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Catholic School Enrollment Continues To Increase

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Roman Catholic schools continue to have enrollment increases, and are home to an increasingly diverse pool of teachers, a survey released last week says.

Enrollment at the nation's 8,243 Catholic schools has increased for the fourth consecutive year, the National Catholic Educational Association said last week at its annual conference in Philadelphia.

Sister Catherine T. McNamee, the president of the 200,000-member NCEA, reported that this year's total Catholic school enrollment of 2.6 million students represents an increase of nearly 17,000 students over last year, an increase of 0.6 percent from that of the 1994-95 school year.

A similar study released last year showed that enrollment increased by 41,000 in the 1994-95 school year. (See Education Week, April 26, 1995.)

The total enrollment in Catholic preschools has increased by more than 450 percent since the 1982-83 school year, the survey says. And the number of minority students in Catholic schools--currently 25 percent of the schools' student population--has more than doubled since the 1970-71 school year.

Non-Catholics make up 17 percent of Catholic school enrollment, the survey notes.

Barbara Keebler, an association spokeswoman, said schools were encouraged by the continued enrollment growth and looked forward to increases through 2000.

Diverse Teaching Force

At the four-day conference, the NCEA also released figures that attempted to quash a stereotype that teachers in Catholic schools are primarily older and members of religious orders.

The enrollment survey showed that of the 168,977 full-time faculty members in Catholic schools nationwide, roughly 91 percent were laypeople.

And in an accompanying poll of more than 3,700 of those educators, the NCEA found that the percentage who had taught for more than 30 years was roughly the same as the proportion who had taught for five or fewer years. Nearly half of those surveyed had graduate degrees.

But the association was quick to point out that although the teachers were primarily laypeople, they were highly committed to teaching values and morals.

The educators listed "gospel values" and "parental involvement" as the two most important benefits of Catholic schools. And when asked to name five items without which they could not do their jobs in the year 2000, respondents chose "parental support" first. The remaining choices were, in order: the Bible, finances, computers, and textbooks.

"The survey helped underscore that even though we have a vast majority of laypeople, they reflect the ideals and strong mission" of Catholic schools, Ms. Keebler said.

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