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A group of boys'-school advocates has decided to form a dues-paying organization called The Boys' School Conference: An International Coalition.

The advocates had their second annual meeting last month at the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Mass. About 160 representatives from boys' schools as far away as Australia attended and agreed unanimously to create the organization, said John S. Farber, the director of admissions at the Belmont Hill School. (See Education Week, June 23, 1993.)

Organizers have settled on a two-tier dues structure in which a few leader schools can make large donations so that the majority of members will pay only a nominal fee.

"We don't want to exclude anybody because it's expensive,'' said Richard A. Hawley, the headmaster of the University School in Cleveland and the director of the new group.

"The whole idea will be to network and share the best thinking on boys' schools,'' Mr. Hawley said.

At the conference, participants learned the results of a report that offers the first comprehensive look at the current state of boys' schools--and there was reason for optimism.

For a core set of 61 National Association of Independent Schools members that have remained boys' schools since 1982, enrollment declined by 3.6 percent between 1982-83 and 1990-91. But between 1990-91 and 1992-93, student enrollment nationally grew from 22,718 to 23,113, or 1.7 percent.

Inquiries by prospective students and their families have increased steadily since the 1989-90 school year, rising 15.6 percent for boarding schools and 17.6 percent for day schools.

Mr. Hawley said families are increasingly choosing boys' schools specifically because they are boys' schools, not despite the fact that they are boys' schools.

The N.A.I.S. compiled the report for Meg M. Moulton, the co-executive director of the National Coalition of Girls' Schools who is also acting as a consultant to the boys'-school advocates.

The boys'-school group has identified 274 all-male schools nationwide. Ninety-one are N.A.I.S. members.

To complete the picture on the state of boys' schools, the advocates have asked the National Catholic Educational Association, which has about 220 boys'-school members, to compile a similar report. It is expected to be completed this year.Ă„Ă„MILLICENT LAWTON

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