Private Schools Column
Enrollment in the schools that the National Association of Independent Schools calls "junior" boarding schools--those enrolling elementary or middle-school students--has shown a "marked increase" over the past seven years, according to a new nais survey.
Overall enrollment in the junior schools has increased 18.4 percent from 1976-77 to 1982-83; the number of students attending such schools rose from 1,837 to 2,175.
According to the nais, this growth rate exceeded that of independent schools generally. The enrollment of the average independent school has grown by 9 percent over the past seven years, the group said.
The survey included 14 of the 16 junior boarding schools in the nais membership.
In the May issue of Momentum, the magazine produced by the National Catholic Educational Association, Chester E. Finn Jr., professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, calls on Catholic schools to play a "key role in the current national quest for educational excellence."
Mr. Finn says Catholic-school leaders are in a good position to be leaders in the search for educational improvement because their schools have "long displayed the very attributes that recent research has identified as characteristic of 'effective' schools."
"They have a clear sense of institutional purpose and of educational mission. They have dedicated teachers. They have strong leadership. They have an orderly environment for learning. ... They hold their students to clearly specified standards. They assign plenty of homework."
Mr. Finn offers his perspective on why Catholic educational leaders have not yet become strongly involved in national education-improvement efforts, and several ideas on how they could become so, including: serving as "experts" on the task forces and commissions that are working on educational improvement; looking for areas, such as curriculum development, in which Catholic schools can cooperate with other private and public schools; taking a more "analytical" look at the causes of success in Catholic schools; and becoming more familiar with their counterparts in other sectors of American education.
In what he calls his most controversial proposal, Mr. Finn suggests that "Catholic educational leaders should moderate their own demands on the society," particularly in the quest for new forms of federal aid "targeted" to private schools, such as tuition tax credits. He writes: "I believe that Catholic educational leaders would now do more good for themselves, their schools, and the larger educational commonwealth if they would concentrate their 'public-policy energies' on ventures that would benefit all schools in approximately equal measure."
The December 1983 issue of Momentum will be devoted to the theme of peace, focusing on ways schools can use the recently completed U.S. Bishops' pastoral letter on nuclear war.--ah