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

HIGH SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: Public, Catholic, and Private Schools Compared

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

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