ARE MIDDLE CLASS SCHOOLS FAILING IN AMERICA?
Yes, according to a new report-but some are not so sure
A report out last month in the States ‘Incomplete: How Middle Class Schools Aren’t Making the Grade from Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based policy think tank, aims to convince parents, taxpayers and policymakers that they should be as concerned about ‘ middle-class schools’ not making the grade as they are about the failures of the nation’s large, poor, urban school districts. The report found alarmingly that one in four graduates from a typical middle-class high school currently fails to earn a college degree.
In short, middle-class students are underperforming and underachieving. Yet, they seem to be forgotten in the current policy debate which focuses mainly on schools and students in poor neighbourhoods. The report states ‘Our findings show that middle-class schools seem to be forgotten in the education debate. There is a paucity of academic literature on their performance, expectations, and on ideas for reform. Yet, they produce the students who are the backbone of the U.S. economy. Among parents of school-aged kids in middle-class jurisdictions, there is a strong belief that these schools are educating students at the highest levels. More than seven in ten parents with children in public schools grade their kids’ schools as either an A or a B, and nine in ten parents of school-age children expect their kids to go to college. But that is far from the reality. The charge is that Middle-class schools are falling short on their most basic 21st century mission: to prepare kids to get a college degree.’ The blurb says that the ‘report should be a national wake-up call to improve and modernize middle-class schools.’
But it has sparked controversy. Firstly in the way the report classifies a middle class school. It is a school where the share of children qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunch falls between 25% and 75% .However, this classification includes as middle class some of the poorest urban centres in the country, such as Detroit and Philadelphia. While the report concludes, for instance, that middle-class schools perform much less well than the general public schools, parents and taxpayers believe they do , and the tables throughout the report seem to show that the schools they classify as ―middle class- fall precisely where one would expect them to in performance terms — err.. in the middle—between higher- and lower income schools.