2 Studies of Minority Students In Private Schools Are Planned

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The Council for American Private Education (cape) has announced its intention to sponsor a major study of black students' experiences in all types of private schools.

This and a study of blacks in private schools also just announced by Northwestern University are two signs of increased activity in private-school research, particularly on minority students in private schools, but also on the methods, styles, types, and success of private schools in general.

"There is more research on private schools, without a doubt," said Denis P. Doyle, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

"I'm astonished there isn't more of it yet, but I think there is additional interest," said Arthur G. Powell, an expert on private-school research who is working with Theodore R. Sizer on "A Study of High Schools," funded by several foundations.

Interest and Controversy

Private schools are receiving more attention in part, researchers say, because of the interest and controversy generated by James S. Coleman's conclusion in Public and Private Schools that, in general, private high schools do a better job of educating their students than do public schools, regardless of the students' backgrounds. (See Education Week, Sept. 7, 1981.)

In addition, a study conducted by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and a book written by the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, both released last spring, suggested that Catholic inner-city schools do a better job of educating blacks, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans than do public schools. (See Education Week, June 23, 1982.)

To determine whether that is so, and why, are the principal aims of cape's study of blacks in private schools, said Robert L. Smith, director of the organization.

"We think it's an important public service if we can throw some light on the experiences of black youngsters in our schools," Mr. Smith said. "We want to find out what kinds of conditions increase their success, and what effect the school is having on black students."

A design for the study, tentatively called "The Minority Experience in Private Schools," is being produced for cape by an independent research firm, with a grant cape won from the Education Department. Work on the study will be "farmed out," Mr. Smith said.

The study is expected to take two years. Its sample will include students from inner-city, suburban, boarding, and rural private schools. Mr. Smith is in the process of ob-taining funds from a variety of sources, including foundations. The extensiveness of the study, Mr. Smith said, will depend on the success of his fundraising efforts.

The Northwestern study, called "Newcomers: Blacks in Private Schools," will ask two major questions: Why do black families living in metropolitan areas choose private schools? And what are the students' educational experiences there?

Diana T. Slaughter and Barbara L. Schneider, both researchers at Northwestern, are conducting the study.

"At this time, only speculation exists about the causes of the increases in black enrollment in private schools," said Ms. Slaughter.

"Authors emphasize that blacks seek higher levels of academic achievement and a measure of control and authority and values," she said. ''The idea is to determine the validity of these speculations."

Developing Case Studies

The researchers will interview 135 parents of black private-school students, 27 administrators, teachers, and parent leaders, and will develop case studies of 36 "newcomers and continuing" black students and their families in three different types of private schools.

The study will be conducted in the Chicago metropolitan area beginning in January and concluding in June 1984. It is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Education.

Increasing numbers of minority families are choosing private schools. Researchers are trying to find out why--and how the students fare.

Vol. 02, Issue 14

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