Abstract for: Different Kids—How Typical Schools Are Built to Fail and Need to Change: A Structural Analysis

This article uses computer simulation analysis to illustrate the thesis that the typical American public school is structured in a way that reinforces the entry characteristics of its students so that by the time they graduate after twelve years—if they graduate—students who enter the school in kindergarten or first grade with high “readiness” perform academically better-than-average while students who enter the school with low “readiness” perform worse than average, this creating the well-known and widely discussed “achievement gap.” The conclusion of this argumentation is that this structure must be changed if school reform is to be effective and that it is strong school leadership that over time builds teacher quality and community and parent interest in the school and changes teacher expectations for all students, especially for initially and traditionally low-achieving students. The computer simulation modeling data support the position that, in this way, strong school leadership enhances the quality and intensity of instruction, the closeness of student-teacher relationships, and the rigor of instructional content for all students, thus drawing further advances in student motivation, work effort, and academic performance, and, finally, improving the attractiveness of the school for high quality teachers and continuing the upward cycle.