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Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do Paperback – October 17, 1997
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From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From 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
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The author effectively develops his argument by defining and comparing engaged and disengaged students. He then cites research into ethnicity, parenting, extra-curricula activities, and peer grouping as the contributors and distracters to academic engagement. His analysis of the significance of peer group influences provides validation of what many parents would argue as common sense findings. Throughout the text Steinberg masterfully presents traditional arguments from both sides of the political spectrum and answers them with findings supported by research data.
Beyond the Classroom closes with ten recommendations for parents, educators, and government officials. Unfortunately, Steinberg's recommendations suggest that improvement in student performance requires societal structural changes that at best assume active acceptance and participation of a majority of citizens engaged in social reform. However, to believe that a society disengaged from it's educational system - a system responsible in large part for proliferating the attributes of citizenship - can develop the will to make such systematic change is unrealistic.
Perhaps Steinberg's most significant contribution in offering Beyond the Classroom is in dispelling the concept that school reform in the existing school system can in fact solve the problem of low academic performance. This purpose alone makes this book a worthwhile read for those engaged in the welfare of our children.
With an emphasis on student engagement in learning, the study looks at factors such as parenting strategies, the influence of peers and extracurricular activities. Steinberg looks primarily at issues beyond the school walls as the data shows these influences (large scale) are greater indicators of student success or failure than teacher's classroom practice or organization of the school system. Each factor is analyzed through the lens of socio-economic status, ethnicity, peer relationships and length of time since immigration to this country. As a result, the reader is forced to question the American culture; the attitudes, beliefs and values we perpetuate.
The good news is working hard in school is a strong predictor of academic achievement. Friends and group identity at school make a difference as do parenting techniques. The issues that we need to face are the rampant disengagement of parents in their children's lives, a peer culture that demeans academic success and scorns students who work hard and the negative impact on excessive extracurricular activity on student's achievement.
Steinberg makes 10 recommendations to begin refocusing the country's efforts. Each requires our society to take a good hard look at how we `do business'. To increase academic success for all students will require compromises and change on the part of students, parents, schools, businesses, government and mass media.
In a sobering thought, Steinberg asserts that "no curricular overhaul, no instructional innovation, no change in school organization, no toughening of standards, no rethinking of teacher training or compensation will succeed if students do not come to school interested in, and committed to, learning. In order to understand how this commitment develops, why it has waned over the past three decades, and, more importantly, how we can reengage students in the business of learning, we need to look, not at what goes on inside the classroom, but at students' lives outside the school's walls. Until we do just this, school reform will continue to be a disappointment, and our students' achievement will fail to improve."
I finished the book out of breath. We're in a race to save our children. Will our country pull together in time?
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years. The rhetoric is at times strident and the
prescriptions lacking in common sense.Read more