Foster used language that would stir controversy in the 1960s: without expanded life experiences, he wrote, your child is handicapped; he is educationally crippled; he is culturally deprived. However, Foster not only balanced such deficit-oriented statements with a positive focus on student potential (cultural experiences could lift your child above the ordinary and make him outstanding); he also specifically emphasized an academic rationale for cultural enrichment, suggesting that regular excursions could stimulate a desire and a background for readinga greater familiarity with the language and topics of the printed page.42
Bob Blackburn may have been sobered by the declining neighborhood when he visited Dunbar in 1960 on behalf of the CCPE, but once he got there, he marveled at how Foster had made a garden in the middle of this bleakness. It was very much like going up to IS 201 years later and seeing [Harlem principal] Seymour Gang43 and other heroes and heroines of urban education at work. Inside Dunbar, he said, there was student work everywhere. People were busy. There was an atmosphere of hubbub. It was not quiet, it was lively. Blackburn opened a large broom closet and saw a mothera volunteertutoring a student one-on-one. You got the sense that this school was working together as a collaborative community to make things work, he said, and they were not waiting for [the school district leadership] downtown.44
THE FORD FOUNDATION AND THE CULTURALLY DEPRIVED CHILD
Foster and his team had barely finished planning their project with the Fellowship Commission when the school was chosen to participate in the Ford Foundations new Great Cities School Improvement Program. The Great Cities program supported pilot projects in 14 of the nations large urban school districts. In Philadelphia, the program centered on four predominantly black schools in North Philadelphia: a junior high school and three of its feeder schools, including Dunbar. As we will see in this analysis of Great Cities in Philadelphia, school district leaders and Ford Foundation officials did not invent compensatory education so much as they built on the experiments of school-based educators like Marcus Foster and turned them into the centerpiece of an educational war on poverty.45
The Great Cities program grew out of a rising sense of desperation among the superintendents and board members of the nations big-city school districts. Those officials had been gathering since 1956 to discuss the impact of demographic change on their districts financial and educational health. Thousands of low-income black families were still moving to the cities every year, while comparable numbers of middle-income whites continued their highway migration to the suburbs, taking tax revenue with them.46 Philadelphias superintendent was Allen Wetter, an earnest, soft-spoken man who had worked in the district for 38 years before assuming the top job in 1955. As they drew attention to urban changes, Wetter and his fellow superintendents expressed an increasingly urgent sense of alarm. Benjamin Willis of Chicago warned that the big cities would be doomed if something was not done for the roughly 30 percent of their schoolchildren who lived in problem areasthat is, the expanding black ghettoswith their escalating rates of truancy and academic failure.47
The School District of Philadelphia had made a few efforts to address these problems, including a collaboration with the Fellowship Commission project that Foster and his staff had just finished planning. By the end of the 1950s, though, the big-city superintendents apparently believed that locally sponsored projects could no longer keep pace with the changes, and they went to the Ford Foundation for help. Founded in 1936 with a $25,000 gift from Henry Fords son, Edsel, the Ford Foundation was transformed in the 1950s from a local Detroit foundation to the largest philanthropy in the world, after Edsel and Henry Ford died and bequeathed to it 90 percent of the (nonvoting) stock of the Ford Motor Company (which, by 1955, was worth some $2.5 billion).48 In 1959, the big-city superintendents approached Clarence Faust and Alvin Eurich, the president and vice president of the foundations semi-independent spin-off organization, the Fund for the Advancement of Education (FAE). [The superintendents] knew they were going to be clobbered, were being clobbered, on bond issues by the new social problem, Paul Ylvisaker, the head of Fords Public Affairs program at the time, said later in reference to the black migrations effect on taxpayer support for the public schools. And so they came to Ford and asked Al, in effect, Give us some millions to throw at the problem.49
In going to the Ford Foundation, the superintendents began to tie their urban school systems to broader social reform agendas. The FAE had a history of liberal activism on issues related to race and education. On the eve of the Brown decision, it had published The Negro and the Schools, Harry Ashmores sympathetic study of desegregation campaigns around the country. In the mid-1950s, it had sponsored the Puerto Rican Study, a collaboration with the New York City school board on the same kinds of migration issues that were troubling the Great Cities superintendents.50 By the late 1950s, to be sure, boycotts of Ford dealerships in the South, combined with McCartheyite congressional investigations, had prompted the foundation to retreat from its subsidiarys liberal agenda and to place an embargo on anything having to do with race.51 But some Ford Foundation officersnotably Ylvisakerremained interested in getting around this embargo and addressing the kinds of urban problems the superintendents were facing. And Ylvisaker was not inclined to do so merely by throwing millions at [Chicago superintendent] Ben Willis and his boys. At Ford, his goal was to push city governments, city agencies, private social welfare organizations, and, yes, school districts to make a coordinated attack on the social problems of the black ghettoswhich, in light of the foundations sensitivity about racial issues, he called gray areas. Schools could not go it alone, Ylvisaker thought, but a school reform initiative might help pave the way for his larger vision of urban institutional cooperation and reform.52 To that end, he visited all 14 prospective great cities with a team of Ford staffers and consultants, including future secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert Weaver, and asked the superintendents to explain, in front of city officials and other interested parties, what they planned to do with the Foundations money.53
Philadelphia city leaders had their trial before the Ylvisaker group on May 6, 1960, at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Center City. The meeting presented school problems and programs as part of a larger urban crisis. Superintendent Wetter and other administrators presented the districts proposal, entitled The School-Community Coordinating Team. However, in keeping with Ylvisakers interest in a multifaceted approach to urban problems, the school leaders were joined by the citys managing director, its urban renewal coordinator, and the heads of the human relations and health and welfare agencies, among others. All these city officials made presentations on the problems of the gray areas and participated in a general discussion of urban problems. They showed an ongoing concern, harking back to the 1940s and 1950s, with blackwhite violence in changing neighborhoods; as one participant observed, an armed truce existed in those gray areas where negroes and whites are intermixed in significant proportions. At the same time, the officials seemed worried about violence and delinquency within black communities. As they told the Ford staffers, the city had 17 hard core gangs, and all 17 of those were organized Negro groups. (This in contrast to some 150 non-organized groups of lesser importance and indeterminate racial composition.) In neighborhoods that were experiencing a range of delinquency and crime incidents (rumbles, muggings, rapes, and occasional murders), the hard-core black gangs were responsible for the most overt, explicit activities of major significance.54
In light of such discussion, it was not surprising that Wetter and his colleagues told the Ford staffers that one of their two main goals was to identify and prevent incipient delinquency. Meanwhile, the other major goal was the discovery and development of talent.55 And so, the Philadelphia proposal focused on two specific groups of students: the most troubled and the most gifted. In both instances, the proposal referred to these children not as Negro but as culturally different (no doubt, in part, because of the Ford Foundations continuing embargo on race-related grants). And in both instances, district leaders portrayed school reform as a means to fulfilling larger social goals. Unfulfilled potential represented a loss to our nation and had often resulted in delinquency and crime.56 In fact, the Philadelphia proposal to the Ford Foundation went so far as to suggest that locating talent and controlling delinquency were crucial to winning the Cold War. Epitomizing what the historian Mary L. Dudziak has called Cold War civil rights, the Philadelphians emphasized that the United States needed to fix domestic problems that put the nation in a bad light on the world stage and that one of those domestic issues was the effort to have the culturally different live in amity and peace. In this effort, the schools, with support from other community agencies, were needed to supply wise guidance and courageous leadership.57
As we shall see, expecting the schools to be the key to solving larger social problems was a recipe for disillusionment. Yet district leaders and foundation officials did not exactly emphasize these grand expectations at the outset of the Great Cities program. At the Bellevue-Stratford meeting, it was strongly suggested, presumably by Ford staffers, that school leaders play down the antidelinquency objective and let it emerge as a by-product of the project.58 The district did so, and Philadelphia went on to become one of 14 great cities to receive roughly $100,000 in Ford Foundation funding for its pilot project in urban school improvement.59 In practice, the program they laid out sounded a lot like what urban educators like Foster and Daniel Schreiber had been devising at individual schools over the previous few years.
