Catholic school resurrection?

Education Next asks: Can Catholic Schools Be Saved? Enrollment in Catholic schools is way down. The nun shortage has driven up the cost of hiring teachers; charter schools compete for students. In some cities, Catholic schools are banding together to provide an alternative for low-income students, funded by philanthropists.

Education Gadfly has more on New York Catholic schools complaining about charter competition, while Boston Catholic schools consolidate to keep quality high and costs low.

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  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If public schools were made to pay for teacher depredations the way Catholic institutions are, they would be in deep trouble, too.

  2. Prof210 says:

    When I read of a Catholic school closing, I think of the possibility of it re-opening as a charter school. Many of the administrators and teachers have already decided that they are willing to work for less money in exchange for being able to dismiss uncooperative students or for other reasons. Perhaps the church will step up to the plate and offer to assist employees in schools which are closing to explore the charter option.

  3. wayne martin says:

    Another excellent article on education from the Hoover Institute. Folks can depend on no-nonsense thinking from this “house”. Making a copy of this article would be good idea .. even sending it to friends wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    There too much in this article to comment, so sadly, this post will probably go without serious discussion.

    A recent point of dispute about large class sizes in Catholic schools is put to rest with point about some classes in Catholic schools being in the 30-50 student range.

    The growth of Catholics in the US can be attributed to immigration from Mexico and points south, rather than Europe. The mandates of Euro-Centric culture (ie .. the value of education) did not take root in the Spanish/Portuguese colonies of the “new world”, as they did in the English/French colonies. (Interestingly, the Spanish/Portuguese colonies were Catholic, whereas the dominant English colonies of the North were protestant.) Historically, the Catholic colonies/cultures in the New World did not fare as well as the Protestant colonies.

    > And then came the sex abuse scandals.

    This couldn’t have helped.

    > Catholic Encyclopedia (CE)

    An excellent source for all sorts of things historical ..

    > In fact, vouchers are proving to be something of an
    > antidote to the threat posed by charter schools

    “An antidote to the threat posed by charter schools” .. wow .. and who’da thunk schools were about educating kids?

    > The guardians of moral order and academic achievement for several
    > generations of Catholic boys and girls, these robed religious women
    > ruled with—well, with rulers.

    > Can Catholic Schools be Saved?

    Only Catholics can save Catholic schools.

  4. Wayne Martin, I think you must have forgotten the “dispute” about class size and Catholic schools….

    My question is could even those Catholic schools have done a better job with smaller classes?

    Or, more specifically, were students as successful in the classes of 50 as in the classes of 30?

    I’m open-minded. Maybe the answser is yes, but where is the proof?

    I know a lot of people educated in urban Catholic schools, especially in New York where I grew up, and back then there was no question that the Catholic schools did a better job. So did the Jewish schools and the private prep schools.

    Comparing the large classrooms of a catholic school with the large classrooms of a public school is not an argument against reducing class size — unless one is suggesting that we send everyone to Catholic school which assumes that Catholic schools want everyone, including the gang-bangers and other misfits.

    Is that what you are suggesting?
    No, I’m afraid nothing is put to rest. Not just yet anyway.

  5. Wayne Martin says:

    > My question is could even those Catholic schools have
    > done a better job with smaller classes?
    > Or, more specifically, were students as successful
    > in the classes of 50 as in the classes of 30?

    Unfortunately, Catholic schools have never been required to publish their performance stats, so you’ll have to ask Sister Patrick Mary or Sister Elizabeth Maureen that question.

  6. wayne martin says:

    Some time back there were some links posted to the Hoover Institute. One of the pro-Union teachers who comments here from time-to-time started howling “foul, foul” like he had been struck with the tips of the horns of old Beelzebub himself.

    The Hoover Institute, located on the grounds of Stanford University, is a “think tank” that pursues pro-market research and advocacy. Up until his recent death, renowned economist and social thinker Milton Friedman was one of the Hoover’s more visible researchers.

    One of the public services that the Hoover provides is a half-hour TV show, called “Uncommon Knowledge”. Host Peter Robinson invites 1-3 guests weekly to a “roundtable” discussion about topics that range from education to globalization. The shows are shown on the local Public TV station here in the Silicon Valley. Not certain how wide the syndication might be, but the Hoover makes these shows available in a Streaming Video/Audio format for folks who are connected to the Internet:

    Uncommon Knowledge:

    There is an archive of older shows, for folks who find themselves interested in these interviews.

  7. >Unfortunately, Catholic schools have never been required to publish >their performance stats, so you’ll have to ask Sister Patrick Mary or >Sister Elizabeth Maureen that question.

    Good reply, Wayne Martin — but then, forgive me for asking, but: how do we know for sure that they are doing a better job than the public schools?

  8. wayne martin says:

    > how do we know for sure that they are doing a better
    > job than the public schools?

