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Some Considerations of Technical Problems in the Educational Opportunity Survey

Beaton, Albert E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Coleman Report, Computer Oriented Programs, Data Analysis, Educational Opportunities, Equal Education, Research Methodology, Surveys


he purpose of this report is to discuss some weaknesses of the Coleman Report, The Equality of Educational Opportunity (1966), and to shed more light on a few of its conclusions. Possible weaknesses in the study due to sampling error (failure of a substantial number of schools to respond to the survey) and scaling of questionnaire items are first considered, and it is concluded the effects of both are small enough not to negate the report's conclusions. Other problems in the report that are considered here include: 1) inferences about school effectiveness; 2) interpretation of school-to-school variance; 3) differential effects of school-to-school variance; and 4) a working definition of "equal education opportunity." The paper concludes with a warning against over-interpreting the conclusions of the Coleman Report in terms of the adequacy or inadequacy of the schools. It urges policy-makers "to maximize whatever school effects are possible even though they do not assure equal achievement at Grade 12."

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