As the name of the project suggested, the School-Community Coordinating Team emphasized a need to address conditions beyond the schools, especially in students homes. In particular, school leaders expressed concern about the impact of poverty on school performance, although they did so in the language of culture and lifestyle. The proposal lamented the unique and pressing cultural and social needs of urban families and the need to raise the level of family and community living. In response to these concerns, the pilot project called for a school-community coordinator to visit the homes of talented or problem children and try to motivate and enlighten their parents about educational issues. The school-community coordinator was also to work with the school counselor to facilitate contact between the parents and any appropriate community agencies.60
In the summer of 1960, Foster and his Dunbar team joined educators from the other project schools at a three-week planning workshop, where they heard a variety of presentations by school district officials and Ford Foundation consultants. In these presentations about students from limited backgrounds, it was possible, again, to see a shift among some liberals from a focus on segregation and prejudice to a preoccupation with the cultural deprivation of the urban poor. Granted, race and segregation were still a part of the conversation, in explicit as well as unspoken ways. In a panel entitled The Negro in America, the executive director of the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission, Maurice Fagan, spoke on the need to eliminate de facto segregation. And even when race was not explicitly mentioned in discussions of the child of limited background, it was surely a subtext, just as Negro ghettos was the subtext of euphemistic discussions about urban gray areas.61
Still, the 1960 Great Cities workshop showed how the emphasis on cultural concerns, which had been evident in programs such as Higher Horizons and the Fellowship Commission intergroup education project, was accelerating. Social scientists were rediscovering poverty and, in particular, an alleged culture of poverty. Led by the anthropologist Oscar Lewis and the writer and activist Michael Harrington, proponents of the culture of poverty thesis suggested that for some poor people, poverty had gone from being a material condition to a set of self-defeating cultural responses to that conditiona fatalistic world view and way of life passed from one generation to the next.62 The presenters at the 1960 Great Cities workshop did not use the term culture of poverty or that closely related concept for educators, cultural deprivation (though, as we have seen in one of Fosters letters to Dunbar parents, the term was already in use). But those were the ideas that informed their discussions of the African American, Puerto Rican, and, to a lesser extent, hillbilly (Appalachian white) children the Great Cities program proposed to help.63 As the professional development workshop framed them, those childrens problems were rooted not in race or ethnicity but in poverty and, in particular, in the ways in which a poor background handicapped a childs preparation for school.
The Great Cities workshop not only captured how social scientists were shifting their focus from racial segregation to the supposed cultural effects of poverty but also revealed a rising emphasis on cognitive (in addition to attitudinal) concerns. As epitomized by Brown v. Board of Education, with its infamous use of Kenneth Clarks doll study, racial liberalism in the 1950s had been marked by a concern over the damage that segregation supposedly inflicted on the psyches of black children; in particular, racial isolation allegedly dampened the self-esteem and aspirations of black children, preventing them from assimilating into the mainstream of American society.64 The social scientists who helped launch the Great Cities program added a new focus on how the economic and cultural background of many urban students supposedly affected their cognitive development. Recent research into environmental effects on cognitive development had suggested that intelligence (IQ) was not fixed and therefore that all children could learn if properly prepared.65 One of the leading scholars in this field, New York University psychologist Martin Deutsch, was a Ford Foundation consultant at the summer workshop in Philadelphia. Deutsch and other presenters emphasized that children from stimulus-poor homes, including some who had not experienced even a three-minute sequence of speech with a parent, were at a disadvantage when it came to starting school and learning to read. 66
If the Philadelphia Great Cities program emphasized deficits in students homes and families, however, this was not its only focus. The program also stressed the need for changes in the schools and, in particular, the need to hold higher expectations of students. Great Cities consultants like Martin Deutsch adopted an optimistic and proactive stance with regard to the academic achievement of black children in city schools. Two points are worth emphasizing in this respect. First, the Great Cities workshop presented the educational handicaps of poverty as being reversible rather than intractable or permanent (much as racial liberals had rejected a biological basis for racial inequalities). Second, the Great Cities presenters emphasized that schools had a responsibility to turn this potential for higher achievement into a reality. In doing so, they pointed optimistically to the leading pilot projects of the day; indeed, one of the Ford-affiliated presenters was Daniel Schreiber, who, as the founder of Higher Horizons, was able to offer a firsthand perspective on how his program had galvanized teachers, parents, and children to produce higher academic achievement. Schreiber and the other presenters conveyed a sense that educators had not only the power to raise their students performance but also an obligation to do so. It was easy to say, I can do nothing about this, Deutsch commented, but if teachers shared successful experiences and practices, they soon would say the opposite.67
At the Dunbar School, Foster and his staff conveyed a sense of high expectations in their name for the Ford Foundation project: High Roads to High Achievement. It was sometimes hard to tell High Roads apart from the Fellowship Commission project that preceded it. Reports to the Ford Foundation featured many of the same clubs, cultural enrichment trips, black history programs, assemblies, role-modeling activities, and other motivational strategies that Foster and his staff had laid out during the previous year. Also similar was the underlying focus on raising achievement by reversing low expectations both in the school and at home.
If the Great Cities program did not invent the core elements of compensatory education at Dunbar, however, it did provide a key ingredient that the Ford Foundation was well-equipped to provide: money. Ford Foundation resources provided two much-needed buses for field trips and made possible an explosion of activity in some 30 after-school programs and homework centers. (The latter were intended especially for children who lived in substandard housing.)68 Most important, the Great Cities program enabled Foster and his staff to expand their existing efforts to promote parental outreach and literacy.
Community outreach was labor intensive, and Ford Foundation resources made it possible for parent activist Eloise Holmes to do this work on a full-time basis. Holmes now received a teachers salary and became a school-community coordinator. In the fall of 1960, she went about organizing the neighborhood one block at a time, setting up a network of commanders who lived on each one56 in all. These served as her liaisons to the Dunbar families who resided there. Holmes then spent most of her time visiting parents at home, explaining the program to them and encouraging them to get more involved in school and community life.69
Similarly, the Great Cities program paid for an expansion of professional development activities in the language arts, spearheaded by the veteran reading supervisor Ida Kravitz. Employed by the project as a consultant, Kravitz worked with Foster to raise academic expectations and achievement at Dunbar. Rather than emphasizing deficiencies, the idea was to identify strengths and interests and build on them, incrementally developing confidence and skill in the teacher and student alike. For example, Kravitz suggested a schoolwide effort to improve the manual skill of handwriting as a step toward more sophisticated achievements. Indeed, Foster remembered, within several months, students were writing beautifully, and when they took a city test, zoom, they made the highest scores in Dunbars history. An aura of failure was lifting as children began to believe in themselves and the teachers began to say, look, we can do something with these kidsthe kind of transformation of expectations and relationships that, as the sociologist Charles Payne has emphasized, is often the first and most important step in the improvement of demoralized urban schools.70
Kravitz encouraged teachers to adjust their methods to promote success and self-esteem, but this was no reprise of the dumbed down, nonacademic curriculum Ruth Hayre had accused white educators of applying to the citys predominantly black schools. The handwriting campaign and the increased confidence it brought were a warm-up for more academic learning. Kravitz, like Foster, believed that the most important contribution Dunbar could make to its students educational and life opportunities was to teach them to read and write well in standard English. Great Cities made possible a more intensive focus on this goal, not only by funding Kravitzs position but also by releasing fifth-grade teacher Alice Campbell from the classroom and making her the head of a school language laboratory. Kravitz and Campbell worked to foster a mutually reinforcing combination of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. First-graders brought large boxes of leaves from the park, for example, and threw them in the air, describing how they crackled and crunched and popped underfoot, all the while preparing themselves, Foster said, to recognize such words on the page and to say a little more than the leaves fall down.71 Campbell spent half of her time working with students in her lab and the rest in classrooms, demonstrating new approaches for other teachersbecause, as Kravitz said, you cant give a teacher a curriculum and say teach it.72
Even Dunbars approach to tracking provided evidence of raised academic expectations for all students. Granted, the Great Cities project was infused with a heavy emphasis on differential abilities. In contrast to post-1960s movements for detracking and the mainstreaming of special-needs students, the schools used standardized exams to sort the students into homogeneous maturity groups. In keeping with the project focus on slow and talented learners, Dunbars language lab worked with two groups in particular: younger children who did not talk and an older enrichment group. The non-verbals were put into smaller classes.73 Maturity groups, like the adjustment of the curriculum in the name of self-esteem, had the potential to stigmatize and reinforce low expectations of some students. However, as implemented by Campbell, Kravitz, and Foster, maturity groups were more like differentiated instruction toward common academic goals (especially literacy) than the differentiated curriculum that traditionally had relegated African American students to less academically rigorous programs of study. Making use of her resources as a Ford consultant, Kravitz recruited academics from across the nation to help her develop teaching materials for the Great Cities schools. The result was a flexible approach involving phonics as well as methods more akin to what came to be called the whole language approach. We assumed that every child could be taught to read if the method appropriate for him was used, Foster wrote. We were not purists. We wanted results.74
