I'm with you about improving learning for urban kids in Connecticut - the state has long maintained one system for the seven urban districts and one for the rest. I'm not sure what you mean, though, by promoting direct instruction or discarding fanciful theories.
If what you want is to avoid doctrinaire statements with no grounding in evidence your to-do list could use some revision. There's quite a bit of good evidence on how to improve education for underrepresented populations. You can find out about it by looking at work on the 90/90/90 schools (90% poverty, 90% minority, 90% students meeting standards). There are some important findings there that have implications for supporting kids in high poverty schools.
Sometime reading education discussions is so much like listening to a sports call in show.