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The root problem behind the poor academic achievement in most struggling inner city schools is concentrated poverty. Being poor, while not a guarantee of low achievement in itself, is attached to all kinds of other problems that can hurt a child’s academic chances: poor health, domestic violence etc.

The new education reformers, including people like Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. chancellor, argue that good teachers can overcome all of these problems. But for years, schools with high numbers of poor children have had a hard time attracting the best teachers, who usually can have their pick of places to teach. Often, they’d rather teach in middle class schools, where the money is better, the support is stronger, and the children are easier to educate.

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