Book Review

Rice men: Lessons at a Harlem high school

The Street Stops Here: A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem
By Patrick J. McCloskey
Published by University of California Press, $27.50

In the 1980s, James Coleman's studies of the effectiveness of Catholic schools showed that despite factors that would cause one to expect these schools to perform more poorly than their public school counterparts, they, in fact, did much better. Their students performed better on standardized tests, they had higher graduation rates, and they had, in the most difficult neighborhoods of the nation's cities, managed to keep the street out of the school. Although controversial when first reported, later studies almost invariably have confirmed Coleman's findings.

At the same time, Catholic schools were facing difficulties. The religious brothers, priests and nuns who once carried the most significant teaching burdens in these schools were disappearing, and rising costs and the inability of many parents to meet tuition exacerbated the problem. By the time the 21st century came, many of the schools were closing -- notwithstanding their successes.