Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


The Coleman Report

The 1966 Coleman Report, the landmark study Equality of Educational Opportunity led by James S. Coleman, was instrumental promoting racial balance between schools. Coleman, then a professor in the department of social relations at Johns Hopkins University and Ernest Q. Campbell, of Vanderbilt University, presented a report to the U.S. Congress which found that poor black children did better academically in integrated, middle-class schools.

Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 called for a survey "concerning the lack of availability of equal educational opportunity by reason of race, color, religion, or national origin in pubic educational institutions at all levels." Following this act, Coleman studied 600,000 children at 4,000 schools and found that most children attended schools where they were the majority race. Further, schooling between white and minority schools were similar. Teachers' training, teachers' salaries, and curriculum were relatively equal. The results, however, found that minority children were a few years behind that of the whites and that the gap widened by the high school years. In conclusion, the academic achievement was related to family background in the early years, but going to school allowed for a greater disparity between the academic differences between whites and blacks.

Coleman's work had a far-reaching impact on government education policy. The following year, another study conducted by the Civil Right Commission, Racial Isolation in the Public Schools confirmed Coleman's findings. The government introduced a policy of affirmative action to racially integrate schools and to end de facto segregation produced by income level and neighborhood ethnic composition. A result of the policy was the busing of school children to schools outside their neighborhoods. The aim was to achieve racial balance between schools by preventing black enrollment from exceeding 60%.


Coleman, James S. Coleman Report. Britannica Online. [Accessed 13 May 1998].

Unger, H.G. Coleman Report. Encyclopedia of American Education, 1: 213. Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution.

Prepared by Jenny J. Lee (OISE)

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