chapter  7
The use of talents: Catholic theories of academic ‘success’ or ‘failure’
Pages 27

Catholic schools in many societies have established an ever growing reputation for achieving relatively high levels of academic success for their students. This academic success profile has been demonstrated in the USA in the research studies of Coleman and Hoffer (1987) and Bryk et al. (1993), in the UK in the research of Rutter et al. (1979), Mortimore et al. (1988), Goldstein et al. (1993), Morris (1998a, 1998b), Paterson (2000a, 2000b), the reports of OFSTED and in Australia in Flynn’s (1993) study among other work (see Chapter 4). This general international association of Catholic schools with constructs of effective use of talents and achievement of good academic outcomes has tended to increase the popularity of Catholic schools in recent times with a wider constituency of parents, not all of whom are Catholics. Overall, Catholic schools seem to be relatively successful in their academic mission, at least as judged by conventional performance indicators. Such visible success has generated a debate about why this should be so. Is there a distinctively ‘Catholic’ factor which accounts for this successful use of talents or does it relate to more generic features of faith-based schools as contexts for learning? Why should Catholic schools, as the research of Greeley (1982) and others has demonstrated, be particularly effective with students from disadvantaged backgrounds?