Little has changed in the Glenville neighborhood in this city's east side since the 1968 race riots that killed three policemen, scorched rows of two-family houses and sent the middle class packing.
Truant teen-age boys linger around the Sellers Street convenience store, thieves regularly steal Fords and Chevrolets from East 112th Street, and last year one youth, driving a stolen car, ripped through the faculty lounge at Forest Hill Parkway Elementary School.
But inside that one-story brick school, a revolution is under way that is spreading to schools across the country, including those in the Washington area, local and national educators say.
After years of contributing to the discouraging national news that inner-city students fall far below the national average on standardized tests scores, Forest Hill Parkway now has 86 percent of its pupils testing at or above the national average -- news that is particularly exciting, officials say, in a school where the average annual income of the pupils' families is $13,000 and 70 percent of the pupils are black.
With documented successes in inner-city schools such as Forest Hill Parkway, some educators and parents who have called unequal educational opportunities for blacks a "national disgrace" say they are convinced that socioeconomic factors can no longer be used to justify the disparity in test scores between rich and poor, black and white students.
In the Washington area, where one school district after another has released scores on various standardized tests showing blacks trailing whites by 20 to 48 percentage points during the last several years, the concept of so-called "effective schools" is being implemented or discussed by every school system.
The effective schools techniques include hiring a strong principal who can set a strict but caring tone in a school and special sessions to train teachers to expect the same high standards from all students. They mandate a specific, basic curriculum and parental involvement.
In Prince George's County, two private consultants are adapting the effective schools methods to the county's school system, and principals are being trained in the methods and approaches.
"We are absolutely convinced that the program will work, and we've committed the long-term success of our school system to the fundamental aspects of the program," said school spokesman Brian Porter.
While many educators have called the effective schools methods being used in such places as Cleveland and Philadelphia the most promising solutions to closing the gap between black and white test scores, one of the toughest stumbling blocks of the system is its simplicity, educators say.
"The concepts themselves are not revolutionary," said Chester E. Finn Jr., assistant secretary for educational research and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. "But putting them in practice where they have not been is undoubtedly revolutionary."
In Forest Hill Parkway the changes are seen in a detailed new chart hanging in the faculty lounge. It shows the performance of each class in categories as specific as mastering division and subtraction and using prefixes. If a class consistently has a problem, the teacher is put on the spot and colleagues are asked to share their more successful instructional methods with that teacher.
After years of shying away from comparing students, Forest Hill Parkway teachers make a point of applauding good performance. Some teachers put pupils' pictures on the bulletin board; some pass out cookies. And all fifth grade teachers, for instance, drum the same basic lessons -- the mastery of fractions and percentages, prepositions and declarative sentences -- into their pupils' minds.
"It's brought new ideas and new life to the school," said Forest Hill Parkway's principal, Ruth B. Fore.
"You can see it in the test scores, in the attitudes of students," said Fore. After years of experimenting in undisciplined, unstructured, individualistic schools, she said, "we're really just going back to the basics."
Daniel N. Mussulin, a 21-year veteran mathematics teacher at Lincoln West High School in Cleveland, which is one of the estimated 1,750 effective schools in the nation, said that it is as tough to break teachers' ineffective teaching habits and attitudes as it is to break students' undisciplined habits.
"But that doesn't mean we can't try," he said. "A few years ago I started writing down my expectations and objectives and posting them . . . and I tell them [the students] that despite all the publicity about being inadequate, you have nobody to blame but yourself. It's a crutch you can fall back on or throw away."
To track the success of effective schools and pin down the somewhat elusive process of change, a team of prominent educators is studying schools in Cleveland, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Trenton, N.J., in an effort to produce a report by 1987.
Relatively unknown five years ago, although practiced in the best public and private schools for years, effective schools have suddenly given a hot new agenda to hundreds of schools and higher hopes to thousands of students.
Why, some ask, were these seemingly common-sense objectives and attitudes not implemented years ago?
The answer seems to lie in the elusive factors of successful teaching and what many thought were progressive, new approaches to education that began in the 1960s but were found to do little for students who came from relatively unstructured and undisciplined backgrounds, teachers say.
Some black leaders say that pre- judicial treatment of blacks has not abated and that black students must continue to struggle for an equal education.
"Some school systems have been organized to sort winners and losers," said Barbara A. Sizemore, associate professor of Black Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and superintendent of District of Columbia schools from 1973 to 1975. She added that many blacks are dumped in the losers' category.
Sizemore said part of the reason that each troubled school in the country does not immediately implement effective school principles is that "many still believe that blacks are genetically inferior."
Beverly Cole, the NAACP's national education director, agrees with Sizemore that there is still a lack of commitment to the nation's poor and black students.
"The literature is there; the research is there. We know that students of low-income and single-parent homes can overcome all these negatives . . . but there is a tendency to place blame and make excuses."
Cole said some schools are not striving to ensure that teachers expect the same high performance from a student wearing cornrows and tattered clothes as a blond student in a Laura Ashley outfit; instead, she said, they are just raising standards.
"Unless you give children the support system, you are just putting up more hurdles to stop them," she said.
The isolation of effective school techniques, researchers say, occurred in the 1970s, when many administrators and teachers began rejecting the widely held belief that students, and particulary black students born into poverty, could not perform as well as middle-class white students.
"As long as we were saying that schools didn't make a difference," said Finn, "the difference between [high-and low-achieving] schools didn't matter."
But with the 1979 publication of a British study called "Fifteen Thousand Hours," referring to the average number of hours a child spends in 12 years of schooling, the specific differences between schools became a documented matter of vital importance.
The British researchers isolated recurring features in inner-city schools where low-income students performed as well as public school students in other areas.
These same features -- an incentive-and-reward system, high student expectations, active parental involvement, constructive and consistent teacher attitudes and actions, to name a few -- have since been detailed by numerous American researchers.
Citing studies that show declining black college enrollment, Cole of the NAACP said it is more important than ever to take a hard look at the process that makes inner-city schools successful ones.
Alexandria School Superintendent Robert W. Peebles, speaking of effective schools, said, "It's exciting because it says, regardless of the kid's background, schools can make a difference."
Alexandria schools are forming their own strategy to execute effective schools criteria. In the District, the effective schools literature has been discussed, but no formal plan has been established. Montgomery and Fairfax counties also have praised the methods, incorporating parts of the program.
"All I know is that Mykia loves school now and is getting As and Bs instead of Cs and Ds," said Patricia A. Dobbin, whose daughter attends fifth grade at Forest Hill Parkway. "She's learning instead of memorizing; she's not cutting class; she has less time to be disobedient."