Poor Children's Education Doesn't Have to Be Poor

National "No Excuses" Campaign Highlights Detroit School

Is lack of money a good excuse for a school's failure to provide its students with a quality education?

The answer is no, according to The Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D. C.-based research and educational institute that in 1999 launched its national "No Excuses" campaign to highlight low-income schools that are providing quality education with fewer resources.

The nonpartisan campaign of self-described liberals, centrists, and conservatives insists that "there is no excuse for the academic failure of most public schools serving poor children."

A Heritage Foundation study by Samuel Casey Carter entitled, "No Excuses: Seven Principals of Low-Income Schools Who Set the Standard for High Achievement" focuses on several school leaders who are succeeding in their efforts to improve education for low-income students.

One principal that Carter profiles is Ernestine Sanders, the president and CEO of Cornerstone Schools in Detroit. Cornerstone is a conglomerate of three elementary schools and one middle school that offers over 650 students in grades K-8 a unique 11-month academic program.

"Cornerstone has blossomed into a privately owned mini-school district . . . providing outstanding education to some of Detroit's poorest children," Carter writes.

Despite rather modest facilities, Cornerstone students have performed relatively well academically: Last year's third graders, for instance, scored in the 69th percentile in math on the Stanford-9 Achievement Test, while the kindergartners and first graders scored in the 81st and 74th percentiles in reading, respectively.

"No Excuses has highlighted that we're making progress while helping our faculty realize where improvements are necessary," Principal Sanders told Michigan Education Report.

Cornerstone's curriculum "emphasizes both the moral and academic development of the child" and "works in concert with a child's family and community to make good American citizens," Carter writes.

For her efforts at Cornerstone, Sanders earned the 1999 Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship, which is given annually by The Heritage Foundation to recognize and reward citizens who are helping their communities solve problems government has been unable to solve.

Observing these seven schools, Carter outlines the "seven common elements of high-performing, high-poverty schools," which include greater autonomy for principals, rigorous testing, the establishment of measurable goals, and increased parental involvement.

Currently, Carter is preparing a more expansive report, "No Excuses: Lessons from 25 High-performing, High-poverty Schools." This report will discuss two additional Detroit schools, Owen Elementary and Newberry Elementary.

For more information about the No Excuses campaign, visit its Web site at www.noexcuses.org.