How to Improve the Public Schools

Lessons from the Golf Course

If there’s a single mystery whose solution could dramatically improve the fortunes of most cities, it’s the mystery of public school improvement. What boosts student performance, particularly at inner-city schools with high percentages of poor and minority students? Is it more money, better management, some form of privatization? Would family counseling help? How about better housing and more after-school programs? The answer, one close observer says, is all of these things.

The observer is Charles Knapp, former president of the University of Georgia and the Aspen Institute who chairs a neighborhood improvement effort in Atlanta called the East Lake Foundation. The foundation itself is a fascinating story. It’s the brainchild of local developer Thomas Cousins, who wanted to rescue a historic golf course in a dreadful and dangerous inner-city neighborhood. Walling off East Lake Golf Club (home course of golf legend Bobby Jones) from the mean streets around it wouldn’t work, so Cousins set about doing the opposite, using money generated by the course to revive the surrounding area.

Read more: Governing.

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