Quantitative and qualitative evidence suggested that Philadelphias Great Cities program did indeed help to improve student achievement. Standardized tests and other district evaluations indicated improvement in reading and math at two of the three elementary schools, including Dunbar. (Subpar results occurred in one school in which the program never achieved full implementation.)75 Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggested that teachers, administrators, and parents felt better about the schools and the childrens performance. After one year, Louis Ballen, the school districts coordinator of human relations, noted that a growing number of teachers were coming to believe that children of limited backgrounds can learn and be taught so that they want to learn, and those children, in the process, were showing better work habits and other positive attitudinal changes.76 At Dunbar, staff members gushed over the benefits of Campbells Language Arts demonstrations, their only complaint being that they needed even more classroom visits and special presentations. A number of Dunbar parents reinforced the positive testimony of the staff. As one noted, in a comment that was echoed by others, I have tried very hard in many ways to get through to my daughter the importance of learning, but with little results. Since the High Roads program, the difference is remarkable.77
From the perspective of the Dunbar staff, the High Roads project certainly did not eliminate all problems in schoolparent relations. Eloise Holmes continued to perceive apathy among some parents who, she wrote, cannot for one reason or another bring themselves out of the depressed state to cooperate in any way for the good of the school, children, and community. In general, though, Holmes believed that her personal visits gave many parents a feeling of status and that those feelings translated into a rise of volunteerism at the school. Even after just one year as schoolcommunity coordinator, she perceived a definite change of attitude toward school within the home.78
AN EDUCATIONAL WAR ON POVERTY
With Ford Foundation support, Dunbar and other participating schools did much to demonstrate the educational potential of compensatory education. Some reformers and public officials found the Great Cities program so encouraging, in fact, that they made compensatory education a cornerstone of school and social policy during the Great Society.
To be sure, it was evident even in the pilot phase of the Philadelphia program that compensatory education was only as effective as the people carrying it out. Wesley Scott, an observer from the Ford Foundation in the early 1960s, described how Eloise Holmes, an indigenous leader who knew the community well, was more successful than, say, her counterpart at Ludlow Elementary, who was overwhelmed by the job.79 Likewise, the skill and dedication of Ida Kravitz were key to the improvement of language arts in the project schools. Kravitz herself felt that we saw results in direct proportion to the interest of the community and the ability of teachers.80 This is not to mention the importance of leadership from the principals office; as subsequent research has emphasized, having a proactive instructional leader like Marcus Foster is crucial to school improvement.81
Yet questions about how broadly and easily pilot programs could be replicated did not limit the rapid expansion of compensatory education. The Great Cities program was a signature example of what historian Ellen Condliffe Lagemann has described as strategic philanthropy, or the use of limited foundation resources to leverage action by other organizations, including the federal government.82 As both the Ford Foundation and the district had hoped, the program became a template for the Philadelphia schools response to the social and educational problems of the urban crisis. At the end of the initial one-year grant, the district landed a three-year, $225,000 extension from Ford and matched it, expanding the program to eight schools. Pressure from outside the system led to further expansion; in 1963, for instance, the Reverend Leon Sullivan and a group known as The 400 Ministers launched a protest against inferior learning conditions and low academic achievement in 65 predominantly black schools, and they pressed the district to extend compensatory education to those schools.83 By 1966, 68 elementary schools and 14 secondary schools would be spending $2 million of the districts regular budget in the Educational Improvement Program, a direct descendant of Great Cities.84
The impact of these programs reverberated beyond Philadelphia and the other localities that launched them. In June 1964, several dozen of the nations leading psychologists, sociologists, and educators, including Erik Erikson, Benjamin Bloom, and Edmund Gordon, met in Chicago and recommended that the nation extend its efforts in compensatory education.85 In fact, the Johnson administration had declared the War on Poverty a few months earlier, and by the following year, it was clear that compensatory education was one of the governments main weapons. The ESEA, while not officially part of the poverty program, focused heavily on funding compensatory programs for poor students; indeed, Great Cities had provided much of the basis for the testimony of Francis Keppel, Johnsons commissioner of education, in the 1965 congressional hearings that led to the ESEAs historic passage.86
Compensatory education was also at the center of one of the most well-known and controversial of the administrations antipoverty initiatives, the Community Action Program. Community Action was created as part of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, and it was modeled substantially on the Ford Foundations Gray Areas projects, which in turn had evolved out of Great Cities. As he had planned to do from the start, Paul Ylvisaker followed the launch of Great Cities by prodding urban politicians, agency heads, and educators to come up with more comprehensive approaches to solving the urban crisis.87 In the five cities in which it funded pilot projectsPhiladelphia, Oakland, Boston, New Haven, and Washington, D.C.the Gray Areas program did indeed lead to innovations such as the creation of new antipoverty agencies and, in some cases, the political mobilization (or maximum feasible participation) of the poor themselves. Still, despite Ylvisakers grander intentions, Gray Areas and eventually the federal Community Action Program relied heavily on the Great Cities approach of educational programs for the culturally deprived. Philadelphias antipoverty agencythe Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement (PCCA), launched in January 1962 with grants from the Ford Foundation and the Presidents Committee on Juvenile Delinquencyapproached the urban crisis in much the same way as did the big city superintendents, emphasizing such priorities as creating motivations toward upward mobility, e.g., job training and other education; removing or insulating children from negative influences in their environment; and acculturating newcomers.88
In Philadelphia and elsewhere, policy makers hoped to fight poverty by spreading, especially in the Head Start program, the kind of compensatory education approaches that Marcus Foster and his colleagues had been developing at the Dunbar School. In fact, one of the PCCAs four main programs, after it received its antipoverty funds from the Johnson Administrations newly created Office of Economic Opportunity in 1964, was to extend, at Dunbar and three other elementary schools, a prekindergarten experiment that Foster had helped initiate.89
A CURIOUS AMALGAM OF HOPE AND UNDERESTIMATION
Unfortunately, the optimism surrounding pilot projects like Great Cities was short lived, as compensatory education came under fire from critics who saw it as a disparagement of poor people and/or an excuse for not desegregating the schools. Not all liberals and civil rights advocates had shifted their primary focus from integration to cultural deprivation; some civil rights leaders continued a struggle for school desegregation that they had been waging since the 1930s. In Philadelphia, groups like the local NAACP and the Educational Equality League (EEL) had pushed for integration not only to eliminate what they saw as a damaging aura of inferiority surrounding black schools but also to ensure that black children would enjoy the same educational resources as white children. These efforts gained steam after the Brown decision, and in 1961, the NAACP and the EEL sued the school district over racial discrimination in the establishment of school boundaries and the assignment of teachers. Chisolm v. Board of Public Education ended in an out-of-court settlement and failed to make a significant dent in racial segregation. However, it did direct pressure and criticism where many civil rights leaders felt it belonged: on the school system itself, as opposed to the families it served.90
Civil rights activists had good reason to believe that programs like Great Cities were a diversion from, even a threat to, their goal of desegregation. In a 1963 piece in the Atlantic Monthly, sociologist Murray Friedman linked compensatory education to what he called, in dismay, a white liberal retreat from the goal of integration. Based largely on observations of his hometown of Philadelphia, Friedman (who himself was white) reported that white city dwellers had pushed up enrollment at private and parochial schools, shut their eyes to the widespread practice of gerrymandering of school district lines to avoid integration, and helped to create pressures for separating slow from rapid learners in the public schools. He emphasized that these were not necessarily malicious acts; many liberal-minded people still believed in and fought for black civil rights in the abstract even as they struggled to separate themselves from the squalor they perceived in the expanding slums. But the author worried that scientific racism, discredited since the 1930s, was making a comeback. Studies linking inequality to IQ had proliferated in the wake of Brown. Meanwhile, mainstream social scientists who still rejected racial and genetic interpretations were nonetheless backpedaling on desegregation because they felt it necessary to upgrade Negro slum children before they are thrown into the more difficult world of the middle-class white. In other words, they felt it necessary to provide compensatory education. While Friedman was not opposed to compensatory educationhe approvingly cited several exampleshe was alarmed that some saw them as a substitute for, even an excuse to avoid, desegregation.91
Others objected to the very notion of upgrading Negro slum children. Liberal sociologist Frank Riessman, author of The Culturally Deprived Child (1962), described projects like Great Cities and Higher Horizons as a curious amalgam of hope and underestimation: reformers were right to believe they could overcome the negative effects of a childs early environment, but they mistakenly assumed that nothing in that environment was positive. Educators and reformers middle-class outlook, he argued, prevented them from recognizing or building on black cultural traditions, especially music, that might serve as a bridge to high culture.92 Ironically, Riessman patronized and stereotyped the culturally deprived as much as other liberals did, if not more so, arguing that their anti-intellectual outlook called for a different curriculum based on physical modes of learning and the wisdom of the streets. This position, in contrast to the one taken by educators like Foster, did not expect or even allow for poor and minority children to build the cultural capital that would allow them to compete in the larger society. Still, as Riessman noted, the liberal approach to assimilation as a one-way streetthe shedding of a supposedly defective subculture in favor of the dominant onewas troublesome in its own right.
