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E.D. Develops Way of Compiling Data To Reflect Diversity of Private Schools

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WASHINGTON--The Education Department has developed a new method of compiling data on the nation's private schools that is designed to better reflect the "considerable diversity" of that sector.

The National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the department's office of educational research and improvement, says in a new report that it will break down future private-school statistics into nine categories, instead of the current two or three.

The N.C.E.S. had been compiling private-school statistics in either two categories--church-related and non-church-related--or three categories--Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian.

As noted in the N.C.E.S. report on the topic, "Diversity of Private Schools," those limited categories "may well mask the full range of diversity within the population of private schools."

About 12 percent of K-12 students nationwide are enrolled in nonpublic education.

"With private schools increasingly drawn into educational-policy debates and into school-effectiveness comparisons with the public sphere, it is increasingly apparent that the current private-school typologies are incomplete," the report says.

Subgroups To Be Identified

Under the new method, the three categories of Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian schools will be retained, but each of those will be further broken down into three subcategories.

The Catholic-school category will be divided by type of school governance. The subcategories are parochial (parish-run), diocesan, and private schools.

The category of other religious schools is divided among those affiliated with a conservative Christian schools organization, those affiliated with a national denomination (such as Episcopal or Lutheran), and unaffiliated religious schools.

The Christian-schools category reflects the huge growth of enrollment in fundamentalist and conservative religious schools over the last 10 to 15 years, the report notes.

The nonsectarian category will be divided among schools with regular programs, those serving special education students, and those with a special emphasis, such as arts or alternative schools.

The breakdowns are used in the N.C.E.S. 's schools-and-staffing surveys and in annual statistical reports.

Joyce McCray, the executive director of the Council for American Private Education, an umbrella group, said the new categories are a "breakthrough."

"It will give us an opportunity to understand our own dynamics better," she said.

Copies of the report are available free of charge from Marilyn McMillen, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Education Department, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20208; telephone (202) 219-1754.

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