Fifty years ago, the U.S. Office of Education released James S. Coleman’s “Equality of Educational Opportunity” report, an immense analysis of data from around 600,000 public school students and tens of thousands of teachers. The Coleman Report examined the availability of educational opportunities in public schools as well as the factors associated with student educational outcomes. In our Spring 2016 issue, Education Next revisits and updates the many findings in the Coleman Report and in Coleman’s other seminal research.
Although scholars agree that some family characteristics, such as parents’ education and family income, correlate to student success and educational attainment, recent studies also confirm an oft-overlooked finding from the Coleman Report—in schools, teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement.
The Coleman Report connected education research to education policy decisions, an accomplishment that has been elusive in the years since. Yet despite Coleman’s groundbreaking work, the black-white achievement gap appears nearly as large today as it was fifty years ago. Although some have argued that a renewed emphasis on desegregation could help narrow the gap, a new EdNext analysis shows that over this same time period, schools have continued to become more, not less, diverse.
Instead, many experts recommend pursuing Coleman’s ideas about expanding school choice and innovating to improve student engagement. Today’s research shows that, especially for urban minority students, charter schools and voucher programs improve high school graduation rates and college enrollment. And building on Coleman’s theories, educators and entrepreneurs are creating new academic competitions to motivate students to achieve.
See the full list of contents below.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Life and Times of James S. Coleman
Hero and villain of school policy research
by Sally B. Kilgore
What Matters for Student Achievement
Updating Coleman on the influence of families and schools
by Eric A. Hanushek
Desegregation since the Coleman Report
Racial composition of schools and student learning
by Steven Rivkin
Game Plan for Learning
Building on Coleman’s early theories, new academic competitions motivate students to achieve
by Greg Toppo
Schools of Choice
Expanding opportunity for urban minority students
by Martin R. West
In Schools, Teacher Quality Matters Most
Today’s research reinforces Coleman’s findings
by Dan Goldhaber
The Immensity of the Coleman Data Project
Gaining clarity on the report’s flaws will improve future research
by Caroline M. Hoxby
How Family Background Influences Student Achievement
Can schools narrow the gap?
by Anna J. Egalite
Connecting to Practice
How we can put education research to work
by Thomas J. Kane
FROM THE EDITORS
James S. Coleman: Education’s North Star
by Paul E. Peterson
by Joshua Dunn
Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students
As reviewed by Mark Bauerlein
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?
As reviewed by David Steiner
The Ideal Blended-Learning Combination
by Paul E. Peterson and Michael B. Horn
Teacher, Mentor, Colleague
by Tom Hoffer