Riessmans critique was echoed by novelist Ralph Ellison, a longtime critic of liberal social scientists for their tendency to see only pathology in black culture.93 There is no such thing as a culturally deprived kid, declared Ellison at a 1963 seminar, Education for Culturally Different Youth. In fact, he argued, the difficult thirty percent had shown remarkable ingenuity in adapting to their own distinctive cultural complex, namely, life as a black American in the streets of the city. The goal for educators was not to get these children to abandon that culture, but to build a bridge to itnot simply assimilation, but a recognition of cultural pluralism, or what came to be known as multiculturalism.94
By 1963, when the fiery Cecil Moore replaced Leon Higginbotham as head of the Philadelphia NAACP, new black leaders were adding to Riessmans and Ellisons criticism of liberal condescension, denouncing the idea of cultural deprivation as an elitist attack on the urban poor. In his inaugural speech before the NAACP, Moore attacked white reformers in general and the PCCA in particular for promoting studies designed to expose the weakness and inferiority of blacks. Instead, he demanded an immediate program of direct action in North Philadelphia, and he threatened a boycott of Ford car dealers if the Ford Foundation continued to support the PCCA.95
Philadelphias Great Cities program certainly exhibited some of the cultural biases that alienated critics like Riessman and Moore. The Dunbar Schools reports to the Ford Foundation tended to emphasize the problem of a defeatist environment at home and in the community, noting, for example, that some black parents taught their children that work and ambition were useless in a white mans world. Only occasionally did these documents mention the kinds of external forcesfor example, unfortunate . . . inter-group contacts with merchants, landlords, social workers, and policethat might have given some parents reason to feel pessimistic. Rather, Foster and his staff tended to define their challenge as one of helping a sub-standard community assimilate to the schools culture of hard work and self-improvement.96
Such documents seem to have reflected a mix of cultural bias and political savvy. Bob Blackburn has no doubt that Foster changed and grew over the course of the 1960s, moving toward a more expansive cultural pluralism and a more forceful critique of racism. But Blackburn also emphasizes that Foster was careful in the early 1960s to say what he knew funders wanted to hear. Comp Ed was a way of getting the Mans money, he says. And it was rarely discussed except socially and informally, back in those years. Marcus could put on a straight face and talk about the appropriate ingredients of an effective program, behind his back knowing, get me the money and Ill put this together. And when Foster and his colleagues put this together, their motto was accent the positive; play down the negative. Instead of getting kids down on floor, and grinding them with their area of weakness, which is how Blackburn remembers Foster describing the deficit model of compensatory education, the emphasis was on building bridges from their strengths.97 Above all, Foster wanted his students to fit into and excel in the mainstreamnot to vindicate themselves to disapproving whites, but to claim a birthright.98
The more serious problem with cultural and class chauvinism came as policy makers tried to implement compensatory education on a mass scale. The further the concern with cultural deprivation drifted from the practice of school-level innovators like Marcus Foster, the more disparaging and defeatist it tended to sound. Superintendents and other local leaders were careful to avoid generalizing about minority groups, pointing to class differences within them, yet they made disparaging blanket statements about poor families indifference and apathy toward their childrens health and educational needs.99 A telling example of well-intended but troubling condescension came from the district superintendent who supervised Great Cities in Philadelphia. Aleda Druding once wrote, To be a teacher is to be bound in conscience to help each child find his own worth, his own dignity. To be a teacher is to open doors. And to be a teacher in the Great Cities School Improvement Program is to be and do all these things with renewed dedication, with loving enthusiasm. And yet, in a report on the Great Cities program for the NEA Journal, Druding struck a different tone. In culturally impoverished neighborhoods, she wrote, educators encountered kindergarteners who showed up without knowing their own names; hundreds of children who had never brushed their teeth or bathed regularly because mother has never shown them how or encouraged them to brush or wash; and mothers who didnt feel like making breakfast for their children and had to be shamed into cooperation by schoolcommunity liaisons.100
In many ways, Foster shared this administrators concerns about the home lives of his students (though he was less inclined to generalize from the worst cases). But where he portrayed parents as an ally to be mobilized, she described them as an obstacle to be overcome. At a moment of surging pride and self-assertion within the civil rights movement, it was no wonder such ideas and language were rejected as a case of what soon would be called blaming the victim.101
THE LIMITS OF COMPENSATORY EDUCATIONTHEN AND NOW
As a way to describe and explain the impact of social background on academic achievement, the concept of cultural deprivation fell out of favor after the 1960s. And yet, as Sylvia Martinez and John Rury suggest in their essay,102 Americans have yet to come up with a fully satisfying (and equally influential) alternative, even as the educational system continues to be marked by starkly unequal outcomes. How to talk about race- and class-based achievement gapsincluding the role of family background and other nonschool factorswithout blaming low-performing students or creating an excuse for inaction on the part of schools and teachers?
As this case study aims to show, attempts to strike such a balance could be found within the compensatory education movement itself. Marcus Foster and his staff extended their vision beyond their school, especially by trying to get parents to play a more productive role in their childrens education. In the language of the time, they said they were compensating for cultural deprivation. Today we would say (at least in academic circles) that they were building cultural capital. Yet Foster and his colleagues did not focus exclusively on nonschool factors; they made changes at the school as well. As part of the Great Cities School Improvement Program, they stood for the idea that IQ tests did not capture the true potential of urban students (who increasingly were black) and that educators needed to raise their expectations of such students, especially in the academic subjects of reading and mathematics.
With their twin emphases on building cultural capital and raising academic expectations, the programs of educators like Foster, Daniel Schreiber, and Ruth Hayre are echoed to some extent in current charter school movements such as KIPP and especially the Harlem Childrens Zone, whose schools operate in conjunction with parenting workshops, health clinics, and other wrap-around social services beyond the school site itself.103 Four decades after cultural deprivation began to disappear from public discourse, those movements propose to use education to change the opportunities as well as the attitudes of the urban poor. However, as enthusiasm for these initiatives surges, it is useful to remember a cautionary lesson from the compensatory education movement. In retrospect, the most serious problem with compensatory education was not the concept itself, or the fact that some advocates described or implemented it in a condescending way. The bigger problem was the way in which policy makers made it into a centerpiece of their responses to large-scale social problems such as urban poverty and racial inequality.
