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  Chapter Three:

  Educational Attainment
  Female Graduates
  Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  Private School
  College Tuition
  Graduate Education



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Private School

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Enrollment in private elementary and secondary schools peaked in 1960 and then declined through 1990, when enrollment began to increase again.
By 1900, every sizable city in the United States had private as well as public elementary and high schools. Although private schools attracted a relatively small share of the school-age population, they provided an important alternative to the public schools for diverse segments of the population. The peak years for private schooling in America occurred in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision mandating desegregation of public schools. Hundreds of school districts in the South essentially shut down rather than integrate. White children attended hastily arranged private “academies.” This “massive resistance” began to diminish after 1965. Changes in laws affecting the racial composition of public schools also bolstered private school attendance outside of the South. 

For affluent families, a small number of expensive boarding schools provided a unique kind of adolescent life and privileged access to selective colleges. Most of these boarding schools were founded under religious auspices for either boys or girls. By the end of the century, however, nearly all of them were coeducational, less religious, and active in recruiting nonaffluent, especially minority, students. Originally, some of them offered six or seven years of instruction, but a four-year course became standard. 

Another group of boarding schools was designed for students with special interests or problems. These include private military academies and private residential schools for students with behavior problems and learning or physical disabilities. 

All large cities and suburban areas had a few private day schools that offered the same advantages as expensive boarding schools, but in a nonresidential setting. Providing education from kindergarten through high school to students from affluent families, many of these schools retained their single-sex character. 

The largest category of private day schools operated under religious auspices and inculcated both religious and secular teachings. Besides Catholic schools, by far the most numerous, this group comprised Christian (Protestant fundamentalist), Jewish, Adventist, and Quaker schools, among others. 

As recently as 1970, the pupil-teacher ratio in private elementary schools was twenty-seven students per teacher. By 1998, the pupil-teacher ratio was only six-teen students per teacher. The comparable figures for public elementary schools were twenty-four pupils per teacher in 1970 and nineteen pupils per teacher in 1998. By then, public elementary schools had lost the advantage in class size that they enjoyed in 1970. For various reasons, however, average per pupil expenditures were lower in private schools than in public schools.

Chapter 3 chart 5

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series H 422, H 424, H 427, and H 429; SA 1998, table 258; and SA 1999, table 261. For pupil-teacher ratio information, see SA 1999, table 275.


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