A study was conducted of four urban middle schools in Boston serving 1,600 students, mostly from low-income minority families, to assess urban public school effectiveness. School level practices were the primary focus of the study, but self-reports of classroom teaching behaviors were also studied in relation to student achievement through interviews with 20 to 30 teachers in each school. The study resulted in the creation and validation of indicators that schools can use to assess their climates, set policies for reform, and choose strategies based on research. More than 90% of the students placed a high value on the importance of family and education, recognizing that they were in school to learn and get a good job in the future. Teachers in these schools were well educated and experienced, but their individual caring was not always mirrored on an institutional level. The most effective school combined emphasis on academic learning with an ethic of caring. Clarity of purpose and positive relationships among teachers were mirrored in higher levels of student achievement, higher rates of prosocial behaviors among students, and lower incidences of antisocial behaviors. Teachers who reported more frequent use of direct teaching and student-led small groups with teacher supervision had students with significantly higher levels of achievement in reading, mathematics, and problem solving. Teachers who reported more frequent use of workbooks and other individual assignments had students with significantly lower levels of achievement. Indicators of input, processes, and products were developed and are summarized. An important contribution of the study was the development of a measure of higher order thinking and problem solving for students in grades 4 through 8, the Test of Problem Solving (tops). In all, 56 tables and 8 figures present the study data. A 208-item list of references is included. Four appendices contain instruments used, including the tops. (Sld).