Jessica McCrory Calarco publishes Negotiating Opportunities: How the Middle Class Secures Advantages in School. (2018, Oxford University Press)
When scholars and policymakers think about leveling the playing field in education, they typically start at the bottom - they focus on less-privileged students, the resources and orientations those students lack, and how those deficits prevent less-privileged students from getting ahead. Negotiating Opportunities argues instead that efforts to level the playing field should start at the top. The book bases those arguments on five years of research in a socioeconomically diverse, suburban school district. Through observations and interviews with students, parents, and teachers, the book reveals that privileged families maintain their advantage by hoarding opportunities for themselves. Privileged parents teach their children to “be their own advocates” in school. Privileged children learn to ask for extensions on projects, extra points on tests, exceptions from rules, and exemptions from punishments. They also keep asking until teachers grant their requests. Those well-meaning teachers often want to say no, but they worry that upsetting privileged families will undermine support for the school. As a result, privileged students get the bulk of teachers’ support and attention, even when they are the students who need it the least.