It has been reported that middle-class children in suburban schools are not as proficient at their grade levels as most parents think.
Presenting their research findings from a study carried out among California middle class schools, at the Heritage Foundation recently, Lance Izumi and Dr. Vicki Murray noted that of the 284 California middle-class schools where the median home price was more than $400,000, 78% of the students failed standardized tests in English or Math.
Although the U.S. Department of Education’s Nation’s Report Cardwhich was released in September indicated that “Reading skills are improving for both fourth- and eighth-graders, particularly among lower- and middle-performing students,” Izumi argues that “mediocrity now appears to be a systemic tide that has seeped into the middle-class suburban schools.”
Many American families, it was argued, purchase homes in affluent communities as a key to unlocking better opportunities for their children. “The major reason why middle-class families buy expensive homes is for the public school system,” said Mr. Izumi. “School quality is the most important factor in difference in prices of similar homes” he added.
Mr. Izumi Lance, who is the Director of Education Studies at Pacific Research Institute, said “living in a middle-class suburb does not necessarily guarantee a good education to children.”
He said that statistics from their research indicate “nearly 300 schools across California in some of the priciest places did not have at least 50% of their grade level proficiency.”
For instance “at Hillsdale High, a school in an affluent suburb with a median house cost of $867,000 (and which was voted as a California Distinguished School by the Department of Education), amongst 11th graders only 40% are proficient in English,” he said.
At Prospect High School where median price of the home is about $1.6 Million, he said, “less than half of the 10th and 11th graders are proficient in English.”
He also pointed out that a College Board report indicated that about three-quarters of U.S. high-school graduates enter college, yet half of the entering freshmen are taking at least one remedial class, and many more drop out because they are not prepared.
He added that “The education gap between middle-class kids and rich kids is as large as the gap between poor kids and middle-class kids.”
He however pointed out that this pattern was not consistent. There were a lot of grade level inconsistencies. “One of the reasons for this is the levels of teacher competences,” he said.
He said the inability of school principals to fire ineffective teachers is a major problem in the education system. He specifically referred to bad Union contracts that “prohibit use of exam grades as performance evaluation for teachers.” “Virtually nothing that indicates teacher’s measurable impact on student achievement can be used to evaluate the teacher’s performance”, he added.
Dr. Vicki Murry, co-author of the book Not As Good As You Think; Why the Middle class Needs School Choice noted that one of the remedies to the situation is “ending a monopoly system of assigned government schooling.”
Mr. Lance Izumi and Dr. Vicki Murray said they hope after people get over the shock from this study, policy makers will use this information to correct the education system in the country.
Emmanuel Opati is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.