For one thing, there was the matter of resources; it was expensive to reproduce pilot projects on a mass scale, in all similar schools. Of course, this was not the fault of the pilot projects, nor was it a reason not to spend the money. On the contrary, Dunbars success with compensatory education was a compelling argument for channeling more resources to schools that served low-income students. In 1962, journalist Charles Silberman drew precisely that conclusion in a Fortune magazine series, The City and the Negro. If pilot projects affected only a minute fraction of the children needing special help, he argued, the answer was to implement them on a mass scale and thus exercise positive discrimination on behalf of urban blacks.104 Yet the nation did not spend for compensatory education on this kind of scale. As Marcus Foster said in 1969, efforts like the Educational Improvement Program in Philadelphia were conceptually sound, but we went at the task with a teaspoon, when we needed the mighty efforts of a steam shovel.105
Moreover, even if Americans had made large and beneficial investments in compensatory education, education alone could not have solved the problems of racial inequality and urban poverty. Yet, in characteristic American fashion, echoing Horace Mann and his belief in public schooling as the great equalizer, this is largely what policy makers and politicians came to expect of the schools in the early 1960s. For school-based educators like Foster, compensatory education was first and foremost a means of improving academic achievementa source of practical strategies and, not least, extra funds for implementing remedial reading instruction, intellectually stimulating field trips, and stronger counseling and parent outreach programs, among other improvements. By contrast, as we have seen, the district leaders and Ford Foundation officials who launched the Great Cities program saw school reform as a means to greater ends. Granted, they played down these goals and described the program primarily in educational terms. But for these leaders, compensatory education was a means to the realization of larger, and at times contradictory, social goals: reducing juvenile delinquency, promoting social peace and racial integration, and equalizing economic opportunities in an increasingly knowledge-based, technological society.
Of course, it was important to link urban schools and school reform to larger social problemsespecially poverty. One Philadelphia leader who did so in a useful way was George Schermer, head of the citys Commission on Human Relations (CHR). Schermer was a passionate advocate of racial integration, and he was not one to speak in a sensational or exaggerated way about the social problems of black Philadelphians. Still, Schermer grew increasingly alarmed over the apparent connections between poverty, school achievement, and the struggle for a racially integrated society. As he wrote in July 1960, The one persistent fear that chill[ed] the hearts of most white people when they contemplated racial integration of their neighborhoods, and especially their childrens schools, was the different living standards and disorganized behavior of certain black familiesthat is, poor ones.106 Schermer also noted that in his experience enforcing fair employment practices, he had had difficulty finding enough qualified black candidates for certain skilled occupations.107 He and other like-minded liberals were understandably concerned that social class differencesincluding what he described, in the language of the time, as cultural deficitswere as damaging to the struggle for racial integration as racism itself. Schermers concern with eliminating these deficits led him to embrace the Ford Foundation compensatory education projectbut he was careful not to overstate what the project could accomplish. As a CHR publication emphasized, the causes of urban school problems lay more outside the school system than within it, and as a consequence, Schermer continued to stress the impact of racism on black Philadelphians and the need to keep fighting for racial equality on various fronts.108
George Schermer was careful not to attribute the urban crisis solely to cultural deprivation, nor to seek its solution entirely in compensatory education programs. The big-city superintendents and other reformers were less careful. In a 1960 press release, for instance, Benjamin Willis spoke for his counterparts in the other big cities when he stated that the social and economic life of the United Statesindeed, its very existencewill be in jeopardy unless the great cities take decisive steps to boost the aspirations and achievement of those million or so children. Grandly casting schools as the centerpiece of urban social policy, Willis went on to assert that more can be done in the classrooms of America to meet the needs of the children of limited background than can be done in any other place or in any other way.109
Willis and many other Americans believed that schooling had turned previous generations of immigrants into productive American citizens, and they expected the schools to do the same for African American migrants and their children. Yet the schools had never been the main pathway of advancement for the immigrants, at least not in economic terms. The immigrants of the early 20th century had survived because of a vibrant (if exploitative) industrial economy.110 Their children were helped toward a middle-class existence by the racially discriminatory social policies of the New Deal.111 In the postwar era, urban blacks enjoyed neither benefit; despite hopes unleashed by the war and its aftermath, they were increasingly defeated by deindustrialization and ongoing racial discrimination (in practice if not always in law). Over time, critics and scholars have been sharply critical of the War on Poverty and other social reforms of the 1960s for relying too heavily on educational solutions and failing to address the economic changes and persistent patterns of discrimination that underlay urban poverty and decline. As these scholars have suggested, overpromising for education as the great social equalizer tends to obscure those root causes and breed disillusionment with schools and with the families they serve.112
Proponents of current initiatives such as KIPP and the HCZ also exaggerate the power of schooling: as the movie poster for Waiting for Superman states, à la Benjamin Willis, The fate of our country wont be decided on a battlefield. It will be decided in a classroom. And yet, it is true that since the 1960s, educational attainment has come to play an increasingly important role in shaping social opportunity, for Americans in general and for African Americans in particular.113 Now, as in Marcus Fosters time, compensatory education programs cannot win a war on urban poverty by themselves. However, such programs do at least acknowledge that efforts to eliminate achievement gaps must address the impact of poverty and low cultural capital, in addition to school factors such as academic expectations and pedagogy. Recent federal policies, by contrast, tend to make little or no mention of the differential impact of social and economic forces on schools even as they insist that all schools and educators be held accountable for student achievement.114 As No Child Left Behind and the Obama administrations Race to the Top initiative raise expectations ever higher, insisting that schools produce academic achievement for every student regardless of race or socioeconomic status, it is instructive to revisit the strengths and the limitations of the compensatory education movement of the 1960s.
1. Paul Tough, What It Takes to Make a Student, New York Times Magazine, November 26, 2006; and Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canadas Quest to Change Harlem and America (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). For other high-profile discussions of the virtues of charter schools in the Harlem Childrens Zone and KIPP, see, for example, Karl Weber, ed., Waiting for Superman: How We Can Save Americas Failing Public Schools (New York: Public Affairs, 2010); Jay Mathews, Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America (New York: Algonquin Books, 2009); and Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown, 2008), 25069. I wish to thank Barbara Beatty and Wayne Urban for commenting on earlier drafts of this essay.
2. Among key works in the growing literature on racial conflict in the cities during and after World War II, see especially Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996); Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, eds., Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 19401980 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Robert Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); and Matthew J. Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007). On racial liberalism and its emphasis on white prejudicial attitudes as the main source of racial inequality in America, see Walter A. Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and Americas Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 19381987 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); and Alice OConnor, Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor in Twentieth-Century U.S. History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 7498. For accounts of antiprejudice campaigns and other intergroup education efforts within racial liberalism, see Jonathan Zimmerman, Brown-ing the American Textbook: History, Psychology, and the Origins of Modem Multiculturalism, History of Education Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2004), 4669; Diana Selig, Americans All: The Cultural Gifts Movement (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 26878; and Leah N. Gordon, The Question of Prejudice: Social Science, Education, and the Struggle to Define The Race Problem In Mid-Century America, 19351965 (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2008).
3. For an influential contemporary statement of this idea, see Benjamin S. Bloom, Allison Davis, and Robert Hess, Compensatory Education for Cultural Deprivation (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965). The book grew out of a conference involving several dozen of the nations leading psychologists, sociologists, and educators.
4. On debates over Head Start, see, for example, Maris A. Vinovskis, The Birth of Head Start: Preschool Education Policies in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); and Harold Silver and Pamela Silver, An Educational War on Poverty: American and British Policy-making 19601980 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
5. See, for example, Kenneth B. Clark, Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), 11153; and William Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Pantheon, 1971), 3162.
6. In recent years, critiques of the shortcomings of schools have been exemplified in the accountability agenda of the No Child Left Behind Act (2002); see Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff, eds., NCLB at the Crossroads: Reexamining the Federal Effort to Close the Achievement Gap (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009). Meanwhile, the persistence of a culture of poverty analysis is especially evident in the writings and popular professional development programs of educator and entrepreneur Ruby Payne; see A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Highlands, TX: aha! Process, 1996). For an overview and critique of Paynes programs, linking them to 1960s-era debates over the culture of poverty, see Jennifer C. Ng and John L. Rury, Poverty and Education: A Critical Analysis of the Ruby Payne Phenomenon, Teachers College Record, July 18, 2006, http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12596.
7. The case study in this article is drawn from a longer study; see John P. Spencer, In the Crossfire: Marcus Foster and the Crisis of Urban School Reform in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming).
