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  • Writer's pictureAllan J. Mucerino


Updated: Mar 19, 2018

"One must also be aware of the relative importance of a certain kind of thing to a certain kind of person. Just as a loaf of bread means more to a starving man than to a sated one, so one very fine textbook or, better, one very able teacher, may mean far more to a deprived child than to one who already has several of both."

Below is a letter dated July 2, 1966. It is from U.S. Commissioner of Education Harold Howe II. He sent it to President Johnson, Senate Leader Hubert Humphrey, and House Speaker John McCormack. It provided the most honorable of statesmen an executive summary of the landmark report by sociologist James Coleman and his team of researchers, who were commissioned by the government to study equality of educational opportunity, a mandate of the Civil Right Act of 1964.

The study, titled The Quality of Educational Opportunity, became known as the Coleman Report. It was published 12 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision and confirmed that widespread school segregation in the United States created inequality of educational opportunity. Looking through the lens of Critical Race Theory, Brown challenged the legal system to see life through the eyes of African Americans. Coleman's study provided evidence that such a perspective was necessary if the country was to realize its declaration that all men are created equal and independent and that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable.


The attached report is submitted in response to Section 402 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: SEC. 402. The Commissioner shall conduct a survey and make a report to the President and the Congress, within two years of the enactment of this title concerning the lack of availability of equal educational opportunities for individuals by reason of race, color, religion, or national origin in public educational institutions at all levels in the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia.

The survey requested in this legislation has been conducted. Its major findings will be found in brief form in the summary section of this report. For those desiring more detailed information, a comprehensive presentation is provided in the eight sections of the full report. The full report also describes in detail the survey design and procedures and the types of tests used; it contains copies of the questionnaires administered to superintendents, principals, teachers, and students as part of the study.

In carrying out the survey, attention was paid to six racial and ethnic groups: Negroes, American Indians, Oriental Americans, Puerto Ricans living in the continental United States, Mexican Americans, and whites other than Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans often called "majority" or simply "white." These terms of identification are not used in the anthropological sense, but reflect social categories by which people in the United States identify themselves and are identified by others.

Stated in broadest terms, the survey addressed itself to four major questions.

  1. The first is the extent to which the racial and ethnic groups are segregated from one another in the public schools.

  2. The second question is whether the schools offer equal educational opportunities in terms of a number of other criteria which are regarded as good indicators of educational quality. The attempt to answer this elusive question involves describing many characteristics of the schools. Some of these are tangible, such as numbers of laboratories, textbooks, libraries, and the like. Some have to do with the curriculums offered, academic, commercial, vocational and with academic practices such as the administering of aptitude and achievement tests and "tracking" by presumed ability. Other of these aspects are less tangible. They include the characteristics of the teachers found in the schools such things as their education, amount of teaching experience, salary level, verbal ability, and indications of attitudes. The characteristics of the student bodies are also assessed, so far as is possible within the framework of the study, so that some rough descriptions can be made of the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students, the education of their parents, and the attitudes the pupils have toward themselves and their ability to affect their own destinies, as well as their academic aspirations. Only partial information about equality or inequality of opportunity for education can be obtained by looking at the above characteristics, which might be termed the schools' input. It is necessary to look also at their output the results they produce.

  3. The third major question, then, is addressed to how much the students learn as measured by their performance on standardized achievement tests.

Fourth is the attempt to discern possible relationships between students' achievement, on the one hand, and the kinds of schools they attend on the other.

​My staff members and the consultants who have assisted them on this project do not regard the survey findings as the last word on the lack of equal educational opportunities in the United States. But they do believe that sufficient care has gone into this survey and into the interpretation of its results to make the findings useful to those who are concerned with public education in the United States.

The report does not include any recommendations of what policies or programs should be mounted by Federal, State, or local government agencies in order to improve educational opportunity in the light of the findings. In the months ahead, the U.S. Office of Education will use its own staff and seek the help of advisors to determine how it can use the results of the survey to enhance the educational opportunities of all citizens of the United States. We encourage other public and private groups to do likewise, and we will gladly cooperate with others who are seeking constructive courses of action based on the survey reported here. HAROLD HOWE IIU.S. Commissioner of Education.

Below, starting with section 1.1. is the entire summary report, minus the tables, which were omitted from this excerpted report because an ample description of each table is provided in the text. The summary report is divided into five sections, as follows, and is unedited except for editors notes in [ ]. It is otherwise word-for-word as it appears in the original Coleman Report. Find a copy of the summary report in its original form with the tables here.

1.1 Segregation in the public schools1.2 The schools and their characteristics1.3 Achievement in the public schools1.4 Relation of achievement to school characteristics1.5 Other surveys and studies

1.1 Segregation in the public schools

The great majority of American children attend schools that are largely segregated, that is, where almost all of their fellow students are of the same racial background as they are. Among minority groups, Negroes are by far the most segregated. Taking all groups, however, white children are most segregated. Almost 80 percent of all white pupils in 1st grade and 12th grade attend schools that are from 90 to 100 percent white. And 97percent at grade 1, and 99 percent at grade 12, attend schools that are 50 percent or more white. For Negro pupils, segregation is more nearly complete in the South (as it is for whites also), but it is extensive also in all the other regions where the Negro population is concentrated: the urban North, Midwest, and West.

More than 65 percent of all Negro pupils in the first grade attend schools that are between 90 and 100 percent Negro. And 87 percent at grade 1, and 66 percent at grade 12, attend schools that are 50 percent or more Negro. In the South most students attend schools that are 100 percent white or Negro.

The same pattern of segregation holds, though not quite so strongly, for the teachers of Negro and white students. For the Nation as a whole, the average Negro elementary pupil attends a school in which 65 percent of the teachers are Negro; the average white elementary pupil attends a school in which 97 percent of the teachers are white. White teachers are more predominant at the secondary level, where the corresponding figures are 59 and 97 percent. The racial matching of teachers is most pronounced in the South, where by tradition it has been complete. On a nationwide basis, in cases where the races of pupils and teachers are not matched, the trend is all in one direction: white teachers teach Negro children but Negro teachers seldom teach white children, just as, in the schools, integration consists primarily of a minority of Negro pupils in predominantly white schools but almost never of a few whites in largely Negro schools.

