Catholic Schools and Discipline

A study out of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute investigated the relationship between self-discipline and Catholic education, and how these students compare with their public school counterparts. Dr. Michael Gottfried and Jacob Kirksey of U.C. Santa Barbara used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten to obtain nationally representative behavioral information about a cohort of students from kindergarten to second grade.  In order to find a comparison between students, the researchers not only compared Catholic school students to traditional school students, but also other parochial schools and private school students.  The latter group makes for a more accurate comparison because of the level of parent choice to not enroll their child in a district school.  Through this analysis, Dr. Gottfried identified three key findings:

  • Students in Catholic schools are less likely than students in public and private schools to "act out" or exhibit externalizing behaviors such as arguing, fighting, getting angry, acting impulsively, and disturbing classroom activities.
  • Students in Catholic schools exhibit more self-control than their peers in other schools. Self-control includes actions such as controlling one's temper, respecting other students and their property, being open-minded about other students' ideas, and handling peer pressure. The difference in self-control between these groups even grew over time from kindergarten to second grade.
  • Students in Catholic schools, regardless of demographic, personal characteristics, and background, showed greater levels of self-discipline than students in other private schools.

View the report here.

Read an overview of the report's key findings here.