Mississippi Private Education: An Historical, Descriptive, and Normative Study

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

David K. Stewart

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


The three main purposes of this study were to establish an historical perspective, normative data, and descriptive information on Mississippi private education. Of the eighty private secondary schools in Mississippi, 87.5 percent responded to two mailout instruments, supplying descriptive and statistical data. Statewide means were established, regional comparisons were conducted by one-way analysis of variance in five categories, and normative data were compiled and discussed. Historical research relied on original archives, interviews with principal figures in private school education, and computer-assisted research techniques. Private school means in 1978-79 were established, including a statewide 17.94 ACT composite and a $657.77 instructional cost per student. No significant regional variation existed in any of the five categories which were examined--ACT mean, instructional expenditures, student-teacher ratio, average daily attendance, and ACT participation. Significant normative findings pertaining to private schools include: relatively low teacher salaries, absence of employee benefits in many schools, and high level of faculty certification. Major support services were secretarial and clerical, while little instructional support was available. Historically, Mississippi's private education presented a vague, fragmented picture. Basic reasons for founding private schools were forced integration, local educational control, and a basic curriculum. Fearing litigation and intrusion, schools kept few records. The association of private schools was delayed because of individual independence. The descriptive data compiled indicated a well-organized Association system of accreditation, activities, and athletic competition. Member schools have equal input in control of their volunteer, democratic Association whose primary function is to provide coordination and communication among member schools. Comparative studies should be conducted between public and private schools in areas of finance, student achievement, and cost effectiveness. Curriculum studies, community power studies, and perceptual studies involving students, faculties, and communities should be undertaken to further assess the impact, effectiveness, and role of private education in Mississippi. While it is not fair to compare public and private education because of the requirements placed on public institutions by law, all administrators could profit from an examination of the modes of operation employed by the private sector, especially in cost effectiveness. The success of private education as a viable and effective alternative to the free public system is probably because of the involvement of volunteers and faculties whose interests transcend the pecuniary. The place of private education in Mississippi seems secure, and the lessons to be learned from this institution should serve as a new source of knowledge for administrators rather than as a threat to public education.