In its desegregation decision of 1954, the Supreme Court held that separate schools for Negro and white children are inherently unequal. This survey finds that, when measured by that yard-stick, American public education remains largely unequal in most regions of the country, including all those where Negroes form any significant proportion of the population. Obviously, however, that is not the only yardstick. The next section of the summary describes other characteristics by means of which equality of educational opportunity may be appraised.

1.2 The schools and their characteristics The school environment of a child consists of many elements, ranging from the desk he sits at to the child who sits next to him, and including the teacher who stands at the front of his class. A statistical survey can give only fragmentary evidence of this environment. Great collections of numbers such as are found in these pages' totals and averages and percentages blur and obscure rather than sharpen and illuminate the range of variation they represent. If one reads, for example, that the average annual income per person in the State of Maryland is $3,000, there is a tendency to picture an average person living in moderate circumstances in a middle-class neighborhood holding an ordinary job. But that number represents at the upper end millionaires, and at the lower end the unemployed, the pensioners, the charwomen [a woman employed to clean houses or offices]. Thus the $3,000 average income should somehow bring to mind the tycoon and the tramp, the showcase and the shack, as well as the average man in the average house.

So, too, in reading these statistics on education, one must picture the child whose school has every conceivable facility that is believed to enhance the educational process, whose teachers may be particularly gifted and well educated, and whose home and total neighborhood are themselves powerful contributors to his education and growth. And one must picture the child in a dismal tenement area who may come hungry to an ancient, dirty building that is badly ventilated, poorly lighted, overcrowded, understaffed, and without sufficient textbooks.

Statistics, too, must deal with one thing at a time, and cumulative effects tend to be lost in them. Having a teacher without a college degree indicates an element of disadvantage, but in the concrete situation, a child may be taught by a teacher who is not only without a degree but who has grown up and received his schooling in the local community, who has never been out of the State, who has a 10th-grade vocabulary, and who shares the local community's attitudes [The geography of labor markets suggests that residential location during childhood instead of current residence may be endogenous to job choice for teachers].

One must also be aware of the relative importance of a certain kind of thing to a certain kind of person. Just as a loaf of bread means more to a starving man than to a sated one, so one very fine textbook or, better, one very able teacher, may mean far more to a deprived child than to one who already has several of both.

Finally, it should be borne in mind that in cases where Negroes in the South receive unequal treatment, the significance in terms of actual numbers of individuals involved is very great, since 54 percent of the Negro population of school-going age, or approximately 3,200,000 children, live in that region.

All of the findings reported in this section of the summary are based on responses to questionnaires filled out by public school teachers, principals, district school superintendents, and pupils. The data were gathered in September and October of 1965 from 4,000 public schools. All teachers, principals, and district superintendents in these schools participated, as did all pupils in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th grades. First-grade pupils in half the schools participated. More than 645,000 pupils in all were involved in the survey. About 30 percent of the schools selected for the survey did not participate; an analysis of the nonparticipating schools indicated that their inclusion would not have significantly altered the results of the survey. The participation rates were: in the metropolitan North and West, 72 percent; metropolitan South and Southwest, 65 percent; nonmetropolitan North and West, 82 percent; nonmetropolitan South and Southwest 61 percent.

All the statistics on the physical facilities of the schools and the academic and extracurricular programs are based on information provided by the teachers and administrators. They also provided information about their own education, experience, and philosophy of education, and described as they see them the socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhoods served by their schools.

The statistics having to do with the pupils' personal socioeconomic backgrounds, level of education of their parents, and certain items in their homes (such as encyclopedias, daily newspapers, etc.) are based on pupil responses to questionnaires. The pupils also answered questions about their academic aspirations and their attitudes toward staying in school. All personal and school data were confidential and for statistical purposes only; the questionnaires were collected without the names or other personal identification of the respondents.

Data for Negro and white children are classified by whether the schools are in metropolitan areas or not. The definition of a metropolitan area is the one commonly used by government agencies: a city of over 50,000 inhabitants including its suburbs. All other schools in small cities, towns, or rural areas are referred to as nonmetropolitan schools.

Finally, for most tables, data for Negro and white children are classified by geographical regions. For metropolitan schools there are usually five regions defined as follows:

  • Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia. (Using 1960 census data, this region contains about 16 percent of all Negro children in the Nation and 20 percent of all white children age 5 to 19.)

  • Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota (containing16 percent of Negro and 19 percent of white children age 5 to19).

  • South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia (containing 27 percent of Negro and 14 percent of white children age 5 to19).

  • Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas (containing 4 percent of Negro and 3 percent of white children age 5 to 19).

  • West: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming (containing 4 percent of Negro and 11 percent of white children age 5 to 19).

The nonmetropolitan schools are usually classified into only three regions:

  • South As above (containing 27 percent of Negro and 14 percent of white children age 5 to 19).

  • Southwest: As above (containing 4 percent of Negro and 2 percent of white children age 5 to19).

  • North and West All States not in the South and Southwest (containing 2 percent of Negro and 17 percent of white children age 5 to 19).

Data for minority groups other than Negroes are presented only on a nationwide basis because there were not sufficient cases to warrant a break-down by regions.

Facilities The two tables which follow [not included in this excerpt] list certain school characteristics and the percentages of pupils of the various races who are enrolled in schools which have these characteristics. Where specified by "average" the figures represent actual numbers rather than percentages. Reading from left to right, percentages or averages are given on a nationwide basis for the six groups; then comparisons between Negro and white access to the various facilities are made on the basis of regional and metropolitan-nonmetropolitan breakdowns.

