LMU Study Finds Inner City Catholic School Students Outperforming Public School Peers

New research from the Loyola Marymount University School of Education shows that inner city Los Angeles students attending Catholic schools graduate high school and go on to college at much higher rates than their peers in comparable public schools.

The study, conducted by SOE's Center for Catholic Education, followed a group of students who received tuition from the Catholic Education Foundation between 2003 and 2008 to attend Los Angeles Archdiocesan schools. Researchers found that 98.2 percent of those students graduated high school and an almost equal percentage, 97.6, continued on to some type of post-secondary education. Currently, the Los Angeles Unified School District reports its graduation rate is as low as 55 percent and does not report college enrollment rates.

The study also examined how Catholic schools prepare students for college. Researchers found that the schools offered the courses required for admission to University of California and California State University schools and encouraged all students to take them. While 90 percent of the Catholic school students completed the courses, only 31 percent of public school students did. Catholic schools also motivated students to take the SAT college entrance examination and, as a result, a greater percentage took the exam and got higher scores than students at comparable public schools.

"This study demonstrates the success Catholic schools have educating some of the most economically disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles," said Shane P. Martin, dean and professor for the LMU School of Education and a co-author of the study. "Students attending Catholic schools in inner city neighborhoods are completing a rigorous curriculum, outperforming their peers on national standardized tests, graduating from high school in exceptional numbers and going on to college at a very successful rate."

At a time when the nation's Catholic schools face many challenges - declining enrollment, changing ethnic and socioeconomic demographics and shrinking financial support - this research shows that Catholic schools are able to provide a higher quality education at a lower per pupil cost.

"The strong achievement numbers and 98 percent college attendance rate shows the impact Catholic schools and the Catholic Education Foundation have on some of the most disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles," said Kathy Anderson, executive director of the CEF. "In many parts of inner city Los Angeles, the local Catholic school is not only the strongest educational option for students, it is the best way to invest in their future potential and service to the common good of society."

The Catholic Education Foundation was established to ensure that underserved children in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles would have access to a Catholic school education. Since 1987, CEF has issued over 110,000 tuition awards and over $108 million.

This new research is the second phase of a longitudinal study on the efficacy of inner city Catholic Schools in the Los Angeles area. The first phase of the study was released in 2008. This study is one of several ongoing research projects in the Center for Catholic Education, including an analysis of education tax relief models in California in partnership with the California Catholic Conference of Bishops and research on the efficacy of an extended school year in partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

June 29, 2011