Laurence Steinberg’s book Beyond the Classroom is based on a comprehensive study of high school students.

In it he forcefully argues that the home environment and home learning culture of academically successful students is what determines their success.

According to Steinberg, important factors in students’ lives outside of school affect their attitudes, behavior and performance inside of school. It is his argument that altering these external factors to the school building could significantly improve American student achievement in the building. Powerfully, Steinberg argues that school reform leads “to no appreciable changes in student achievement at all” (p. 57).

According to Steinberg, important factors in students’ lives outside of school affect their attitudes, behavior and performance inside of school. It is his argument that altering these external factors to the school building could significantly improve American student achievement in the building. Powerfully, Steinberg argues that school reform leads “to no appreciable changes in student achievement at all” (p. 57).

A key aspect of Steinberg’s analysis is to see learning as a value as much as a skill.

A lengthy quote illustrates some of these factors:

“Student achievement is as much a product of the ways in which children’s and adolescents arrange and structure their lives, the activities they pursue, the priorities they hold, the endeavors they value—as it is the product of the schools they attend. It is unlikely that school reform in and of itself will make school more important in the minds of students. And unless and until students and their parents view success in school as a necessary and worthwhile goal—actually, until success in school is a necessary and worthwhile goal in American society—students will not seek it with passion or commitment” (p. 181).

Steinberg concludes that we cannot understand whether or how schools make a difference without considering the other forces (such as family life, culture, parental expectations, community resources and dominant views of education) that either diminish or amplify the effects of school.

How much longer will social forces and school advocates conspire to ignore the mounting evidence that places the burden for learning primarily in the home and the community?

Steinberg, L. (1996). Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need To Do