Thus, in table 1, it will be seen that for the Nation as a whole white children attend elementary schools with a smaller average number of pupils per room (29) than do any of the minorities (which range from 30 to 33). Farther to the right are the regional breakdowns for whites and Negroes, and it can be seen that in some regions the nationwide pattern is reversed: in the non-metropolitan North and West and Southwest for example, there is a smaller average number of pupils per room for Negroes than for whites.

The same item on table 2 shows that secondary school whites have a smaller average number of pupils per room than minorities, except Indians. Looking at the regional breakdown, however, one finds much more striking differences than the national average would suggest: In the metropolitan Midwest, for example, the average Negro has 54 pupils per room probably reflecting considerable frequency of double sessions compared with 33 per room for whites. Nationally, at the high school level the average white has 1 teacher for every 22 students and the average Negro has 1 for every 26 students.

It is thus apparent that the tables must be studied carefully, with special attention paid to the regional breakdowns, which often provide more meaningful information than do the nationwide averages. Such careful study will reveal that there is not a wholly consistent pattern that is, minorities are not at a disadvantage in every item listed but that there are nevertheless some definite and systematic directions of differences. Nationally, Negro pupils have fewer of some of the facilities that seem most related to academic achievement: They have less access to physics, chemistry, and language laboratories; there are fewer books per pupil in their libraries; their textbooks are less often in sufficient supply. To the extent that physical facilities are important to learning, such items appear to be more relevant than some others, such as cafeterias, in which minority groups are at an advantage.

Usually greater than the majority-minority differences, however, are the regional differences. Table 2, for example, shows that 95 percent of Negro and 80 percent of white high school students in the metropolitan Far West attend schools with language laboratories, compared with 48 and 72 percent, respectively, in the metropolitan South, in spite of the fact that a higher percentage of Southern schools are less than 20 years old.

Finally, it must always be remembered that these statistics reveal only majority-minority average differences and regional average differences; they do not show the extreme differences that would be found by comparing one school with another.

Programs Tables 3 and 4 summarize some of the survey findings about the school curriculum, administration, and extracurricular activities. The tables are organized in the same way as tables 1 and 2 and should be studied in the same way, again with particular attention to regional differences.

The pattern that emerges from study of these tables is similar to that from tables 1 and 2. Just as minority groups tend to have less access to physical facilities that seem to be related to academic achievement, so too they have less access to curricular and extracurricular programs that would seem to have such a relationship.

Secondary school Negro students are less likely to attend schools that are regionally accredited; this is particularly pronounced in the South. Negro and Puerto Rican pupils have less access to college preparatory curriculums and to accelerated curriculums; Puerto Ricans have less access to vocational curriculums as well. Less intelligence testing is done in the schools attended by Negroes and Puerto Ricans. Finally, white students in general have more access to a more fully developed program of extracurricular activities, in particular those which might be related to academic matters (debate teams, for example, and student newspapers).

Again, regional differences are striking. For example, 100 percent of Negro high school students and 97 percent of whites in the metropolitan Far West attend schools having a remedial reading teacher (this does not mean, of course, that every student uses the services of that teacher, but simply that he has access to them) compared with 46 percent and 65 percent, respectively, in the metropolitan South and 4 percent and 9 percent in the metropolitan Southwest.

Principals and teachers The following tables (5, 6a, and 6b) list some characteristics of principals and teachers. On table 5, figures given for the whole Nation of all minorities, and then by region for Negro and white, refer to the percentages of students who attend schools having principals with the listed characteristics. Thus, line one shows that 1 percent of white elementary pupils attend a school with a Negro principal, and that 56 percent of Negro children attend a school with a Negro principal.

Tables 6a and 6b (referring to teachers' characteristics) must be read differently. The figures refer to the percentage of teachers having a specified characteristic in the schools attended by the "average" pupil of the various groups. Thus, line one on table 6a: the average white student goes to an elementary school where 40 percent of the teachers spent most of their lives in the same city, town, or county; the average Negro pupil goes to a school where 53 percent of the teachers have lived in the same locality most of their lives.

Both tables list other characteristics which offer rough indications of teacher quality, including the types of colleges attended, years of teaching experience, salary, educational level of mother, and a score on a 30-word vocabulary test. The average Negro pupil attends a school where a greater percentage of the teachers appears to be somewhat less able, as measured by these indicators, than those in the schools attended by the average white student.

Other items on these tables reveal certain teacher attitudes. Thus, the average white pupil attends a school where 51 percent of the white teachers would not choose to move to another school, whereas the average Negro attends a school where 46 percent would not choose to move.

Tables 7 and 8 present data about certain characteristics of the student bodies attending various schools. These: tables must be read the same as those immediately preceding. Looking at the sixth item on table 7, one should read: the average white high school student attends a school in which 82 percent of his classmates report that there are encyclopedias in their homes. This does not mean that 82 percent of all white pupils have encyclopedias at home, although obviously that would be approximately true. In short, these tables attempt to describe the characteristics, of the student bodies with which the "average" white or minority student goes to school.

Clear differences are found on these items. The average Negro has fewer classmates whose mothers graduated from high school; his classmates more frequently are members of large rather than small families; they are less often enrolled in a college preparatory curriculum; they have taken a smaller number of courses in English, mathematics, foreign language, and science.

On most items, the other minority groups fall between Negroes and whites, but closer to whites, in the extent to which each characteristic is typical of their classmates. Again, there are substantial variations in the magnitude of the differences, with the difference usually being greater in the Southern States.

1.3 Achievement in the public schools The schools bear many responsibilities. Among the most important is the teaching of certain intellectual skills such as reading, writing, calculating, and problem solving. One way of assessing the educational opportunity offered by the school, is to measure how well they perform this task. Standard achievement tests are available to measure these skills, and several such tests were administered in this survey to pupils at grades 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12. These tests do not measure intelligence, nor attitudes, nor qualities of character.

