What is a good school for young adolescents? What do we expect of such schools? What is special about young adolescents that makes good schooling at this level so difficult to achieve? At the root of the difficulty in schooling for young adolescents are massive individual differences in their development. The challenge is to design a program for such variability that also meets parental expectations about academic learning and socialization. Compounding the difficulties are public policy questions that help shape the context in which schools function. The most powerful of these public debates at present is over the tradeoffs necessary to achieve both quality and equality in public education, a debate that generates questions we must answer before we lose our remarkable and essential commitment to public schooling for every child in America. Schools respond to these policy questions daily, whether or not their principals and teachers consciously react to them. They also respond, successfully or otherwise, to the unprecedented variability in growth that is characteristic of early adolescent development.