July 1980

Fifteen Thousand Hours: Secondary Schools and Their Effects on Children

Author Affiliations

University of Rochester River Campus 411 Lattimore St Rochester, NY 14642


by Michael Rutter, Barbara Maughan, Peter Mortimore, and Janet Ouston, 285 pp, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1979.

Am J Dis Child. 1980;134(7):713. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1980.02130190079027

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We have come a long way from the heady days of the Great Society, when most people seemed to believe that education would solve all of our problems, both intellectual and social. The Coleman Report in 1966 cast the first doubts, and Jencks (Inequality) and Averch (How Effective is Schooling?) in 1972 seemed to make it official: nothing that schools do really makes any difference. Considering that we spend more on schools than most other state and local governmental functions combined, this is indeed a dreary state of affairs.

Fifteen Thousand Hours has the temerity to question our present conventional wisdom. It is a study of what things do make a difference in pupil outputs in 12 London inner-city secondary schools. In many ways, it is a substantial improvement, methodologically, over previous studies. First, it studies not just one output (which has usually been the score on some standardized test),