Furthermore, they are not, nor are they intended to be, "culture-free." Quite the reverse: they are culture-bound. What they measure are the skills which are among the most important in our society for getting a good job and moving up to a better one, and for full participation in an increasingly technical world. Consequently, a pupil's test results at the end of public school provide a good measure of the range of opportunities open to him as he finishes school a wide range of choice of jobs or colleges if these skills are very high; a very narrow range that includes only the most menial jobs if these skills are very low.

Table 9 gives an overall illustration of the test results for the various groups by tabulating nationwide median scores (the score which divides the group in half) for 1st grade and 12th grade pupils on the tests used in those grades. For example, half of the white 12th grade pupils had scores above 52 on the nonverbal test and half had scores below 52 (scores on each test at each grade level were standardized so that the average over the national sample equaled 50 and the standard deviation equaled 10. This means that for all pupils in the Nation, about 16 percent would score below 40 and about 16 percent above 60).

With some exceptions, notably Oriental Americans, the average minority pupil scores distinctly lower on these tests at every level than the average white pupil. The minority pupils' scores are as much as one standard deviation below the majority pupils' scores in the 1st grade. At the 12th grade, results or tests in the same verbal and nonverbal skills show that, in every case, the minority scores are farther below the majority than are the 1st-graders. For some groups, the relative decline is negligible; for others, it is large. Furthermore, a constant difference in standard deviations over the various grades represents an increasing difference in grade level gap. For example, Negroes in the metropolitan Northeast are about 1.1 standard deviations below whites in the same region at grades 6, 9, and 12. But at grade 6 this represents 1.6 years behind; at grade 9, 2.4 years; and at grade 12, 3.3 years. Thus, by this measure, the deficiency in achievement is progressively greater for the minority pupils at progressively higher grade levels.

For most minority groups, then, and most particularly the Negro. Schools provide little opportunity for them to overcome this initial deficiency; in fact they fall farther behind the white majority in the development of several skills which are critical to making a living and participating fully in modern society. Whatever may be the combination of non-school factors poverty, community attitudes, low educational level of parents-which put minority children at a disadvantage in verbal and nonverbal skills when they enter the first grade, the fact is the schools have not overcome it.

Some points should be borne in mind in reading the table. First, the differences shown should not obscure the fact that some minority children perform better than many white children. A difference of one standard deviation in median scores means that about 84 percent of the children in the lower group are below the median of the majority students but 50 percent of the white children are themselves below that median as well. A second point of qualification concerns regional differences. By grade 12, both white and Negro students in the South score below their counter-parts white and Negro in the North. In addition, Southern Negroes score farther below Southern whites than Northern Negroes score below Northern whites. The consequences of this pattern can be illustrated by the fact that the 12th grade Negro in the nonmetropolitan South is 0.8 standard deviation below, or, in terms of years, 1.9 years behind the Negro in the metropolitan Northeast, though at grade 1 there is no such regional difference.

Finally, the test scores at grade 12 obviously do not take account of those pupils who have left school before reaching the senior year. In the metropolitan North and West, 20 percent of the Negroes of ages 16 and 17 are not enrolled in school a higher dropout percentage than in either the metropolitan or nonmetropolitan South. If it is the case that some or many of the Northern dropouts performed poorly when they were in school, the Negro achievement in the North may be artificially elevated because some of those who achieved more poorly have left school.

1.4 Relation of achievement to school characteristics If 100 students within a school take a certain test, there is likely to be great variation in their scores. One student may score 97 percent, another 13; several may score 78 percent. This represents variability in achievement within the particular school. It is possible, however, to compute the average of the scores made by the students within that school and to compare it with the average score, or achievement, of pupils within another school, or many other schools.

These comparisons then represent variations between schools. When one sees that the average score on a verbal achievement test in school X is 55 and in school Y is 72, the natural question to ask is: What accounts for the difference?

There are many factors that may be associated with the difference. This analysis concentrates on one cluster of those factors. It attempts to describe what relationship the school's characteristics themselves (libraries, for example, and teachers and laboratories, and soon) seem to have to the achievement of majority and minority groups (separately for each group on a nationwide basis, and also for Negro and white pupils in the North and South). The first finding is that the schools are remarkably similar in the way they relate to the achievement of their pupils when the socioeconomic background of the students is taken into account. It is known that socioeconomic factors bear a strong relation to academic achievement. When these factors are statistically controlled, however, it appears that differences between schools account for only a small fraction of differences in pupil achievement.

The schools do differ, however, in their relation to the various racial and ethnic groups. The average white student's achievement seems to be less affected by the strength or weakness of his school's facilities, curriculums, and teachers than is the average minority pupil's. To put it another way, the achievement of minority pupils depends more on the schools they attend than does the achievement of majority pupils. Thus, 20 percent of the achievement of Negroes in the South is associated with the particular schools they go to, whereas only 10 percent of the achievement of whites in the South is. Except for Oriental Americans, this general result is found for all minorities.

The inference might then be made that improving the school of a minority pupil may increase his achievement more than would improving the school of a white child increase his. Similarly, the average minority pupil's achievement may suffer more in a school of low quality than might the average white pupil's. In short, whites, and to a lesser extent Oriental Americans, are less affected one way or the other by the quality of their schools than are minority pupils. This indicates that it is for the most disadvantaged children that improvements in school quality will make the most difference in achievement. All of these results suggest the next question: What are the school characteristics that are most related to achievement? In other words,what factors in the school seem to be most important in affecting achievement?

It appears that variations in the facilities and curriculums of the schools account for relatively little variation in pupil achievement in so far as this is measured by standard tests. Again, it is for majority whites that the variations make the least difference; for minorities, they make somewhat more difference. Among the facilities that show some relationship to achievement are several for which minority pupils' schools are less well equipped relative to whites. For example, the existence of science laboratories showed a small but consistent relationship to achievement, and table 2 shows that minorities, especially Negroes, are in schools with fewer of these laboratories.

