Two National Surveys Reinforce Parent Preference for School Choice

December 28, 2016 •

Two studies published by Education Next (EdNext) earlier this month conclude that parents seem to be happier with their children’s schools when they are able to choose them.

The first study was an analysis of data from the 2012 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) survey, which was given to a representative sample of 17,166 households. In the survey, the US Department of Education asked parents about their satisfaction with their child’s school. While the data was collected in 2012, it had never been published until the EdNext analysis.

The data showed that the percentage of parents who were “very satisfied” with their children’s schools was higher for parents with students in schools of choice—including charter schools (63 percent), district schools of choice (61 percent), and private schools (81 percent)—than for parents with students assigned to a specific district school (56 percent).

The second study reported on the results of a first-of-its-kind parent satisfaction poll that EdNext conducted last summer, with a representative sample of 1,500 parents. Across all surveyed categories, except “location of school”, the data showed that more chartered school parents were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” than district parents. Similarly, private school parents were more satisfied across all categories than district parents.

The two studies support the hypothesis posed that, “to maintain and enlarge their market share, all schools of choice must satisfy the families who make use of them.” And the consistency between the two is important, according to Paul Peterson, an author on both studies, because “even though [the two surveys] had somewhat different methodologies our findings are surprisingly consistent.”

The findings of these two studies are also consistent with overall national American attitudes towards choice and chartering. Last year’s PDK/Gallup Poll showed nearly two-thirds of Americans are in favor of charter schools, and of permitting parents to select any public school in their district.