Archive for April, 2010

More Parents are Sending Children to Schools of Choice

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
New Report Covers Public and Private Schools

School choice is growing in popularity. The percentage of parents in a national survey reporting that their children attend public schools of choice increased from 11 to 16 percent between 1993 and 2007, according to a new report by the U.S Department of Education. The popularity of private schools rose, too, although not as sharply. The percentage of parents sending their children to private schools, both religious and nonsectarian, during that period increased from 10 to 12 percent of the total.

The survey also measured parent satisfaction with schools. Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of students attending their parents’ first-choice public school rose from 83 percent to 88 percent. Slightly more than a quarter of public school students had parents who reported moving to a neighborhood for the school, regardless of whether it was an assigned or chosen school. A majority of parents reported satisfaction with their child’s school, regardless of the type, though the satisfaction tended to be highest for public schools of choice and private schools.

The findings are based on responses in the National Household Education Survey, which asked thousands of parents about their children’s education in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007. For the first time in 2007 the report breaks out information on enrollment in charter schools and characteristics of homeschooled students. That year, 2 percent of students were enrolled in charter schools, a majority of them in cities. That increase is due in some part to rapid growth in the sector. Between 2002-03 and 2006-07, the number of charter schools increased from nearly 2,600 to more than 4,100 and the number of jurisdictions allowing them grew from 36 to 41. Homeschooled students, who made up nearly 3 percent of total enrollment, according to the 2007 survey, were more likely to live in rural areas or suburbs than in cities.

In 2007, black and Hispanic students were more likely than whites to enroll in public schools of choice (24, 17 and 13 percent, respectively), while low-income students were more likely than wealthier peers to choose those schools. Students at chosen public schools also were more likely to live in cities than suburbs or rural areas. For private schools, parents’ wealth and education made a difference. Higher percentages of parents with more income and education chose religious and nonsectarian private schools than did parents with lower levels of income and education. The report contains many more breakdowns of demographic characteristics for each year of the survey.

The telephone survey asked parents whether their children attended public or private schools. If the answer was public, they were asked if they chose the school or it was assigned. If they said private, the interviewer asked if it was religious or nonsectarian.

The report notes that school choice offerings have expanded greatly over the last several decades and that parents in some communities can now choose from an array of public school options beyond their assigned neighborhood school, including charter schools, intra-district and inter-district choice plans and magnet schools, as well as options for sending their children to private schools, aided in some areas by publicly financed vouchers. They also can choose to school their children at home.

Read the full report “Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007.”


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The NCSC is funded by a 5 year, $13.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Its lead institution is Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The center is housed on the campus of Peabody College, one of the nation's top graduate schools of education.