Here's some food for thought for you. According to a new study, kids who grew up in poverty have less developed brains than those who grew up in a more affluent setting. The difference is so pronounced that children's brains in this environment resemble those of adults who have suffered brain damage.
I like studies like this because they take what everyone kind of intuitively knows (kids who grow up in poverty are at a major disadvantage to kids who don't) and puts it in really stark terms (poverty = brain damage).
Strikes me as a pretty good argument for focusing our education reform efforts on more than the schools. That's definitely important, but we also need to look at the conditions that put those kids at a disadvantage in the first place. Schools can be part of the solution, but they are not the only cause.
(Thanks to Gotham Schools for highlighting this study.)