Presented with the kind permission of the Pacific Research Institute. Special thanks to Kelly Gorton.
Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School shatters the myth that “good” schools are found in “nice” neighborhoods.
Using available data on school performance and interviews with parents, students, principals, and school reformers, Not as Good as You Think confirms every parent’s silent fear: that their financial sacrifice and investment in an expensive home in a “good” school district is not yielding the achievement results needed to get their kids into good colleges and good jobs.
The film takes audiences on a tour of America’s best neighborhoods — from posh Orange County, California to the hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, to the lush green hills of Tennessee — to reveal that schools in America’s middle class and affluent neighborhoods are not adequately preparing kids for higher education, or worse, operating under widespread corruption.
The film also contrasts the American public school system with that of Sweden’s, a socially progressive country that allows parents, at the government expense, to choose any school that fits their children’s need — private or public — no matter the parents’ income.
Studies show that parents are willing to purchase houses well beyond their means for what they believe is an opportunity to send their children to “good” public schools. Not as Good as You Think shows that buying a home in an expensive neighborhood doesn’t necessarily buy a “good” public school.
The book (on which the film is based) found that in nearly 300 schools in middle class and affluent neighborhoods in California, more than half of the students in at least one grade level performed below proficiency on the California Standards Test (CST)—the statewide test that assesses student grade level knowledge.
Moreover, in some school districts, investigations have found cases of widespread corruption and financial mismanagement.
Many of these schools are located in California’s most affluent areas including Orange County, Silicon Valley, and the Los Angeles beach and canyon communities.
Not as Good as You Think was the first-ever study to evaluate student performance in schools located in California’s middle-class and affluent neighborhoods.
While this study focused on California, its findings received national recognition.
In California, Lance Izumi and Vicki Murray briefed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top advisors, state legislators, legislative staff, and key education policymakers. As a result, for the first time in six years, five school choice bills were introduced in Sacramento. The historic number of bills included an opportunity scholarship, a disability voucher, and a safe schools voucher.