Students at Private Schools for Blacks Post Above-Average Scores, Study Finds

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Despite low budgets and spartan facilities, small neighborhood private schools catering to African American children are producing students who score above national norms in reading and mathematics, according to a new study.

The study of 82 nonpublic schools by the Institute for Independent Education, a small Washington-based research organization, also found from a survey of alumni that the schools helped prepare them for college or employment and that the graduates would recommend their former schools to friends.

These schools "have a rich historical legacy as well as an important contemporary role to fill," concludes the study, "On the Road to Success: Students at Independent Neighborhood Schools."

Limited Resources

"They meet their challenge well even though they have limited resources," the study continues. "They deserve to be recognized for their contributions in any national efforts at education reform."

Although a few of the neighborhood private schools in the study primarily served Hispanic-American or Native-American pupils, nearly 90 percent catered to African American students.

There are an estimated 300 such schools nationwide that are not part of urban Catholic school systems or are not tied to traditionally white-dominated independent preparatory schools, according to the institute. (See Education Week, March 13, 1991.)

Many of the neighborhood schools are small, with enrollment concentrated in the early elementary grades. Only a few of them have high schools, the study found.

The schools usually have no endowments or large-scale fundraising efforts, relying instead primarily on tuition for revenue. For this reason, the schools are highly vulnerable to downward shifts in the economy.

The average per-student cost at a neighborhood private school was $2,458 in 1989-90. The study cites comparable figures of $3,287 for all private schools nationally and $5,247 for public schools.

The schools report that they have only limited numbers of computers available for students and often must spend precious resources on their physical facilities.

Above National Norms

The study found that in 1990, 64 percent of 2,300 students in such schools nationwide scored above national norms on reading tests and 62 percent scored above norms on mathematics tests.

The tests used by the schools included the Stanford Achievement Test, California Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, and the Metropolitan Achievement Test.

About 44 percent of the schools in the study can be considered highperforming, where the mean of percentile ranked scores ranges from 60 to 72, the report said. About 12 percent of the schools serve a majority of students who perform below the 50th percentile on the tests.

The average annual salaries for teachers at neighborhood private schools is relatively low.

An overall average is not provided in the report, but the range was about $12,100 on the low end to an average of $18,800 on the upper end of the pay scale. Some types of schools in the study reported salaries as low as $10,500 and as high as $23,142.

Alumni Views

The study reports that of 190 alumni of neighborhood private schools responding to a questionnaire, 38 percent are now in college. Others were still in high school or were in the workforce.

Most alumni expressed satisfaction with their schools, except for a few who suggested they had difficulty with some subjects in college in part bocause of inadequate preparation in their schools or because their schools did not offer certain subjects.

"I wish I had gained more mastery over computers," said one alumnus. "I loved it but because of lack of time, lack of computers and only one teacher, I only got a basic understanding."

A summary of the study is available for $3.50 plus 50 cents postage and handling from the Institute for Independent Education, P.O. Box 42571, Washington, D.C. 20015. The full study is available for $15 plus $1.50 postage and handling.

Vol. 11, Issue 07, Page 10

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