Nonschool Influences On Learning

Schools are fighting a tough battle against a peer culture that disparages academic success, according to Laurence Steinberg in Beyond the classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need To Do. Based on a 10 year collaboration of university research teams, the book analyzes the ways in which parents, peers and communities influence students’ commitment to school. Steinberg suggests that school reform cannot work unless these outside forces are recognized as the key factors in students’ willingness to learn and strive for academic success.

According to the author, disengaged parents and an anti-learning attitude among adolescent peers are two of the biggest factors that discourage student achievement. Based on the findings of a nationwide study of more than 20,000 students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, conducted over the last 10 years by a collaborative effort of three university research teams, Steinberg concludes:

  • American students’ time out of school is seldom spent in activities that reinforce what they are learning in their classes. The average American high school student spends about four hours a week on homework outside of school. says the author, while in other industrialized countries the average is about four hours a day. And half of all the. surveyed students reported not doing the homework they were assigned. More typically, Steinberg writes, students time and energy are focused on activities that compete with. rather than complement, their studies: two-thirds of high school students are employed, with half working more than 15 hours weekly.
  • Students’ peer culture disparages academic success. Steinberg reports that fewer than on in five students said their friends think it is important to get good grades in school. Nearly 20 percent of all students said they do not try as hard as they can in school because they are worried about what their friends might think.
  • American parents are just as disengaged from schooling as their children are. More than half of all students said they could bring home grades of C or worse without their parents getting upset, and nearly one-third said their parents have no idea how they are doing in school. Only about one-fifth of parents consistently attend school programs. while more than 40 percent never do, according to the author.