Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do

Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do

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by Laurence D. Steinberg, Sanford M. Dornbusch, B Bradford Brown

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Challenging all our assumptions about school reform, this new study shows why parents and peers, not educators, hold the key to school success--and offers proven ideas for reversing the steady decline in student performance that has reached crisis proportions.


Challenging all our assumptions about school reform, this new study shows why parents and peers, not educators, hold the key to school success--and offers proven ideas for reversing the steady decline in student performance that has reached crisis proportions.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
America's inner-city schools are not the only ones in trouble, according to social scientist Steinberg, an authority on adolescent development. In 1985, he and his colleagues began "the most extensive study ever conducted" on forces in youngsters' lives that affect interest and performance in school in order to understand why students' commitment to school was apparently so tenuous. The results of their nationwide study, presented here in jargon-free, accessible language, indicate a widespread peer culture that demeans adolescents who are seriously engaged in their schooling and indifference on the part of parents to their children's academic achievement. Taking issue with school reform, Steinberg offers a different perspective where remedy will be found not in schools but in students' lives outside of school and in changed social and parental attitudes. Steinberg directs the Division of Developmental Psychology at Temple. Brown and Dornbush are social scientists at the University of Wisconsin and Stanford, respectively. (June)
Library Journal
In its refutation of the idea of educational reform, this book is quite different from many others that propose ways to improve our schools and classrooms. The key findings are based on a nationwide survey of more than 20,000 students in junior high schools and high schools. Rather than criticize teaching methods and theory, Steinberg (developmental psychology, Temple Univ.) focuses on life outside of school: students' homes, peer groups, parents' attitudes, and community environments. These important factors, the author argues, have a great impact on student achievement. Steinberg's analytical studies of declining SAT scores, comparisons of ethnicity and adolescent achievement, and examination of the family's role in education provide valuable information for every concerned parent, teacher, journalist, and school administrator. The book is written for a general audience. Recommended for all types of libraries.-Samuel T. Huang, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., Dekalb
Ray Olson
Observing that 15 years of school reform hadn't produced improvement in U.S. students' test scores, Steinberg and associates decided to examine other aspects of youngsters' lives. For three school years, 198790, they tracked kids in nine public high schools representative of middle America's ethnic and economic profiles. They report that, to reverse the dumbing of America, parents, peers, and cultural attitudes now need to change more than schools do. Too many parents ignore their children's education--and then so do the children. Without "authoritative" parenting (described herein) and definite scholastic standards, children tend to socialize too much with peer groups, most of which encourage just getting by in school. Finally, cultural approval of well-off teenagers working rather than studying has been devastating, and its baleful effects are compounded by the mythology that native intelligence counts more than hard study for success in school. Lucid, scarily cogent, and well concluded with 10 thoughtful recommendations for change, this is must reading for anyone anxious about America's intellectual slippage.
Kirkus Reviews
A forceful analysis of the declining achievement of American students, coupled with sensible suggestions to reverse the decline.

Based on research questionnaires and interviews conducted over a 10-year period with a cross-section of more than 20,000 teenagers from nine high schools, Steinberg (Developmental Psychology/Temple Univ.; Crossing Paths, 1994) contends that school reforms of the past 15 years have not accomplished anything: Today's high school graduates, he writes, are among the "least intellectually competent in the industrialized world." Steinberg claims that they know less and can do less than their counterparts did 25 years ago. The majority don't strive for success, he adds; they are content to coast. The average student is "disengaged" from the educational process. Viewing school as a "nuisance," students place it at the bottom of their list of priorities, and while physically present, they don't pay attention or work at their studies. Their social lives seem to matter far more than their education. Steinberg convincingly attributes the weakness of American students to factors outside the classroom. Among these are: parents who have little interest in their children's education; a peer culture that "demeans academic success and scorns students who try to do well in school"; and a schedule that allows students to devote an excessive amount of time to vacuous social activities. Changing students' and parents' attitudes and behavior is vital, the author asserts, offering a series of proposals intended to make schooling the primary activity of childhood and adolescence. Striving for educational excellence, Steinberg asserts, must begin to take priority over socializing and participation in organized sports. All four-year colleges must begin to tighten their admission standards so that students are forced to take school more seriously.

Steinberg and his colleagues clearly advances the current debate surrounding education. Well-researched and provocative, Beyond the Classroom is likely to challenge the assumptions of many of its readers.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.52(h) x 0.97(d)

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Before I read this book I did not know what the problem was with the America youth today. After I read this book I now had a clear view of the problem affecting children today. Steinberg and his team did an amazing job on this book and they touch on many subjects that you do not hear about. I recommend this book to every teacher, parent, students,and our mayors,governors, etc. who do not no what the real problem is today affecting our schools