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Views of Public- and Private-School Teachers Differ

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Boston--Public-school teachers are far more likely to perceive student absenteeism, use of alcohol, and tardiness as serious problems at their schools than are their private-school peers.

According to new data from the U.S. Education Department's Schools and Staffing Survey, 16.4 percent of public-school teachers said student absenteeism was a "serious problem" in their schools, compared with 3.7 percent of private-school teachers.

Similarly, 11.4 percent of public- and 3.5 percent of private-school teachers viewed student use of alcohol as a serious problem. And 10.5 percent of public- versus 3.6 percent of private-school teachers said student tardiness was a serious problem.

In contrast, private-school teachers were more likely than their pub4lic-school counterparts to "strongly agree" that a number of positive factors supporting teaching were present in their schools.

For example, more than half of all private-school teachers and fewer than half of all public-school teachers "strongly agreed" that teachers in their schools were fairly evaluated, that the administration was supportive, that the principal let the staff know what was expected, and that needed materials were available.

A higher percentage of private-school teachers also said there was good cooperation among staff members, that colleagues agreed on the school's central mission, and that the school had clear goals and priorities.

In addition, private-school teachers perceived themselves as having greater influence over school policies than did their public-school8peers, in areas such as discipline, the grouping of students by ability, and curriculum.

Given such findings, it is not surprising that a higher percentage of private-school teachers said they "certainly would become a teacher'' if given the opportunity to start over (45.3 percent among private-school teachers compared with 31.8 percent among public-school teachers).

Between 25 and 30 percent of both public- and private-school teachers reported that they "probably would become a teacher" again.

The analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics was released here at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. It is based on data collected from 6,700 private-school respondents and 41,000 public-school respondents in 1987-88.--lo

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