Imagine that we are trying to develop a theory about which types of schools are most effective for minority students. We decide to use high school graduation as the measure of success. We know that the general finding is that graduation rates are higher for all students (regardless of race) in private schools compared to public schools. Therefore, our hypothesis is:
Minority students from private schools have a higher graduation rate than minority students from public schools.
We gather data and analyze it, and find that, indeed, private school minority students have a higher graduation rate.
But, we’re not satisfied. There are lots of different types of private schools. Do graduation rates for minority students vary by the type of school? We do know that non-religious private schools have higher graduation rates in general than do religious private schools. Therefore, our second hypothesis will be:
Minority students from non-religious private schools have a higher graduation rate than minority students from non-religious private schools.
Again, we analyze our data. This time, though, we find that our hypothesis is not supported! There is actually no difference in graduation rates for minority students between religious and non-religious schools.
We could stop here and be satisfied that we have a theory about the most effective type of schools for minority students . But…we’re still curious. Does the type of religious school matter? To find out, we set up a third hypothesis to attempt to further refine our theory about the effectiveness of schools for minority students:
Minority students from Catholic schools have a higher graduation rate than minority students in non-Catholic religious schools.
This time when we analyze the data, we find that we are correct! The effect is so strong that Catholic school students have an even higher chance of graduating than do non-religious private school students. We have found that Catholic schools provide minority students with the highest chance of graduating from high school.
Now it’s your turn to continue to refine the project. What do you think it is about Catholic schools that increases minority students’ chances of graduating from high school? Maybe you think that Catholic schools in one type of neighborhood might be more effective than those in other types (rural vs. suburban vs. urban, for instance). Or maybe you think that certain types of minority students might do better (women vs. men, religious vs. non-religious students, or students with large social networks compared to those with small networks). Or, you may even think there are differences based on characteristics of the students’ parents, such as their income, education level, how often they attend church, how much they encourage their kids to do well in school, etc.
Think about it for a few minutes, and then write our fourth hypothesis in the box below (15 word minimum):