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Private Schools and Public Policy: New Evidence on Cognitive Achievement in Public and Private Schools

Karl L. Alexander and Aaron M. Pallas
Sociology of Education
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), pp. 170-182
DOI: 10.2307/2112546
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2112546
Page Count: 13
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Private Schools and Public Policy: New Evidence on Cognitive Achievement in Public and Private Schools
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Abstract

Recent research by Coleman, Hoffer and Kilgore on the effectiveness of public and private schools may be seriously flawed because of its neglect of input--level differences in student performance and its reliance on cross-sectional testing data as the criterion measure. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of the Class of 1972 and the High School and Beyond data sets, we examine public--Catholic sector differences within high school tracks for a variety of cognitive and achievement outcome measures. Even without controls for sector variance in student characteristics, the public--Catholic differences are all very small. When student selection and background characteristics are controlled, these slight differences shrink even further. We thus cannot agree with Coleman, Hoffer and Kilgore's claim that Catholic schools produce better cognitive outcomes than do public schools. This claim is the first of the "factual premises" that they say would support policies to increase the role of private schools in American education. Since this premise is wrong, it clearly should not be invoked to sustain such policies.

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