Students attending Roman Catholic schools score above the national average on standardized reading-proficiency tests, according to a study by the National Catholic Educational Association.
Using 1983-84 test scores provided by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Valerie Lee, the study’s author, compared the reading achievement of Catholic-school students to national averages and found that for every subgroup she examined-including classifications by sex, race, ethnicity, and geographic region-Catholic-school students scored higher.
Ms. Lee found, for instance, that black and Hispanic students attending Catholic schools score “well above” the national average for their subgroups and that the gap between the scores of black and Hispanic students and those of whites is narrower in Catholic schools than nationally.
In her report, Ms. Lee says that it is impossible to tell for sure why Catholic students score higher on the tests.
She notes, however, earlier findings by NAEP that Catholic-school students tend to do more homework, watch less television, receive more instruction in academic subject areas, and take more academic courses in high school than their public-school counterparts.
These factors, she writes, “cannot be discounted from an explanation for the substantial reading-proficiency advantages [Catholic-school] students show in almost every area.”
“It had been hypothesized that the superior performance of Catholic to public high-school students ... might be due, at least in part, to the fact that Catholic secondary schools enroll a student body that is somewhat more selective than that of Catholic elementary schools,” Ms. Lee added in her report. “However, the new reading proficiency data from the NAEP do not confirm that hypothesis.”
Copies of the 36-page report, “1983-84 NAEP Reading Proficiency: Catholic School Results and National Averages,” are available for $6.60 ($5 for N.C.E.A. members) from the N.C.E.A. Publication Sales Office, 1077 30th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007.
A version of this article appeared in the January 29, 1986 edition of Education Week