8. For an interpretation along these lines, see Adam R. Nelson, The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Bostons Public Schools, 19501985 (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2005), 3159. Nelson traces the influence of federal funding priorities on school superintendents in Boston, arguing that district officials defined cultural deprivation as a form of incurable disability in ways that reinforced the tracking and segregation of African American students. See also Jack Dougherty, More Than One Struggle: The Evolution of Black School Reform in Milwaukee (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 5170; and Robert Lowe and Harvey Kantor, Creating Educational Opportunity for African Americans Without Upsetting the Status Quo, in Changing Populations, Changing Schools: Ninety-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part II, ed. Erwin Flaxman and A. Harry Passow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 18992, both of which portray compensatory education as a means of acculturating and reforming black students rather than an effort to promote their advancement and intellectual development.
9. On the long-standing importance that African Americans have attached to educational achievement, especially in opposition to a mainstream culture that asserted their intellectual inferiority, see James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 18601935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); and Theresa Perry, Up From the Parched Earth: Toward a Theory of African-American Achievement, in Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African American Students (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003), 1108.
10. The concept of cultural capital derives from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. For useful reviews of the literature on cultural capital as it has been applied to scholarship on education, see Annette Lareau, Cultural Capital in Educational Research: A Critical Assessment, Theory and Society 32, no. 5/6 (2003), 567606; and John L. Rury, Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2002), 19394. My use of the concept has been influenced by Lareaus rejection of an elitist definition in favor of one that emphasizes power contestation. On the impact of teachers and schools on academic achievement, see, for example, Ronald F. Ferguson, Toward Excellence with Equity: An Emerging Vision for Closing the Achievement Gap (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2008); Charles M. Payne, So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2008), especially 93108 and 207212; Ronald Edmonds, Effective Schools for the Urban Poor, Educational Leadership 37, no. 1 (1979), 1518, 2024; and Rhona S. Weinstein, Reaching Higher: The Power of Expectations in Schooling (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004).
11. For a similar critique of the claims made by current charter school advocates, see Alan R. Sadovnik, Waiting for School Reform: Charter Schools as the Latest Imperfect Panacea, Teachers College Record, March 17, 2011, http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=16370.
12. On educational segregation in Philadelphia during the Great Migration era, see Vincent P. Franklin, The Education of Black Philadelphia: The Social and Educational History of a Minority Community, 19001950 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1979); and Judy Jolly Mohraz, The Separate Problem: Case Studies of Black Education in the North, 19001930 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979).
13. Daniel A. Brooks, Veteran Principal Compares Present School Conditions with Those of World War I, Philadelphia Tribune, December 11, 1943.
14. The literature on such schools focuses mainly on the South; see especially Vanessa Siddle Walker, Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and Valued Segregated Schools for African American Children in the South, 19351969: A Review of Common Themes and Characteristics, Review of Educational Research 70 (2000): 25385. For a contemporary account of the strict but supportive environment that Tanner Duckrey created at the Dunbar School, see Teaching Is Tradition in Negro Educators Family, Philadelphia Evening Ledger, September 30, 1939.
15. Marcus A. Foster, Making Schools Work: Strategies for Changing Education (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), 75.
16. See Leonard Blumberg, A Study of Recent Negro Migrants into Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Temple University and Philadelphia Urban League, 1958), Papers of the Philadelphia Urban League, b. 12, f. 207, Temple University Urban Archives (TUUA).
17. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis.
18. On Philadelphias industrial decline, see Carolyn Adams et al., Philadelphia: Neighborhoods, Division, and Conflict in a Postindustrial City (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991).
19. Lenora E. Berson, Case Study of a Riot: The Philadelphia Story (New York: Institute of Human Relations Press, 1966), 2425.
20. Map of Temple and Poplar Redevelopment Areas, 1960. Papers of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA papers), b. 261, f. 4318, TUUA.
21. Robert Blackburn, interviewed by the author at his home in Oakland, California, March 5, 1998. Tape recording in possession of the author.
22. Berson, Case Study of a Riot, 2428.
23. Ida Kravitz, interviewed by the author at her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 2, 1999. Tape recording in possession of the author.
24. Foster, Making Schools Work, 7576; Marcus A. Foster, Motivating Children to Read Via Oral Language Experiences, in Teaching Reading: Not By Decoding Alone, ed. Joseph P. Kender (Danville, IL: Interstate Printers and Publishers, 1971), 79.
25. The northern school desegregation movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s has been all but forgotten, especially in comparison with the iconic struggles of the Brown era in the South and the nationwide busing battles of the late 1960s and 1970s. Among works that have noted and/or begun to rectify this imbalance, see especially Gary Orfield, Race and the Liberal Agenda: The Loss of the Integrationist Dream, in The Politics of Social Policy in the United States, ed. Margaret Weir, Ann Shola Orloff, and Theda Skocpol (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 31355; Thomas Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2008); Dougherty, More Than One Struggle; John L. Rury, Race, Space, and the Politics of Chicagos Public Schools: Benjamin Willis and the Tragedy of Urban Education, History of Education Quarterly 39, no. 2 (1999): 11742; and Adina Back, Up South in New York: The 1950s School Desegregation Struggles (PhD diss., New York University, 1997).
26. Barbara Beatty, The Debate over the Young Disadvantaged Child: Preschool Intervention, Developmental Psychology, and Compensatory Education in the 1960s and Early 1970s, in Rethinking Compensatory Education: Historical Perspectives on Race, Class, Culture, Language, and the Discourse of the Disadvantaged Child, ed. Barbara Beatty, special issue, Teachers College Record 114, no. 6.
27. Daniel Schreiber, What Can be Done to Reduce Academic Retardation in Minority Group Children? (paper presented at the Invitational Conference on Northern School Desegregation: Progress and Problems, 1962), 4756, ERIC Document No. ED014516. On the origins and results of the project, see also Clark, Dark Ghetto, 14143; and Gerald E. Markowitz and David Rosner, Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clarks Northside Center (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 113.
28. Clark, Dark Ghetto, 14142. For a historical analysis of the development and significance of such adversarial relationships between urban schools and the families they served, see Kathryn M. Neckerman, Schools Betrayed: Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
29. Schreiber, What Can be Done, 4956; Markowitz and Rosner, Children, Race, and Power, 113.
30. Schreiber, What Can be Done, 5053.
31. Ruth Wright Hayre and Alexis Moore, Tell Them We Are Rising: A Memoir of Faith in Education (New York: J. Wiley and Sons, 1997), 5569; Doris Wiley, Cultural Doses Spur Pupils to Fuller Lives at 2 Schools, The Bulletin, October 29, 1961, Bulletin clippings file, David Horowitz, TUUA. For another example of a Higher Horizons-type program that achieved some national recognitionthe Banneker Project, started by African American educator Samuel Shepard Jr. in St. Louissee Education: Preparation in St. Louis, Time, June 8, 1959, http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,892587,00.html.
32. Rich Aregood, Hes Selling EducationAnd N. Philadelphia Is Buying, Philadelphia Daily News, February 6, 1968.
33. Mary Constantine, The Philadelphia Childhood Relations Seminar: Six Years of Action Research in Intergroup Education (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Fellowship Commission, c. 1958). Papers of the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission (PFC papers), b. 47, f. 5, TUUA. As Constantine summarized, intergroup educators during the 1950s had gone far afield of the official focus on studying and modifying prejudicethough all these efforts were to the good in the improvement of teaching, the understanding of children, and the solution of community problems.
34. Plans of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Public School, Ninth Session, May 17, 1960. Scrapbook of the Action-Research Seminar (hereafter cited as Dunbar Scrapbook), Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School.
36. Marcus A. Foster, September 26, 1960. Dunbar Scrapbook.
37. In a similar vein, the concept of cultural capital does not involve a value judgment about the relative merits of particular cultural forms or behaviors; it does not assert, for instance, that standard English is better than African American Vernacular English. It does suggest, however, that because schools and other social institutions do place a higher valuation on standard English and other privileged forms of knowledge and skill, the children who possess these forms of knowledge and skill will be at an advantage. Lareau and Weininger, Cultural Capital, 58398. On controversies over the relationship between African American Vernacular English and standard English in education, see Theresa Perry and Lisa Delpit, eds., The Real Ebonics Debate: A Special Issue of Rethinking Schools, Rethinking Schools 12, no. 1 (1997).
