Posts Tagged ‘parent choice’

Information and Parental Choice

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

As the school year draws to a close around the country, many parents with school choice options for next year made the decision about what school their child will attend months ago.  However, accountability ratings for this school year have yet to be released in many areas.  How do parents use information about school performance to influence decisions on where to send their children to school?  In a paper released in 2009, researcher Michael Henderson seeks to answer this question.  His paper, Information and Exit: Do Accountability Ratings Help Families Choose Schools, reports findings on a study of the relationship between student school transfer and school accountability grades.  One possible explanation Henderson reports is that parents have formed perceptions on school quality prior to the release of accountability ratings.  In Citizen Perceptions of Government Service Quality: Evidence from Public Schools, Harvard researchers found that people’s perceptions of public schools in their neighborhood are generally in line with publicly available accountability information.  The authors’ find conflicting evidence about whether the similarities are due to available accountability information or observations.

If parents do not use accountability ratings to choose a school for their child, then how do they decide?  In the study of parental decision-making, Do Parents Do as They Say?  Choosing Indianapolis Charter Schools, Choice Center researchers found that although parents stated that academics was the primary consideration for choosing a different school, this was not evidenced in the actual choice based on academic achievement and AYP ratings.  This small sample of research seems to indicate that people are aware of the quality of schools in their area but accountability ratings do not seem to influence school attendance choices.  To all the parents out there, what would you consider if you had the ability to choose which school to send your child to next school year?

Effects of Autonomy in Charter Schools

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Does autonomy lead to better schools?  Greater autonomy is often claimed to be linked to greater innovation, especially in the debate about charter schools.  In a newly released report, the Center on Reinventing Public Education explores the opportunities and challenges of charter schools because of their autonomy.

Inside Charter Schools:  Unlocking Doors to Student Success uses multiple data sources including surveys and case studies to address this issue.  Charter schools are granted more autonomy than traditional public schools in exchange for more accountability, to school authorizers as well as parents and students.  This greater autonomy allows charter school principals and boards to: create their own mission and the curriculum that is best suited to their chosen mission, have more control over hiring policies and staffing, and other focused programs.  However, the presence of autonomy does not insure a good school, it is just an opportunity.  There are also many challenges that arise from this independence.  High staff turnover, limited principal training in enlarged roles and limited support are just some of the challenges confronting these leaders.  Overall, the utilization of autonomy is more important than its simple presence.

For more information, check out the paper!  A brief is also available for this study.

School Choice Week – Parents and Choice

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

As National School Choice Week continues, today’s focus is on parents.  How do parents make school decisions?  Why do they choose a specific school or school type?  How do parents gather information about school choice options and how do they use this information?  These are just a few questions that need to be considered when exploring school choice.

The actions and decision-making of parents is an important aspect to consider in the context of various types of school choice.   In a study of mayoral charter schools in Indianapolis, Stein surveyed parents about their reasons for choosing a charter school and then compared the responses to their revealed preferences shown by actual behavior.  The results of this research provide an important insight into the decision-making process of these parents.  Campbell, West and Peterson examine a voucher program and what factors caused parents to move their children to private schools.  How do parents use school quality ratings?  Henderson’s paper seeks to answer this question and finds that these ratings alone do not seem to cause parents to transfer their children but other factors may contribute.  As policymakers and other education stakeholders contemplate school choice, this and other research can inform decisions and design of school choice programs and policies.

Click here to see all our research about parents and school choice.

Getting Inside Parents’ Heads: Why They Choose Charters

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Switching schools is not easy. Parents must research the options and children must deal with new classmates, new rules and unfamiliar surroundings. Understanding what drives families to switch taps into central questions of the school choice movement. What do they prefer about the chosen school? And what do their choices reveal about their understanding of the available education offerings?   A new NCSC research brief explains a study that looked at the extent to which a quest for academic quality motivated families to switch to charters from traditional public schools (TPS) in Indianapolis — or whether other considerations prompted the changes. The brief, which is written in layman’s language, is for the paper “Choosing Indianapolis Charter Schools: Espoused Versus Revealed Academic Preferences,” by  Marc Stein, Ellen Goldring and Xiu Cravens.

The researchers surveyed parents about why they chose a specific charter school and compared those explanations with characteristics of both the school they chose and the one they left. The findings were surprising. A majority of surveyed parents indicated that academics were a top priority in their decision, especially if they considered their child’s previous school average or below. But that preference wasn’t evident in many of the actual moves. About equal numbers of students moved to schools with worse academic records than the ones they left as moved to schools that were higher performing from ones with lower academic showings. Academic performance was measured by test scores and whether a school met federal AYP standards under No Child Left Behind.

So what explains the disparities between intentions and actions? One possibility is that parents gave a response that they thought would present them in a favorable light. Another is that “academic quality” could mean different things to parents and survey creators. Parents might have been thinking of a school’s overall reputation, which could cover a range of factors from its safety record to class sizes to test scores. The research brief has a helpful box “Common Errors of Survey Research” that explains some of the difficulties faced by researchers who conduct surveys and compare responses across several instruments. Two different surveys might use very different phrasing for questions seeking similar information making comparisons difficult.

For More Information

Read more about parent choice and charter schools as well as other types of schools.

Parent Preferences and Parent Choices: The Public-Private Decision about School Choice

Information and Exit: Do Accountability Ratings Help Families Choose Schools?

Gaining Access?: Decision Process and School Selection in Chicago

White Parents, Diversity and School Choice Policies: Where Good Intentions, Anxiety and Privilege Collide

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.