EDUCATION: When Public Schools Go Private

For more than five years, the Rev. Norman Handy has been watching the Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore, Maryland. The fortress-like building, set amid the open-air drug markets and boarded-up houses of one of the city's worst neighborhoods, is right across the street from his Unity Methodist Church. The view has not been pretty.

Up until two years ago, says Handy, the brick structure was not only decrepit but crawling with rats and mice and "roaches so big you could feel the critters move under your foot." Academically, the school, which serves 2,051 students -- prekindergarten through the eighth grade...

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