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Catholic-School Effects on Academic Achievement: New Evidence from the High School and Beyond Follow-Up Study
J. Douglas Willms
Sociology of Education
Vol. 58, No. 2 (Apr., 1985), pp. 98-114
Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2112250
Page Count: 17
You can always find the topics here!Topics: School dropouts, Statistical models, Mathematical growth, High school students, High schools, Standard deviation, Pretests, Statistical estimation, Academic achievement
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This study compares the growth in academic achievement of public- and Catholic-school students during their last two years of high school. The study uses the High School and Beyond data on over 20,000 students who participated in the 1980 base-year study and the 1982 follow-up study. Previous studies of public- and private-school effectiveness, including the controversial Coleman, Hoffer, and Kilgore (1981) study, have been limited to the 1980 cross-sectional data, which do not include information on student ability prior to entering high school. The follow-up data enable a comparison of the growth in achievement on outcome measures that were specifically designed for that purpose. I estimated Catholic-school effects with four different statistical models. Each model regresses senior test scores on sophomore pretest scores; sophomore test scores in reading, vocabulary, and general mathematics; and a set of background variables describing student characteristics and family background. Three of the models include background measures from previously published studies; the fourth model is a parsimonious model including only the most important control variables. I conducted several subsidiary analyses to ensure that the results were not substantially biased due to such factors as the method of handling missing data, the differential dropout rate between the two sectors, and the ceiling effects on the outcome measures. I also examined the extent to which the achievement tests were valid indicators of student growth in academic achievement. The results suggest that there are no pervasive Catholic-school effects. Public schools had a small advantage in science and civics; Catholic schools had an advantage in reading, vocabulary, mathematics, and writing. All of the effects were very small: On average, the Catholic-school advantage was only about 5 percent of a standard deviation. However, the analyses also suggest that the tests are relatively poor measures of academic growth during the junior and senior years of high school. Therefore, we cannot be certain that the tests are sensitive enough to detect differences that might exist between public and Catholic schools in their effects on student achievement.
Sociology of Education © 1985 American Sociological Association