New Projects Suggest a Rise In Private-School Research

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Following is a list of research efforts and surveys involving private schools. They range from projects already completed to those in the planning and fundraising stages.

Some information on private schools is being collected by Theodore R. Sizer and Arthur G. Powell for their large-scale assessment of public and private high schools, a project sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Independent Schools with grants from several foundations.

Mr. Powell said that he and two research colleagues, David K. Cohen and Eleanor Farrar, will produce a book based on observation and interviews at 15 "representative" high schools, four of which are private. The book, which will be a "thematic interpretation of why these 15 schools are as they are," should be complete sometime in 1984, Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Sizer spent last year visiting more than 50 schools, most of them public, and will also write a book on his observations.

"Even though only four of the [schools studied] are private," he said, "we are the only high-school policy study admitting the existence of private high schools."

"We will also have more case material on independent schools than anybody else," Mr. Powell said. In all, the researchers have compiled 15,000 pages of notes from classroom observation and interviews at public and private high schools. At some time in the future, he said, that information will be made available to other researchers.

The Stanford University Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance is conducting "A Comparative Study of Private and Public Schooling Organizations," coordinated by Jay G. Chambers.

The goal is to analyze the differences between the two types of schools, focusing on such issues as "organizational behavior," educational management, and educationalperformance. The study uses two information sources, one consisting of data gathered by the researchers from schools in the San Francisco Bay area and one to be derived in 1983 from the "High School and Beyond" sample.

The Bay area data were gathered as part of an initial grant from the National Institute of Education (nie). The sample includes approximately 550 public and 370 private schools, 200 of which are Roman Catholic.

Reports scheduled to result from the nie-supported study will include assessments of: the magnitude and effect of government involvement in private education; the effects of state and federal regulatory structures on ad-ministrative overhead and individual school policy; variations in compensation for school personnel between public and private schools, and the effects on school cost and quality; and organizational structures of public and private schools and their relation to school performance.

Alan J. Peshkin, professor of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is writing a book based on an 18-month case study of a single fundamentalist school in Illinois.

The book is believed to be the first major on-site case study of a fundamentalist school.

Mr. Peshkin's intent is to examine the relations between students and teachers, what is taught and how, and the organization of the school. He also plans "to take the school's explicit doctrine--the Scripture--and to identify and analyze the educational implications it has for the school," he said.

Mr. Peshkin began his observation in September 1979 after encountering difficulty in finding a school that would cooperate with him. "The issue of access for a non-born-again Christian was difficult," he said. "We had to establish ourselves as trustworthy."

The school is a kindergarten-through-12th-grade Baptist academy with 350 students.

Mr. Peshkin is also the author of Growing Up American, a study of rural high schools, and a forthcoming book, The Imperfect Union.

The National Catholic Educational Association (ncea) is involved in two projects, according to its research director, Bruno V. Manno.

One is "A Study of Early Adolescents and Their Parents," being carried out in conjunction with Search Institute in Minneapolis. The study looks at the values, morals, and beliefs of students in grades 5 through 8 and of their parents. Altogether, the project involves 14 religious denominations.

A second project, "A Study of Effective Catholic Schools," examines the effectiveness of seven Catholic secondary schools and the elementary schools connected with them. The study, being conducted by Anthony Bryk of the Harvard school of education and Peter Holland of the Huron Institute in Cambridge, Mass., should be complete next fall.

ncea has also produced a proposal for a six-year study of all 1,500 Catholic high schools in the country, said to the Rev. Robert J. Yeager, vice president for development.

The idea, said Father Yeager, is to begin with a class of entering 9th graders and observe them for four years. ncea is still looking for funds for the study.

The ncea will complete its annual statistical report on Catholic schools across the country in April, Mr. Manno said.

Caroline H. Persell, professor of sociology at New York University, and Peter W. Cookson Jr., a professor of education at nyu, are working on a study of boarding schools.

The researchers plan to visit about 50 schools across the country. Their survey will include public boarding schools (of which there are very few; so far the researchers know of only two) as well as private ones, and boarding schools for deaf and blind and orphans as well as "classic" New England boarding schools, said Ms. Persell.

They will ask questions about the boarding-school experience, its effectiveness, and its style of teaching and administration. Ms. Persell hopes to be finished by early 1984.

Cynthia Parsons, an education consultant and visiting instructor at Dartmouth College who was formerly education editor of The Christian Science Monitor, is studying a school voucher system used in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The system is used in towns without their own high school, Ms. Parsons said. Such a town allocates the money in its budget for secondary-school expenses to nearby high schools--both public and private--that the students attend, she ex-plained. The district cannot pay the tuition of students who choose sectarian schools.

Ms. Parsons is examining the history and financial and legal implications of the system, using several case studies. Ms. Parsons hopes to complete the study in two years.

Donald A. Erickson, a well-known private-school researcher and the director of the Institute for the Study of Private Schools, has completed a study of the effects of a system of public aid to private schools that is used in British Columbia. (See Education Week, Dec. 21, 1981.) The nie, which sponsored the work, is currently reviewing it.

In earlier sections of the study, Mr. Erickson found that the system causes such problems for private schools as: increased paperwork, less responsiveness to parents by the schools, and a dependence on the funds that could result in financial problems for the schools if the money is withdrawn.

Mr. Erickson looked at about 60 independent schools that receive funds under British Columbia's Independent Schools Support Act, passed in 1977.

The completed study also contains an analysis of the politics that led to passage of the act, the politicization that may have occurred as a result, and an analysis of whether the aid caused a demonstrable enrollment shift from public to private schools.

Mr. Erickson is applying for funds for another round of data collection and analysis.

Chester E. Finn Jr., professor of education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, is working on a book on federal and state public policy as it relates to private schools. The book should be finished sometime in 1983.

nie is also considering sponsoring "a couple of studies dealing with the condition of teaching in public and private schools," according to David R. Mandel, assistant director for the program on educational finance at nie

Mr. Mandel also said nie will sponsor a study of the Minnesota program of income-tax deductions for parents of private-school students. A state law allows deductions for educational expenses incurred at both private and public schools.

The law is being contested in a case, Mueller v. Allen, now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in April that the law does not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Mandel said the study will probably be conducted even if the law is struck down. The study will mostly deal with "the effects of this program on public and private schools' behavior," he said.

The Education Department and nie are funding a project of the Education Commission of the States in Denver that will set up a clearinghouse for information on the regulation of private schools in the 50 states. The information will eventually become a computerized data base.

The Education Department is considering a grant to the National Conference of State Legislatures to produce a legislative handbook on private-school issues.

The National Center for Education Statistics (nces) is planning a national survey of private schools to obtain data on the number of schools, students, and staff, and on salary levels and years of experience.

Roy C. Nehrt, chief of the elementary, secondary, and analysis branch at nces, expects the survey to be released early in 1983 and to be repeated every three-to-five years.

Vol. 02, Issue 14

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