The Public Interest

Summer Learning and School Achievement

James S. Coleman

Winter 1982

IT was in the 1960’s, a time when everything began to be probltmatic, that what had once been assumed true about schools began to be questioned. It had been assumed that schools were effective and that we knew what made schools more effective: better facilities, teachers with more training, more experienced teachers, newer textbooks, better libraries, and other things that could be bought with more money per student. But then, in the 1960’s, these verities began to be doubted. Social science had begun to have the statistical capability to compare school outputs with these “inputs,” and several studies showed that we knew less than we thought we did. The assunaed qualities of a “good” school showed little or no relation to achievement when students of similar background were compared. In contrast, these same studies showed that measurable differences in students’ backgrounds-such as students’ socioeconomic level and parentsinterest in their children’s education-were strongly related to achievement.

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