38. Foster, Making Schools Work, 79, 82.
39. Marcus Foster, Child of the Poor, Looking for Mitochondria, in Readings in Curriculum and Supervision, ed. V. Eugene Yarbrough, William C. Bruce, and Ronald L. Hubright (New York: MSS Information Corporation, 1974), 50. The article is a transcript of a speech delivered at the Center for Research and Development in Teaching, Stanford University, September 21, 1973.
40. Foster, Making Schools Work, 83; Alice P. Campbell, Hints For Helping the Pre-School Child, 1960, Papers of the Friends Neighborhood Guild (FNG), Urb. 32, b. 3, f. 31, TUUA.
41. Foster, Child of the Poor, Looking for Mitochondria, 50; Plans of the Paul Laurence Dunbar School; Team Meeting, February 26, 1960, Dunbar Scrapbook.
42. Marcus A. Foster, letter to parents, n.d., Dunbar Scrapbook.
43. Seymour Gang gained recognition for raising academic achievement while he was principal of Public School 192 in Harlem during the 1960s. His subsequent description of this accomplishment is a further reminder of how such heroes and heroines of urban education, as Blackburn describes them, pioneered a new era of higher expectations for underachieving urban students. Basically its simple, Gang said. I just told the teachers and the parents right off that their children were going to perform at grade level and that I was not going to listen to any excuses if they failed. . . .We insisted that every teacher should teach and every child should learn, and we held the teachers accountable. Farnsworth Fowle, Seymour Gang, 50, Educator, is Dead, New York Times, January 6, 1976.
44. Blackburn interview, March 5, 1998.
45. For this characterization of the War on Poverty, as well as a discussion of the influential role of the Ford Foundation, see Silver and Silver, An Educational War on Poverty, 3747.
46. As of 1960, 4,600 black families were moving to Philadelphia every year. Notes of Discussion at the Session on Human Planning in the Gray Areas, November 3, 1960, 4, PHA papers, b. 127, f. 773, TUUA.
47. Quoted by Louis Ballen in MinutesSummer Workshop, June 27, 1960, 1, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 4, Ford Foundation Archives (FFA). In a press release, the superintendents noted that problem area children, when compared with students from less poor and troubled parts of the cities, were six times more likely to fail in elementary school and two-and-a-half times more likely to fail in high school subjects; twice as likely to be absent and truant; and three times as likely to drop out before high school graduation. Their median achievement levels in reading and math were, respectively, four and three grades lower (though their potential seemed to exceed what test data showed). They were six times more likely to have enteredand failedfirst grade without the benefit of kindergarten. See The Great Cities School Improvement Program, press release, May 17, 1960, 2, Grant No. PA06000220, R. 0213, sec. 4, FFA.
48. The Fords shifted their stock to the Foundation to maintain family control over the company. See Gregory K. Raynor, Engineering Social Reform: The Rise of the Ford Foundation and Cold War Liberalism, 19081959 (PhD diss., New York University, 2000); and Dwight Macdonald, The Ford Foundation: The Men and the Millions (New York: Reynal and Company, 1956).
49. Paul Ylvisaker, Oral History Transcript, September 27, 1973, 24, FFA.
50. Harry S. Ashmore, The Negro and the Schools (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1954); J. Cayce Morrison, ed., The Puerto Rican Study, 195357: A Report on the Education and Adjustment of Puerto Rican Pupils in the Public Schools of the City of New York (New York: Board of Education of the City of New York, 1958).
51. Gregory K. Raynor, The Ford Foundations War on Poverty: Private Philanthropy and Race Relations in New York City, 19481968, in Philanthropic Foundations: New Scholarship, New Possibilities, ed. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), 196206. On the Ford embargo on race-related projects, see Ylvisaker, Oral History Transcript, 23.
52. Paul Ylvisaker, interview with Walter Phillips, November 14, 1977, 23, the Walter Phillips Oral History Project, b. 9, TUUA; Alice OConnor, Community Action, Urban Reform, and the Fight Against Poverty: The Ford Foundations Gray Areas Program, Journal of Urban History 22 (1996): 60210; Paul Ylvisaker, New Ideas for Cities as Learned from Foundation Grants (address before the American Municipal Conference, Houston, TX, August 1963), Speech file, FFA.
53. Ylvisaker, Oral History Transcript, 2527; The Schools and Urban Gray Areas (Ford Foundation internal memo from Education and Public Affairs programs, recommending action on the Great Cities grants, c. 1960), PHA papers, b. 127. f. 773, TUUA.
54. Great Cities Project, Philadelphia Meeting, May 6, 1960, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 4, FFA.
56. School District of Philadelphia, A Philadelphia Project Proposal: The School-Community Coordinating Team, February 2, 1960, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 1, FFA.
57. Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); School District of Philadelphia, A Philadelphia Project Proposal.
58. Great Cities Project, Philadelphia Meeting. The reasons for this suggestion are not clear. Foundation officials may have thought that teachers and principals would not relate to such lofty goals, or that parents and others might perceive identifying incipient delinquency as a negative-sounding description of a new program of school improvement.
59. The district received $94,700 and promised to provide $60,000 in matching funds. Philadelphia Public Schools, Public Schools to Conduct Extensive Educational Project Under Ford Foundation Grant, press release, June 24, 1960, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 4, FFA.
60. School District, A Philadelphia Project Proposal.
61. MinutesSummer Workshop, July 6, 1960. The Negro in America panel was to include Foster, though for unknown reasons he did not end up presenting.
62. Oscar Lewis, The Children of Sanchez (New York: Random House, 1961); Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States (New York: Macmillan Company, 1962).
63. Before it had an official name, the big-city superintendents referred to the emerging Great Cities program as their culturally deprived project. See, for example, Great Cities Program for School Improvement, minutes of meeting at the Hilton Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, May 1314, 1960, Grant No. PA06000220, R. 0213, sec. 3, FFA.
64. Daryl Michael Scott, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 18801996 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).
65. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, The Politics of Knowledge: The Carnegie Corporation, Philanthropy, and Public Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 21112.
66. MinutesSummer Workshop, June 29 and July 7, 1960.
67. MinutesSummer Workshop, July 7, 1960.
68. School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, September, 1961, 34, 1618, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 3, FFA; letter to Ed Meade and Clarence Faust from Henry Saltzman, December 11, 1963, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 3, FFA.
69. Aleda Druding, Stirrings in the Big Cities: Philadelphia, NEA Journal (February 1962): 5051.
70. School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, 11; Foster, Making Schools Work, 77; Foster, Motivating Children to Read, 80; Payne, So Much Reform, So Little Change.
71. Foster, Making Schools Work, 79; MinutesSummer Workshop, June 29; School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, 3758; Foster, Motivating Children to Read, 8283.
72. Kravitz interview, April 2, 1999.
73. School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, 78, 3745.
74. Ibid., 42; Foster, Making Schools Work, 83.
75. In the district evaluations, 12 out of 21 comparisons of student performances before and after the program (seven math and language arts tests at each of the three schools) showed better than expected scores for students in schools of this type. Three test results were equal to expectations and six were below, though five of the subpar results occurred in the one school with faulty implementation. School District of Philadelphia, Progress Report, September 1960June 1962: The School Community Coordinating Team, February, 1963, 1421, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 3, FFA.
76. Druding, Stirrings in the Big Cities, 50.
77. School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, 35, 25, 48.
78. Ibid., 3436.
79. Letter to Henry Saltzman from Wesley L. Scott, March 29, 1961, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 4, FFA.
80. Ida Kravitz, telephone conversation with the author, February 6, 1999.
81. Kathleen Cotton, Principals and Student Achievement: What the Research Says (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003), 913, 2129; Karen S. Crum and Whitney H. Sherman, Facilitating High Achievement: High School Principals Reflections on Their Successful Leadership Practices, Journal of Educational Administration 46, no. 5 (2008): 56280.
82. Lagemann, The Politics of Knowledge, 14751.
83. School District of Philadelphia, Report of the Special Committee on Nondiscrimination (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Board of Education, 1964), 43; Lawrence M. ORourke, Negro Ministers Start Direct Action on Schools, Philadelphia Bulletin, September 9, 1963.
