Poor showing on tests by parochial schools: Study

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But the study’s statistics show that despite the better performance of...

By Daniel Arimborgo

Catholic elementary and middle-school students around the city outperformed their public school counterparts in state English and math tests, a New York University study has found.

But the study’s statistics show that despite the better performance of parochial schools, neither they nor the city public school system deserve glowing praise about students’ passing rates.

The study compared how both groups performed on New York state standardized test scores for the fourth and eighth grades in 1999 and 2000. It found Catholic schools scored slightly higher in the fourth grade exams, and significantly higher in the eighth.

The report, “Catholic Schools in New York City,” was commissioned by NYU’s Program on Education and Civil Society, and was written by Raymond Domanico, an independent researcher and school voucher advocate who is senior education adviser to the Metro New York Industrial Areas Foundation and works with parents on issues of public school improvement.

“As the Catholic schools begin to face a new set of challenges that will likely raise their costs while the ability of parents to pay tuition remains low,” Domanico writes in his report summary, “it will be appropriate for the public sector to weigh the public benefits that these schools provide.”

“The data presented in this report strongly suggest that those benefits are quite high and that these schools and these parents are deserving of public support.”

The study showed that in the fourth grade tests, Catholic school students averaged 9.8 points better in English. Math scores in Catholic schools were just 6.9 points higher on average than in public schools.

But eighth-grade Catholic school students scored on average 17 points higher on the English exam, and 20 points higher in math. Both groups had difficulty with the eighth-grade math exam, however, with only 35 percent of Catholic school students, and 23 percent of public school students passing.

The study found that poor black and Hispanic Catholic school students surpassed the performance of those minorities in public school.

“The performance of poor and minority youngsters in the Catholic schools once again demonstrates the educability of these students,” Domanico wrote.

In the English exams, there was a 9.8 point advantage for the Catholic schools in the fourth grade. The gap nearly doubled to 17 points in eighth grade.

In math, the differences were more pronounced. A 6.9 point advantage for Catholic school students in fourth grade grew to 20 points in eighth grade.

But only about 50 percent of fourth-grade and eighth-grade Catholic students passed the English language exams and the fourth grade math exams.

Only 42 percent of public school students passed the fourth-grade English exams, 33 percent met the standards on the eighth-grade English exams, and 46.3 percent passed the fourth-grade math exams.

Both groups did poorly on the eighth-grade math test — only 35 percent of Catholic school students and 23 percent of public school students passed it.

Parochial schools are often selective in admissions and generally have smaller class sizes than public schools.

Reach reporter Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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