About CSS

The mission of Citizens for Successful Schools is to develop ideas and engage people to move education forward. We take Trenton Central High School as a local example needing change. The same issues affect other schools as well, and we believe answers here will generalize broadly. The founders of CSS have just published an valuable new book, which puts the issues discussed here in a readable, usable form.

URBAN SCHOOLS:  Crisis and Revolution
By James Deneen and Carm Catenese
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., NYC, 2011, www.rowmaneducation.com or

This new book introduces the problems, the players, the possibilities in urban schools. If you are a concerned parent, educator, or taxpayer, read this book. It will help you see how you can do something to help save the lives of thousands of kids, and in the process help save our urban communities and our cherished principles of democracy and equality.

A Local Example

The dropout
rate at TCHS is a simple but powerful measure of the problems students, teachers, and administration face.
The figure shows a comparison between high schools just 14 miles apart. In Montgomery nearly all students stay in school and graduate. But in Trenton, over the four years more than half of students give up on their education, and thereby on their potential future as successful citizens.

It may be tempting
to believe that what happens in Trenton compared with nearby Montgomery school system is the result of a lack of money, but this is not the case. The spending per-student in Trenton is $16,000, while in Montgomery it is $12,000. We need to understand better what the issues are that underlie the extreme dropout rate at TCHS. This indicates a failing educational system, and it has profound implications for both the students and the citizens of New Jersey. It is time for a serious discussion of the problems and implications, and we will do this
in a series of articles intended for newspapers such as the Trenton Times.

We will also look at answers that come from schools in New Jersey and elsewhere. It is clear that the problems are not inevitable or insoluble, and many individuals and groups are thinking about paths to a better future. There are ways to ensure that all students can succeed, even in disadvantaged environments. The ideas and actions that have worked in other big cities with similar demographics provide potential solutions for Trenton.

A recent movie documents the human costs and the hard work that is needed to correct a troubling situation. The Cartel is a tour through the politics and pressures of the educational system. It focuses on New Jersey schools especially in the big cities, Newark, Camden, Trenton, and looks at both tragic failures and rare but encouraging bright lights of success.