HIGH SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: Public, Catholic, and Private Schools Compared by James S.; Thomas Hoffer & Sally Kilgore Coleman
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HIGH SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: Public, Catholic, and Private Schools Compared

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Private schools, Catholic and nonsectarian, come out over public schools throughout this expanded version of the controversial 1981 draft report by sociologist Coleman and his colleagues--thereby validating, if nothing else, Coleman's long-standing reservations about public high schools and his early advocacy of a voucher system. Data was collected from 15,728 students in 1,105 public, Catholic, and private high schools (pursuant to a survey not designed, however, for ""the comparison of public and private schools""). From this data, the authors concluded the following: though family income does bear a consistent relationship to private school enrollment, minority students are ""more evenly distributed, or less segregated, in private than in public schools""--on account, unsurprisingly, of residential segregation. And if families suddenly had an additional $1,000 in income (not, the authors caution, a voucher), the flow of white, upper- and middle-income children into the private schools would not increase racial and economic segregation, a hypothetical experiment found: ""the proportion of minorities coming into the private schools would be somewhat greater than the proportion already in those schools."" Still more clouded is the area of aspiration and-achievement. In general, private-school students were found to take more academic subjects, and more advanced academic subjects, than public-school students. (Public-school students headed for four-year colleges, however, take about the same number of advanced science courses as private-school students--but, still, fewer advanced math courses.) Overall, the authors posit ""high rates of engagement in academic activities"" in the private schools (better attendance, more time spent on homework, those rigorous subjects) and a superior ""disciplinary climate"" (fewer fights, greater teacher interest, fair and effective discipline). But nowhere was notice taken of the selectivity--in terms of student intelligence, or behavior--of the private schools. For this and other reasons, the conclusions are bound once again to be challenged. Previous criticisms are addressed in an extensive Addendum and in footnotes--but quantitative adjustments have not altered the qualitative findings, nor the authors' outlook. They would have us change the organization of schools away from a residential or racial basis, and abandon ""the myth of public schools as integrative and equalizing, while private schools are segregative and unequalizing."" A furor is sure to follow.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1982
Publisher: Basic Books