"[I]f we were being brutally honest," says Chester Finn, assistant secretary of education in the Reagan administration and now president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, "we would be saying to suburban America that your kids actually aren't learning very much either."
One telling indicator of the low quality of suburban schools is the rise of tutoring. In 2008, PBS's Nightly Business Report estimated professional tutoring to be a $4 billion industry that year, concentrated in the suburbs, with a 10 percent estimated annual growth rate.
Even this figure does not take into account either the common off-the-books arrangements with moonlighting teachers or burgeoning Internet options. With small online providers like Colorado-based e-Tutor seeing revenue jump from $180,000 in 2009 to a quarter million in 2010 despite the recession, the Kaplan online university division of the Washington Post has launched its own reading and math programs for elementary and middle school students.
How is it that intelligent and motivated parents, many sacrificing financially to afford homes in the most expensive suburbs, end up as uncritical supporters of a public school system that does a better job of filling students' leisure fantasies than providing a rigorous education?