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Publication Date



Equal educational opportunity, Education reform, Public schools, Urban school districts, School desegregation, School finance, No Child Left Behind Act, NCLB, Milliken v. Bradley, Pierce v. Society of Sisters


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Education Law | Litigation


This Article assesses the likely efficacy of litigation efforts seeking to enhance equal educational opportunity by improving student academic achievement in the nation's urban public schools. Past education reform litigation efforts focusing on school desegregation and finance met with mixed success. Current litigation efforts seeking to improve student academic achievement promise to be even less successful because student academic achievement involves variables and activities located further from the reach of litigation than such variables as a school's racial composition and per pupil spending levels. Moreover, efforts to improve student achievement in the nation's urban public schools--especially high poverty schools--face additional degrees of difficulty owing to the unique challenges that distinguish many urban public schools. That urban public school reform litigation efforts will confront significant difficulty in achieving their goals suggests only that litigation, as an instrument of social change, is not without its structural and institutional limits.

Publication Citation

Published in: North Carolina Law Review, vol. 85, no. 5 (June 2007).