Educators Discuss Home Situation, School Importance
A conference of international educators met at the Harvard School of Education last week to discuss the implications of a study attempting to evaluate the relative importance of home and school in academic development.
The study was issued by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). It presents what is perhaps the most sophisticated data to date on the controversy that has been so widespread since the Coleman Report seven years ago proposed that variations in academic performance were rooted in differences in the home environment rather than in the classroom.
Educators were encouraged by the report's finding that while the home appears most important for reading, civics and literature, schooling seems to play an important role in learning foreign languages and science-related subjects.
James S. Coleman of the University of Chicago, whose report disheartened many of those who believed that schools play an important role in the individual's educational development, told the conference that the IEA study suggested "more hopefulness about schooling than we had in the past."
The present study seems particularly valuable to many of the educators because of its inclusion of test scores from a wide range of subjects.
The IEA survey tested students in six subjects and then correlated their scores with 500 variable representing factors of home and school influencing achievement. The researchers then used a method known as regression analysis to trace variations in performance as a function of variations in home and school environment.
This method itself was one of the points most widely debated at the conference. By its use of this technique the report says only that variations in achievement are related to variation in home background. The study says nothing about the actual effect of the home on achievement.
Likewise, the report concludes nothing about the importance of schools in the educational process. It merely states that variations in school do not explain variations in performance.
A further point of contention was the fact that the analysis could account for only 39 per cent of the variance encountered. The other 61 per cent remains unexplained.
This large degree of ambiguity led many to hope that the report failed to detect many school conditions that do indeed affect the child's education.