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About Failing Schools

*Read more about our name, and what “failure” means to us*

**Read a more recent break-down of what we do here.**


Greetings, concerned citizen! Welcome to the Failing Schools blog, home of the Failing Schools Project. The goal of this project is simple, and complicated: To illuminate the reality inside chronically failing schools.

These types of schools, where children fail and are failed year after year, are among the most frequently discussed yet least understood places in America. Much of the discussion is dominated by political “opinionators”, public officials, district higher-ups, and the leaders of teachers’ unions. The former three groups generally have very little clue about what life is actually like inside real schools, and even less knowledge of how teaching and learning works. The unions are far more familiar with schools and teaching, but given their purpose, they tend to frame issues in schools as management vs. labor-style contract disputes. They’re also frequently marginalized as a “special interest group” who “block progress.”

As a result, most casual observers think that the problem rests with one group of people: Teachers. Fix the teachers, and you’ll fix the problem. But could it really be that simple?

Apparently not– we’ve been trying to “fix the teachers” since the Reagan administration, and we’ve been trying to help underperforming students since LBJ. Yet, many schools still fail. The truth is, there is a LOT more going on in and around these schools than outsiders realize. The situation is incredibly complex, and varies considerably from place to place. What they have in common, however, is that they are all places in which it is incredibly difficult to do what’s necessary to help children succeed. And widespread misunderstanding among the public does not help. Indeed, attempting to solve a problem from a place of confusion often makes the problem worse.

It’s time to hear from the real experts. This will be a place where people who know these kinds of schools best– teachers, paraprofessionals, students and parents– can share their stories, and their thoughts on what it will take to help these schools overcome.

Want to contribute? Email

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Adrienne N. Bryant, PhD permalink
    July 1, 2010 9:48 am

    I invite you to check out my research on this subject. I wanted to know what could and would make a difference in the education of all American children. My study explored the current state of American education and an indept look at teachers, teaching and education in America. The focus of the study was African American middle school students. Essentially, how did we get here; disparities, ambiguities and NCLB? My dissertation in entitled, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TEACHER QUALIFICATION AND ACHIEVEMENT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS. Finally, I provided recommendations based on research. There is no bases for continuing to fail out children. Districts that have schools not meeting expectations and failing students can benefit from the knowledge of our educational past which dictates how we build for the future.

    • July 1, 2010 9:50 am

      I’ll be sure to check it out, thanks!

    • J. H. Libby permalink
      October 1, 2010 6:58 pm

      This might seem old-school, but I have to say it: The fact that a Ph.D. in education introduces at least three typos and shaky grammar into a single paragraph probably does not reinforce her authority on how to educate a generation of American achievers.

      • Rich permalink
        October 18, 2010 3:03 pm

        Hear, hear!

      • Corigan permalink
        July 14, 2012 10:24 pm

        Yeah, those errors were pretty blatant. But, alas, dissertations are not what they used to be.

    • Thomas Ultican permalink
      March 22, 2012 4:49 pm

      Districts that have schools not meeting expectations and failing students can benefit from the knowledge of our educational past which dictates how we build for the future.


      Whose expectations and are they realistic?

    • p.h.d. permalink
      November 6, 2013 8:34 am


  2. ReadersHeaven permalink
    September 27, 2010 8:13 am

    Hi, nice to meet you !

  3. October 8, 2010 5:52 pm

    Hey Sabrina,

    I would love to invite you to head over to the Cooperative Catalyst ( and comment on some of our recent posts and check out our Join the CO-OP page. Would love to have you join us as a guest blogger or author or at least do a few cross-post of your blog.

    let me know what you think…

    David Loitz

  4. Liz permalink
    December 12, 2010 9:31 am

    I’m doing a bit of research about teachers’ online blogs, and was wondering if you three would be willing to give me a little bit of information about when you started this blog and what your readership is like (numbers, places, people, etc.) since you don’t provide that information on your blog (also curious about why you choose not to include this on your blog!)

    I love your posts and the diversity of your topics here; keep up the great work spreading the word about the real worlds inside our schools, which so rarely finds a voice in our public spheres!

  5. December 26, 2010 7:00 pm

    I enjoyed reading your blog as we share similar perspectives in the current state of education in the U.S. My blog compares our current decline in public education to the 1970s:

    I think you might be interested in it. Good luck going forward.

  6. May 6, 2011 6:40 am

    We would like to be a part of the conversation about Failing Schools and think our recent book, “The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why They Don’t Tell You What You Think They Do”, can answer the many questions about whether students, teachers, and schools are really failing.
    What does your audience think the basic assumptions of standardize tests are?

  7. Thomas Ultican permalink
    March 22, 2012 4:45 pm

    I have worked in three “failing schools.” They all had the same characteristics. They were in poverty zones. They were excellent institutions with professional staffs. They were deemed failures by NCLB. That was a lie. Often our schools are the only functional institution in high poverty areas. It is not the schools that are failing. It is the communities. We have great schools doing excellent work that are being maligned by the uninformed or people with bad motivation. Let’s stop allowing people to say our schools are failing just because they cannot eradicate poverty and the associated societal ills.

    • Dr. Dan A. Sims permalink
      July 10, 2015 12:06 pm

      Amen, sir. My school was recently labeled as “failing”, and I refuse to accept such a distinction. Thankfully, present/former students and parents have responded positively to tell the entire story. Looking forward to sharing my story and insights on this blog.

      I am blown away at how some of us accept these imposed labels so easily….

  8. PhD permalink
    November 6, 2013 8:38 am


  9. Terry permalink
    September 3, 2014 4:20 pm

    Someone needs to take a good look at how these failing students are raised between birth and kindergarten. Many times children are sent to school not having been read to, not knowing their colors or recognizing their letters not to mention the complete lack of social skills. All the research points to poor parenting as the reason children start their education so far behind that they spend the next twelve years trying to catch up. It’s so unfair that teachers are being blamed for this phenomenon! Everyone knows that a child whose parent/parents neglected to read to them from birth to kindergarten will struggle throughout elementary school just to read……not comprehend……just to read ! Education needs to be valued at HOME before we’ll see a real change.


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