The quality of teachers shows a stronger relationship to pupil achievement. Furthermore, it is progressively greater at higher grades, indicating a cumulative impact of the qualities of teachers in a school on the pupil's achievements. Again, teacher quality seems more important to minority achievement than to that of the majority.

It should be noted that many characteristics of teachers were not measured in this survey; therefore, the results are not at all conclusive regarding the specific characteristics of teachers that are most important. Among those measured in the survey, however, those that bear the highest relationship to pupil achievement are first, the teacher's score on the verbal skills test, and then his educational background both his own level of education and that of his parents. On both of these measures, the level of teachers of minority students, especially Negroes, is lower.

Finally, it appears that a pupil's achievement is strongly related to the educational backgrounds and aspirations of the other students in the school. Only crude measures of these variables were used (principally the proportion of pupils with encyclopedias in the home and the proportion planning to go to college). Analysis indicates, however, that children from a given family background, when put in schools of different social composition, will achieve at quite different levels. This effect is again less for white pupils than for any minority group other than Orientals. Thus, if a white pupil from a home that is strongly and effectively supportive of education is put in a school where most pupils do not come from such homes, his achievement will be little different than if he were in a school composed of others like himself. But if a minority pupil from a home without much educational strength is put with schoolmates with strong educational backgrounds, his achievement is likely to increase.

This general result, taken together with the earlier examinations of school differences, has important implications for equality of educational opportunity. For the earlier tables show that the principal way in which the school environments of Negroes and whites differ is in the composition of their student bodies, and it turns out that the composition of the student bodies has a strong relationship to the achievement of Negro and other minority pupils. This analysis has concentrated on the educational opportunities offered by the schools in terms of their student body composition, facilities, curriculums, and teachers. This emphasis, while entirely appropriate as a response to the legislation calling for the survey, nevertheless neglects important factors in the variability between individual pupils within the same school; this variability is roughly four times as large as the variability between schools. For example, a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the "school" factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. Data on items related to this attitude are shown in table 10 along with data on other attitudes and aspirations. The responses of pupils to questions in the survey show that minority pupils, except for Orientals, have far less conviction than whites that they can affect their own environments and futures. When they do, however, their achievement is higher than that of whites who lack that conviction.

Furthermore, while this characteristic shows little relationship to most school factors, it is related, for Negroes, to the proportion of whites in the schools. Those Negroes in schools with a higher proportion of whites have a greater sense of control. This finding suggests that the direction such an attitude takes may be associated with the pupil's school experience as well as his experience in the larger community.

1.5 Other surveys and studies A number of studies were carried out by the Office of Education in addition to the major survey of public elementary and secondary schools. Some of these were quite extensive investigations with book length final reports; certain of them will be published in full as appendixes to the main report. There will be other appendixes containing more detailed analyses of the public school data than could be included in the main report. Still other appendixes will contain detailed tabulation of the data gathered in the survey so that research workers will have easy access to them.

Opportunity in institutions of higher education The largely segregated system of higher education in the South has made comparison between colleges attended mainly by Negro students and mainly by majority students easy in that region. Elsewhere it has not been possible in the past to make comparison between educational opportunities because of the general policy in Federal and State agencies of not collecting data on race. In the fall of 1965, however, the Office of Education reversed this policy as a result of the interest of many agencies and organizations in the progress of minority pupils in gaining access to higher education. The racial composition of freshmen of all degree-seeking students was obtained from nearly all of the colleges and universities in the nation.

These racial compositions have been cross-tabulated against a variety of characteristics of the institutions in the report itself. Here we present only three such cross-tabulations which relate particularly to the overall quality of the institutions. First, there are presented three tables (11, 12, 13), showing the distribution of Negro students in number and by percentages over eight regions of the Nation. Over half of all Negro college students attend the largely segregated institutions in the South and Southwest. About 4.6 percent of all college students are Negro (11.5 percent of college-age persons are Negro).

Following the three distribution tables are three cross-tabulations showing, respectively: student-faculty ratio, percent of faculty with earned doctorate, and average faculty salary. Looking at table 14, the upper column headings classify the institution by percent of Negro students in the total enrollment; for each of these the next column headings show the number of such institutions in the category at the left of the table and the average number of students per faculty member; the average is weighted (abbreviated in col. head "Wtd. avg.") by the number of students in an institution, so that large colleges have large influence on the average. For example, the numbers 8 and 22 in the top line of the 0% column mean that there were 8 institutions in the North Atlantic region with no Negro students, and that there were on the average 22 students per faculty member in these 8 institutions. The bottom line shows that whereas the bulk of the institutions (1,104 in the 0-2%column) have on the average 20 students per faculty member, those with predominantly Negro enrollment (the 96 in the 50-100% column) have on the average 16 students per faculty member. Table 15 provides the same categories of information on the percent of faculty with Ph. D. degree. Negro students are proportionally in colleges with lower proportions of Ph. D. faculty (bottom line of table 15); this is generally but not always true in the various regions. Table 16 shows the average annual salary in dollars for faculty members in the same format as before. Negro students are in colleges with substantially lower faculty salaries. The institutions in the South and Southwest generally pay lower salaries than those in other regions, and the colleges serving primarily the Negro students are at the bottom of this low scale.

Other findings of the study are that (1) In every region Negro students are more likely to enter the State college system than the State university system, and further they are a smaller proportion of the student body of universities than any other category of public institutions of higher education, (2) Negro students are more frequently found in institutions which have a high dropout rate, (3) they attend mainly institutions with low tuition cost, (4) they tend to major in engineering, agriculture, education, social work, social science, and nursing.

