Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Myth of the Middle Class School

Call me an idealist, but I don't see a lot of evil teachers. I don't see a lot of racist teachers. I don't see a lot of incompetent teachers. When students at certain schools don't perform as well as we might think they should, given the school demographics, I have a hard time accepting that it's because the teachers don't care about students. There are so many other simpler explanations.

There might be teachers (or administrators) who are quite sincere but using bad pedagogy (fuzzy math or whole language come to mind). Poor curriculum imposed on the schools could play a part. Low expectations can be a problem.

But what if there is more to the problem?

Our national conversation about education reform often focuses on the need to improve schools in urban communities. But the Pacific Research Institute’s new documentary film – Not As Good As You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School – exposes an overlooked reality in American education: middle class schools are not as good as parents think. This documentary highlights serious problems as well as promising solutions for improving educational opportunities for all children.


Mrs. C said...

Thank you, Darren. I have often wondered if the idea that things are VERY bad in the inner-city doesn't make parents in middle class suburbs put up and shut up. Vote on the next bond, or we'll wind up like "them."

I'm sure I'm on their enemies list LOL. Tough noogies!

mazenko said...

The reason I am in Colorado now - at a great district and school - is a desire to leave a middle-class, suburban district that was above average in everything, yet provided a very mediocre education and was poorly run. Some of the community complained privately, yet most were clueless, or simply opposed to challenging the school publicly. I remember students in my classes telling me how the assistant principals regularly told them - and the community - they were one of the top schools in the country. They never made the top thousand on a education ranking, but the community was far too ignorant to know that, and they gladly accepted the false praise from the administration.

The point is schools really are under local control, and problems in these schools are indicative of a communities culture. Where is the press? The PTCO? The school board? Local control is supposed to mean something.

mazenko said...

Wow, we've reached a strange place when the Heritage Foundation praises the way Sweden does anything.

Ellen K said...

The problem is that we have turned our schools into Big Box Stores of Education. Instead of focusing on the academic offerings, school has tried to compete with other childhood endeavors by trying to be more entertaining or more amusing. While I don't fault trying to make classes interesting, at some point kids do have to understand that learning has something to do with effort. Instead parents and governments blame teachers, curriculum, and other things that have very little to do with the final outcome. The truth is that while middle income kids should do well on tests written for middle income kids, our students are so overwhelmed with outside activities that academics become auxiliary activities. There was a time when, if you wanted to be in marching band or drill team or cheerleading, that you did it outside of school. There wasn't a class for it. Credit wasn't given for it. That's the meaning of the word "extracurricular activities." We could change many attitude if we stopped trying to make our schools into farm teams for pro leagues and made athletics an option instead of a centerpiece. Perhaps then, kids would center their lives on something beyond the newest gadgets.