    From the article:

    Sociologist James Coleman and colleagues Thomas Hoffer and Sally Kilgore, in 1982, were among the first to document Catholic schools’ academic successes, in High School Achievement: Public and Private Schools. A variety of studies since, by scholars at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, the Brookings Institution, and Harvard, have all supported the conclusion that Catholic schools do a better job educating children, especially the poor and minorities, than public schools.

    In 1982, Coleman and co-authors Thomas Hoffer and Sally Kilgore published High School Achievement: Public and Private Schools, which found that Catholic high schools were both more integrated economically and racially and produced greater achievement than public schools. Comparing children of similar backgrounds, the authors discovered that students performed about one grade level higher in Catholic schools. Low-income and minority students in particular did better in Catholic schools than in public schools. The study was enormously controversial, and it came under heavy fire from a number of sources because it measured achievement at a single point in time, rather than achievement growth over time, and thus did not fully control for self-selection bias. Sure, low-income children in Catholic schools do better than low-income students in public schools, critics charged, but might that be the case because low-income children attending Catholic schools have particularly motivated parents, who cared enough about education to plunk down their own money–a factor that cannot be controlled for by using income statistics?

    Coleman and Hoffer returned to this subject in their 1987 book Public and Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities, which, tracking advances in student achievement over time, better addressed the question of self-selection bias. The longitudinal study found significant positive effects after controlling for income and initial achievement. Moreover, student achievement in Catholic high schools became less dependent on family background over time, in contrast to what takes place in public schools. “This suggests that the Catholic schools were functioning to diminish the effects of background,” Coleman and Hoffer wrote, “so that the Catholic schools more closely approximated the ‘common school’ ideal of American education than did the public (or the other private) schools.”
    The Coleman/Hoffer/Kilgore book can be found in a number of LA CSU libraries. If you are a member of a library that has a Link+ membership, you can order a copy of this book on-line and have it delivered in 3-5 days.


  9. mike from oregon says:

    I was taught in a Catholic grade school and we were 2 to 3 grades above the public schools. This was driven home when my mother put us into public summer school (we didn’t need it, she assumed that more school the better), I was in 5th grade. The teacher held up the ‘reader’ we were to use for the summer, I had read it. The teachers asked me about it, I answered all their questions. We went through every reader in the 5th grade classroom, the 6th grade classroom, the 7th grade classroom – each time they would ask me questions and I’d tell them what was in the books. Finally, mid-way through the 8th grade classroom they showed me a book I hadn’t read. My mom never sent us to summer school again.

    More recently (I’m old), I made sure that both my daughters graduated from Catholic grade schools. In high school we tried public high school, they were already ahead and quickly figured out that they didn’t need to work, at all, to excel at public high schools. I switched them to a private Christian (but not Catholic – too expensive for me) high school. The quality of education was close to what some former classmates were getting at Catholic high schools (not quite the same but VERY close) and miles ahead of ANY public school around here. Recently my daughters have started college, both of them are having very little trouble in college. Both have friends who graduated from public high schools who are spending the first two years in a community college (nothing wrong with that) catching up to where they should have been when they applied for college (plenty wrong with that).

    I say a prayer every time a Catholic school closes.

  10. There are other factors influencing the declining enrollments at Catholic schools, not mentioned in the article. Public schools are no longer seen as “Protestant,” so the religious reason for avoiding them has just about vanished; no one is told any longer that you’re failing in your parental duty by sending your kids to public school. The Catholics who would still see public schools as dangerous to their children’s faith are just as likely to see parochial schools as too secularized; and those are the same families which tend to have more children than they could possibly afford to send to the local parochial school (and more likely to have a non-wage-earning parent). The absence of the very committed Catholics contributes to the (real or perceived) secularization of Catholic schools.

    On the other hand, there is the phenomenon of independent Catholic schools, run by very committed Catholic laypeople (and sometimes even nuns; see the Schoenstatt movement for example), with low costs and no affiliation with the diocese. These seem to be springing up everywhere in the last ten years.

  11. Re: above–Note that I was speaking in generalities, and didn’t intend to imply that someone who has a child in a Catholic schools is necessarily not a committed Catholic; just observing the drain-off of many families who would be expected to send their children to parochial school but can’t afford to and don’t think the schools are Catholic enough anyway.

  12. Boston Catholic schools consolidate to keep quality high and costs low.

    Costs low? My daughter just got accepted to 2 Catholic elementary schools in Boston and the annual tuitions are $6300 and $9200.

  13. I’ve always said that the public schools didn’t have much to fear from charters, since most parents choose a school based largely on convenience. The private schools have much more to worry about when competing against free schools without all of the public school drawbacks. In my town (Tucson, Arizona) there is a Waldorf school with a $6000+ tuition and a Waldorf-inspired charter school. Even those parents who want the full Waldorf experience for their children have a hard time choosing against a no-cost Waldorf-lite school. And the biggest Catholic school in town is better known for its sports programs than its academics (which are good).