Future teachers Since a number of investigations of teacher qualification in the past few years have indicatedthat teachers of Negro children are less qualified than those who teach primarily majority children, this survey investigated whether there might become promise that the situation may be changed by college students now preparing to become teachers. To this end, questionnaire and achievement test data were secured from about 17,000 college freshmen and 5,500 college seniors in 32 teacher training colleges in 18 States that in 1960 included over 90 percent of the Nation's Negro population. Some of the findings of this survey are:

(1) At both the freshman and senior levels, future teachers are very similar to students in their colleges who are following other career lines (It should be remembered that these comparisons are limited to students in colleges that have a primary mission in the training of teachers, and is not, of course, a random sample of all colleges); (2) Majority students being trained at the college level to enter teaching have a stronger preparation for college than have Negro students; that is, they had more courses in foreign languages, English, and mathematics, made better grades in high school, and more often were in the highest track in English; (3) Data from the senior students suggest that colleges do not narrow the gap in academic training between Negro and majority pupils; indeed, there is some evidence that the college curriculum increases this difference, at least in the South; (4) Substantial test score differences exist between Negro and white future teachers at both freshman and senior levels, with approximately 15 percent of Negroes exceeding the average score of majority students in the same region (This figure varies considerably depending on the test, but in no case do as many as 25 percent of Negroes exceed the majority average); (5) The test data indicate that the gap in test results widens in the South between the freshman and senior years. The significance of this finding lies in the fact that most Negro teachers are trained in the Southern States; (6) The preferences of future teachers for certain kinds of schools and certain kinds of pupils raise the question of the match between the expectations of teacher recruits and the characteristics of the employment opportunities.

The preferences of future teachers were also studied. Summarized in terms of market conditions, it seems apparent that far too many future teachers prefer to teach in an academic high school; that there is a far greater proportion of children of blue-collar workers than of teachers being produced who prefer to teach them; that there is a very substantial number of white teachers-in-training, even in the South, who prefer to teach in racially mixed schools; that very few future teachers of either race wish to teach in predominantly minority schools; and finally, that high-ability pupils are much more popular with future teachers than low-ability ones. The preferences of Negro future teachers are more compatible with the distribution of needs in the market than are those of the majority; too few of the latter, relative to the clientele requiring service, prefer blue-collar or low-ability children or prefer to teach in racially heterogeneous schools, or in special curriculum, vocational, or commercial schools. These data indicate that under the present organization of schools, relatively few of the best prepared future teachers will find their way into classrooms where they can offset some of the environmental disadvantage suffered by minority children.

School enrollment and dropouts Another extensive study explored enrollment rates of children of various ages, races, and socio-economic categories using 1960 census data. The study included also an investigation of school dropouts using the October 1965 Current Population Survey of the Bureau of the Census. This survey uses a carefully selected sample of 35,000 households. It was a large enough sample to justify reliable nationwide estimates for the Negro minority but not for other minorities.

In this section the word "white" includes the Mexican-American and Puerto Rican minorities. According to the estimates of the Current Population Survey, approximately 6,960,000 persons of ages 16 and 17 were living in the United States in October 1965. Of this number 300,000 (5 percent) were enrolled in college, and therefore, were not considered by this Census Bureau study. Of the remaining, approximately 10 percent, or 681,000 youth of 16 and 17, had left school prior to completion of high school.

The bottom line of table 17 shows that about 17 percent of Negro adolescents (ages 16 and 17) have dropped out of school whereas the corresponding number for white adolescents is 9 percent. The following table 18 shows that most of this difference comes from differences outside the South; in the South the white and Negro non-enrollment rates are much the same.

Table 19 is directed to the question of whether the dropout rate is different for different socioeconomic levels. The data suggest that it is, for whereas the non-enrollment rate was 3 percent for those 16- and 17-year-olds from white-collar families, it was more than four times as large (13 percent) in the case of those from other than white-collar families (where the head of household was in a blue-collar or farm occupation, unemployed, or not in the labor force at all). Furthermore, this difference in non-enrollment by parental occupation existed for both male and female, Negro and white adolescents.

The racial differences in the dropout rate are thus sharply reduced when socioeconomic factors are taken into account. Then the difference of 8 percentage points between all Negro and white adolescent dropouts becomes 1 percent for those in white-collar families, and 4 percent for those in other than white-collar families.

Table 20 breaks the data down by metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas as well as by South and non-South. The largest differences between Negro and white dropout rates are seen in the urban North and West; in the non-urban North and West there were too few Negro households in the sample to provide a reliable estimate. In the South there is the unexpected result that in the urban areas, white girls drop out at a greater rate than Negro girls, and in the non-urban area white boys drop out at a substantially greater rate than Negro boys.

Relation of integration to achievement An education in integrated schools can be expected to have major effects on attitudes toward members of other racial groups. At its best, it can develop attitudes appropriate to the integrated society these students will live in; at its worst, it can create hostile camps of Negroes and whites in the same school. Thus, there is more to "school integration" than merely putting Negroes and whites in the same building, and there may be more important consequences of integration than its effect on achievement.

Yet the analysis of school factors described earlier suggests that in the long run, integration should be expected to have a positive effect on Negro achievement as well. An analysis was carried out to seek such effects on achievement which might appear in the short run. This analysis of the test performance of Negro children in integrated schools indicates positive effects of integration, though rather small ones. Results for grades 6, 9, and 12 are given in table 21 for Negro pupils classified by the proportion of their classmates the previous year who were white. Comparing the averages in each row, in every case but one the highest average score is recorded for the Negro pupils where more than half of their classmates were white. But in reading the rows from left to right, the increase is small and often those Negro pupils in classes with only a few whites score lower than those in totally segregated classes.

Table 22 was constructed to observe whether there is any tendency for Negro pupils who have spent more years in integrated schools to exhibit higher average achievement. Those pupils who first entered integrated schools in the early grades record consistently higher scores than the other groups, although the differences are again small.

No account is taken in these tabulations of the fact that the various groups of pupils may have come from different backgrounds. When such account is taken by simple cross-tabulations on indicators of socioeconomic status, the performance in integrated schools and in schools integrated longer remains higher. Thus, although the differences are small, and although the degree of integration within the school is not known, there is evidence, even in the short run, an effect of school integration on the reading and mathematics achievement of Negro pupils.

