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Critics of Catholic and independent (nongovernment) schools in Australia contend that the higher levels of performance of students in nongovernment schools can be dismissed as simply a function of student- and especially school-level socioeconomic status (school-SES). A recent article extends this critique to school-sector differences in students’ evaluations of their teachers and schools, arguing that the observable school-sector differences are because of differences in school-SES, not because of school-sector differences in their teachers and schools. In response, this article reviews these arguments and focuses on school-sector differences in students’ evaluations of their teachers and schools using the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation’s (OECD) measures in the PISA 2009 study. On eight of the 10 attitudinal measures, students attending Catholic and independent schools have more positive evaluations and these school-sector differences survive controls for students’ SES, their overall level of achievement and school-SES, which has no substantive influence. Although the effect sizes are generally small (0.06–0.26) their combined influence means that nongovernment school students enjoy superior learning environments which is likely to contribute to their generally higher levels of academic performance in senior secondary school.

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Journal Article

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