84. Letter to Paul Ylvisaker from David Horowitz, January 11, 1966, Grant No. PA06000251, R. 0214, sec. 3, FFA.
85. See Bloom, Davis, and Hess, Compensatory Education for Cultural Deprivation, for a write-up of the conference proceedings by three of its leading participants. Among the 36 named participants and observers, threeHenry Saltzman, Martin Deutsch, and Ida Kravitz (one of only a few K12 educators in attendance)had played a role in Philadelphias Great Cities program.
86. Joel Spring, Revisiting the Sorting Machine: National Educational Policy Since 1945 (New York: Longman, 1989), 218.
87. On the origins of the Community Action Program in the antidelinquency efforts of the Presidents Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and the Ford Foundation, see Peter Marris and Martin Rein, Dilemmas of Social Reform: Poverty and Community Action in the United States (New York: Atherton Press, 1967). For minutes of two of Philadelphias three sessions on Human Planning in the Gray Areas, see PHA papers, b. 127, f. 773; and b. 128, f. 782, TUUA.
88. Notes on third session on Human Planning, 1. Marriss and Reins classic account of the Gray Areas program described the PCCA as wanting to make the schools and other urban institutions more effective at raising (the poor citizens) dejected posture of resigned incompetence, Dilemmas of Social Reform, 96. On the similar educational emphasis of the New Haven Gray Areas project, see Daniel C. Humphrey, Teach Them Not to Be Poor: Philanthropy and New Haven School Reform in the 1960s (EdD diss., Teachers College, Columbia University, 1992). Nicholas Lemann notes that even Mobilization for Youth, Richard Clowards politically confrontational project in the Lower East Side of New York City, had much in common with education-based programs such as that in New Haven; see The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How it Changed America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 12223.
89. Progress Report of the Experimental Nursery School Program, 196465 (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement, 1965), ERIC Document No. ED021880; Marris and Rein, Dilemmas of Social Reform, 111.
90. The prospect of Chisolm going to trial helped pressure the district into forming a special committee to study many of the integration strategies other cities were considering, including Princeton Plans, busing, and educational parks. School District of Philadelphia, Report of the Special Committee on Nondiscrimination.
91. Murray Friedman, The White Liberals Retreat, Atlantic 211 (January 1963): 4246. For a similar discussion of tracking and liberal resistance to integration, see Bruno Bettelheim, Sputnik and Segregation, Commentary (October 1958): 33239.
92. Frank Riessman, The Culturally Deprived Child (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 108, 111.
93. Ellison had taken issue with this tendency as early as 1944, in an unpublished review of Gunnar Myrdals seminal statement of postwar liberalism, An American Dilemma. See An American Dilemma: A Review, in Shadow and Act (New York: Random House, 1964), 30317.
94. Ralph Ellison, What Are These Children Like, in Going to the Territory (New York: Random House, 1986), 6475.
95. Marris and Rein, Dilemmas of Social Reform, 105.
96. School-Community Coordinating Team, The Dunbar High Roads Project, 1, 10.
97. Robert Blackburn, interviewed by the author at his home in Oakland, California, March 11, 1998. Tape recording in possession of the author; Frederick Willman, Developing a Sense of Community: A Report on the Master Plan of the Oakland Unified School District (New York: Rockefeller Foundation, 1975), 2021.
98. On the distinction between blacks vindicating their community to whites on the one hand, and engaging in self-help as a source of race pride on the other, see Ronald E. Butchart, Outthinking and Outflanking the Owners of the World: A Historiography of the African-American Struggle for Education, History of Education Quarterly 28, no. 3 (1988): 337.
99. The Great Cities Program May 17, 1960; MinutesSummer Workshop.
100. Ford Projections: The Ford Foundation Project Schools Newsletter, December 1960. ERIC Document No. ED001011; Druding, Stirrings in the Big Cities, 48.
101. The phrase blaming the victim was coined by the Boston psychologist William Ryan in response to the U.S. Department of Labor report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (1965)better known as the Moynihan Report, after its author, then assistant secretary of labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Ryans book, Blaming the Victim, published in 1971, contained a chapter devoted to the folklore of cultural deprivation.
102. Sylvia L. M. Martinez and John L. Rury, From Culturally Deprived to At Risk: The Politics of Popular Expression and Educational Inequality in the United States, 19601985, in Rethinking Compensatory Education: Historical Perspectives on Race, Class, Culture, Language, and the Discourse of the Disadvantaged Child, ed. Barbara Beatty, special issue, Teachers College Record 114, no. 6.
103. Tough, Whatever it Takes.
104. Charles Silberman, The City and the Negro, Fortune, March 1962, 151. For a 1960s-era review of compensatory education programs that emphasizes their high cost, see Edmund W. Gordon and Adelaide Jablonsky, Compensatory Education in the Equalization of Educational Opportunity, I, Journal of Negro Education 37, no. 3 (1968): 26879.
105. Marcus Foster, commencement address, Swarthmore High School, Pennsylvania, June 9, 1969. Tape recording in possession of the author. See also Lowe and Kantor, Creating Educational Opportunity, 192; as the authors emphasize, program success has been strongly influenced by the amount and duration of funding, and well-funded, sustained commitments have been atypical.
106. George Schermer, Desegregation: A Community Design (Revision of an article that previously appeared in ADA News, July, 1960), Commission on Human Relations, 1961, ERIC Document No. ED001939.
107. Notes on Third Session of Group Considering Human Planning in Gray Areas, March 28, 1961, 3, PHA papers, b. 128, f. 782, TUUA.
108. Commission on Human Relations, A Statement of Concern for Public Education in Philadelphia, with Particular Reference to the Special Needs of Children in Underprivileged, Segregated Areas, May 17, 1960, 1, 17, ERIC Document No. ED020950.
109. Great Cities School Improvement Program, May 17, 1960. On Williss own ouster as a result of controversies over racial inequality and segregation in the Chicago Public Schools, see Rury, Race, Space, and the Politics of Chicagos Public Schools.
110. William J. Reese, Americas Public Schools: From the Common School to No Child Left Behind (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), 233; Diane Ravitch The Troubled Crusade: American Education, 19451980 (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 150.
111. Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).
112. For early critiques in this vein, see Christopher Jencks, Johnson vs. Poverty, New Republic, March 24, 1964, 18; and Jencks et al., Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (New York: Basic Books, 1972). Among subsequent scholarly critiques, see Harvey Kantor and Barbara Brenzel, Urban Education and the Truly Disadvantaged: The Historical Roots of the Contemporary Crisis, 19451990, in The Underclass Debate: Views from History, ed. Michael B. Katz (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 366402; Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe, From New Deal to No Deal: NCLB and the Devolution of Responsibility for Equal Educational Opportunity, Harvard Educational Review 76, no. 4 (2006): 474502; Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2004); Amy Stuart Wells, Our Childrens Burden: A History of Federal Education Policies That Ask (Now Require) Our Public Schools to Solve Societal Inequality, in NCLB at the Crossroads: Reexamining the Federal Effort to Close the Achievement Gap, ed. Michael A. Rebell and Jessica R. Wolff (New York: Teachers College Press, 2009), 142; and Jean Anyon, Ghetto Schooling: A Political Economy of Urban Educational Reform (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997), and Radical Possibilities: Public Policy, Urban Education, and a New Social Movement (New York: Routledge, 2005). On cycles of overpromising and disillusionment in the history of American school reform, see especially David Tyack and Larry Cuban, Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 3; and Michael B. Katz, Education and Inequality: A Historical Perspective, in Social History and Social Policy, ed. David J. Rothman and Stanton Wheeler (New York: Academic Press, 1981); 62; 92100.
113. Michael B. Katz, Mark J. Stern, and Jamie J. Fader, The New African American Inequality, Journal of American History 92, no. 1 (2005), 75108, http://www.historycooperative.org. The authors cite deindustrialization, civil rights progress, and an expansion of white-collar public sector jobs as key factors in the expanded importance of education. See also Ferguson, Toward Excellence with Equity; and William Julius Wilson, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (New York: W.W. Norton, 2009), 614, 6272.
114. Alan R. Sadovnik et al., No Child Left Behind and the Reduction of the Achievement Gap: Sociological Perspectives on Federal Educational Policy (New York: Routledge, 2007); Kantor and Lowe, From New Deal to No Deal.