Tabulations of this kind are, of course, the simplest possible devices for seeking such effects. It is possible that more elaborate analyses looking more carefully at the special characteristics of the Negro pupils, and at different degrees of integration within schools that have similar racial composition, may reveal a more definite effect. Such analyses are among those that will be presented in subsequent reports.

Case studies of school integration As part of the survey, two sets of case studies of school integration were commissioned. These case studies examine the progress of integration in individual cities and towns, and illustrate problems that have arisen not only in these communities but in many others as well. The complete case studies are maintained on file at the Office of Education. In addition publication of all or some of the reports by their authors will be carried out through commercial publishers.

In the main report, excerpts from these case studies are presented to illustrate certain recurrent problems. A paragraph which introduces each of these excerpts is given below, showing the kinds of problems covered.

Lack of racial information--In certain communities, the lack of information as to the number of children of minority groups and of minority group teachers, their location and mobility, has made assessment of the equality of educational opportunity difficult. In one city, for example, after a free transfer plan was initiated, no records as to race of students were kept, thereby making any evaluation of the procedure subjective only. Superintendents, principals, and school boards sometimes respond by declaring racial records themselves to be a mark of discrimination.

A narrative of "the racial headcount problem" and the response to the search for a solution is given in the excerpt from the report on San Francisco.

Performance of minority group children--One of the real handicaps to an effective assessment of equality of education for children of minority groups is the fact that few communities have given systematic testing and fewer still have evaluated the academic performance and attitudes of these children toward education. Yet quality of education is to be estimated as much by its consequences as by the records of the age of buildings and data on faculty-student ratio. A guide to cities now planning such assessment is a pupil profile conducted in Evanston, Ill.

In 1964, the Director of Research and Testing for District 65 gathered and analyzed data on "ability" and "achievement" for 136 Negro children who had been in continuous attendance at either Central, Dewey, Foster, or Noyes school through the primary years. A group of 132 white children in continuous attendance for the same period at two white primary schools was compared. Seven different measures from kindergarten through seventh grade were correlated and combined by reducing all measures to stanines. The excerpt from the Evanston report examines in detail the performance of these two groups of children. Compliance in a small community--Many large metropolitan areas North and South are moving toward resegregation despite attempts by school boards and city administrations to reverse the trend. Racial housing concentration in large cities has reinforced neighborhood school patterns of racial isolation while, at the same time, many white families have moved to the suburbs and other families have taken their children out of the public school system, enrolling them instead in private and parochial schools. Small towns and medium-sized areas, North and South, on the other hand, are to some extent desegregating their schools. In the Deep South, where there has been total school segregation for generations, there are signs of compliance within a number of school systems. The emphasis on open enrollment and freedom-of-choice plans, however, has tended to lead to token enrollment of Negroes in previously white schools. In school systems integrated at some grade levels but not at others, the choice of high school grades rather than elementary grades has tended further to cut down on the number of Negroes choosing to transfer because of the reluctance to take extra risks close to graduation.

The move toward compliance is described in the excerpt from the report of one small Mississippi town.

A voluntary transfer plan for racial balance in elementary schools--The public schools are more rigidly segregated at the elementary level than in the higher grades. In the large cities, elementary schools have customarily made assignments in terms of neighborhood boundaries. Housing segregation has, therefore, tended to build a segregated elementary school system in most cities in the North and, increasingly, in the South as well, where de facto segregation is replacing de jure segregation.

Various communities have been struggling to find ways to achieve greater racial balance while retaining the neighborhood school. Bussing, pairing, redistricting, consolidating, and many other strategies have been tried. Many have failed; others have achieved at least partial success. In New Haven, Conn., considerable vigor has been applied to the problem: Whereas pairing was tried at the junior high level introducing compulsory integration, a voluntary transfer plan was implemented at the elementary level. Relief of overcrowding was given as the central intent of the transfer plan, but greater racial balance was achieved since it was the Negro schools that were overcrowded. With the provision of new school buildings, however, this indirect stimulus to desegregation will not be present. In New Haven the transfer plan was more effective than in many other communities because of commitment of school leadership, active solicitation of transfers by door-to-door visits, provision of transportation for those transferring, teacher cooperation, heterogeneous grouping in the classrooms, and other factors.

The original plan provided that a student could apply to any one of a cluster of several elementary schools within a designated "cluster district," and the application would be approved on the basis of availability of space, effect on racial balance and certain unspecified educational factors; that students "presently enrolled" at a particular school would be given priority; and that transportation would be provided where necessary. Desegregation by redistricting at the junior high school level--The junior high schools, customarily grades seven to nine, have been the focus of considerable effort and tension in desegregation plans in many communities. With most areas clinging to the neighborhood school at the elementary level with resultant patterns of racial concentration, and with high schools already more integrated because of their lesser reliance upon neighborhood boundaries and their prior consolidation to achieve maximum resources, junior high schools have been a natural place to start desegregation plans. Like the elementary schools, they have in the past been assigned students on the basis of geography; but on the other hand, they tend to represent some degree of consolidation in that children from several elementary schools feed one junior high school. Further, parental pressures have been less severe for the maintenance of rigid neighborhood boundaries than at the elementary level. Pairing of two junior high schools to achieve greater racial balance has been tried in a number of communities. Redistricting or redrawing the boundaries of areas that feed the schools has been tried in other areas. In Berkeley, Calif., after considerable community tension and struggle, a plan was put into effect that desegregated all three junior high schools (one had been desegregated previously). All the ninth graders were sent to a single school, previously Negro, and the seventh and eighth graders were assigned to the other two schools. The new ninth grade school was given a new name to signal its new identity in the eyes of the community. The excerpt describes the period following initiation of this plan and the differential success of integration in the different schools.

A plan for racial balance at the high school level--In a number of communities, students are assigned to high schools on the basis of area of residence and hence racial imbalance is continued. In Pasadena, Calif., a plan was initiated to redress this imbalance by opening places in the schools to allow the transfer of Negroes to the predominantly white high school. A measure of success was achieved but only after much resistance. Of interest particularly in this situation was the legal opinion that attempts to achieve racial balance were violations of the Constitution and that race could not be considered as a factor in school districting. Apparently previous racial concentration, aided by districting, had not been so regarded, yet attempts at desegregation were. The school board found its task made more difficult by such legal maneuvering. The excerpt describes the deliberations and controversy in the school board, and the impact of the court decision, which finally upheld the policy of transfers to achieve racial balance.

Segregation at a vocational school--The Washburne Trade School in Chicago seems to be effectively segregated by virtue of the practices and customs of the trade unions, whose apprenticeship programs have been characterized by racial isolation. Washburne has presented the same picture since its founding in 1919 after the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act by Congress. That act provides for the creation of apprenticeship programs in which skilled workers are trained both in school and on the job. For example, a young man who wishes to be certified as a plumber may work at his job 4 days a week and attend a formal training program at least 1 day or more or evenings a week.

The apprenticeship programs are heavily financed and regulated by the Federal Government through the Department of Labor and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In recent years the regulations have focused increasingly upon racial segregation within the union structures. One of the causes for this concern has been the rather discouraging racial pattern in the apprenticeship schools. Washburne seems to preserve that pattern. In 1960 an informal estimate showed that fewer than 1 percent of the 2,700 Washburne students were Negroes. Half of the apprenticeship programs conducted at the school had no Negroes whatsoever. This excerpt describes the state of racial segregation at Washburne and at Chicago's vocational schools.

Relation of a university to school desegregation--Education is a continuum from kindergarten through college and increasingly public school desegregation plans are having an impact on colleges in the same area, particularly those colleges which are city or state supported. Free tuition, as in the New York City colleges, has no meaning for members of minority groups who have dropped out of school in high school and little meaning for those whose level of achievement is too low to permit work at the college level. A number of colleges, through summer tutorials and selective admittance of students whose grades would otherwise exclude them, are trying to redress this indirect form of racial imbalance. In Newark, Del., the pressures for desegregation in the public schools have had an effect on the nearby University of Delaware indicated by the following excerpt: There are striking parallels in reactions to integration among Newark's civic agencies, school district, and the University of Delaware. Because the university plays such a large part in Newark's affairs, this excerpt examines its problems with school integration. This section concludes the summary report on the survey; the summary report is the first section of the full report, and it is also printed separately for those who desire only an overview of the main findings of the survey. The full report contains a great deal of detailed data from which' a small amount has been selected for this summary. It also contains a full description of the statistical analysis which explored the relationships between educational achievement and school characteristics. *************************************************************************************** While the above 8,253-word summary of the Coleman Report provided a grim reality it also led to reflection and policy shifts in the name of equality. What resonates with me is Coleman's conclusion that relatively few of the best prepared future teachers will find their way into classrooms where they can offset some of the environmental disadvantage suffered by minority children. Inspired by the fact that academic outcomes for low-income kids had not changed in a century, a senior at Princeton, Wendy Kopp, began to recruit high-performing college grads in 1989 to teach in high-need urban and rural schools in recognition of the geography of labor markets. An example of innovation in education, Kopp’s Teach for America program has placed teachers prepared at the finest universities into low-income communities where on average less than one of every ten kids will graduate from college.

In the addition to the geography of labor markets, seniority, tenure, contract language related to assignments, and layoff and dismissal laws also impact the ability of schools to match the best teachers with the neediest learners. When Students Matter, a small nonprofit organization that sponsored Vergara v. California, argued that tenure and layoff laws harmed poor and minority students, the nine student plaintiffs in the case won a decision when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that evidence of "the effect of grossly ineffective teachers on students is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience.”

Judge Treu concluded that the law providing teachers tenure, laying off teachers based on seniority, and making it difficult and expensive to fire teachers combined to create a small set of terrible teachers who were disproportionately assigned to schools with the state’s highest-needs students. But when a three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, they didn’t dispute the worrisome impact on students of lowest-performing teachers, they disagreed that the statutes were to blame.

Many education leaders agree. The statutes aren't to blame. It's the institutional barriers and the so-called leaders who hide behind them that are to blame. As Linda Darling-Hammond has argued, education leaders are constrained by the availability of knowledgeable, skillful teachers and school conditions that define how that knowledge can be used. Districts that successfully serve students of all races and socioeconomic levels have figured out ways to drill down the focus of their schools on learning and assemble teachers and leaders who are committed to that end, unfettered by the fear of failure in pursuit of invention and innovation.

Larry Cuban has written extensively on school reform. His experiences have led him to the conclusion that classrooms, schools, and districts are open systems with permeable boundaries that can be easily crossed by outside groups such as single issue advocates, state officials, national lobbies, etc. Given that condition, he challenges education leaders to give up their vision of command-and-control organizations and wrap their minds around open, loosely-coupled places established to help students.

It is difficult to argue against the impact of charter schools when it comes to places established to help students. In fact, as a school reform effort charter schools have no equals. Education leaders that I have an influence over through the few platforms I have at my disposal, know that I believe strongly that making a difference isn't easy and that the road is fraught with critics and saboteurs whose personal agendas trump the interests of kids. But as a superintendent I am driven by a passion instilled in me by my late uncle, Dr. Francis "Lauf" Laufenberg, the former Long Beach Unified School District superintendent who retired as the President of the California State Board of Education, who encouraged me (and aspiring superintendents in general) to wait and make the superintendency one's last and final job in K-12 (as it was his) so that adult agendas didn't get in the way of doing what a true education leader knows is in the best interest of kids.

If we are to learn anything from the Coleman Report it should be that the more things change in education the more they remain the same. Why? Because of the resiliency of the institution of education which has remained largely unchanged for at least the last 50 years. But in some places it has changed. It's time to study those places and replicate them.

1 commentaire

Ernesto Villarreal
Ernesto Villarreal
29 juin 2022

You bring into focus the importance of doing this work, and doing it well. Thank you Dr. Mucerino.

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