Schneider, Mark, & Buckley, Jack
What Do Parents Want from Schools? Evidence from the Internet
SUNY Stony Brook
The aspects of schools parents prefer and how these preferences will affect the socioeconomic and racial composition of schools.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 133-144
- The key assumption of the analysis is that search patterns reveal preferences and, more specifically, that the attributes examined early in a search are more important to the decision maker than dimensions looked at later.
- Unfettered choice may lead to undesirable outcomes in the distribution of students, and it may also lead to reduced pressure on schools to improve academic performance.
- The unfettered introduction of choice can lead to increased segregation, and perhaps even less pressure on schools to improve.
- The verbal reports of parents about what they value in schools express that parents choose based on academic quality.
- In contrast, the observed choice behavior of parents yields more complicated (and potentially less benign) results. Researchers have found significant effects of race and class.
- Parents value demographic information much more highly than they admit when responding to surveys.
- On average, parents are looking at schools that perform better academically. Thus, as the search proceeds, parents increasingly “visit” schools that have lower percentages of black students.
- The search behavior show that parents do care about academics but they also care very much about school demographics, something they will not admit to verbally.
- Many parents’ decisions are likely to be influenced by race, then a “pure” open market-like choice plan for schools can increase segregation.
- Stratification can also increase if parents with higher levels of education are more likely to exercise choice then less educated parents and are more likely to engage in search activity to gather information about their options.
- To the extent that choice is driven by demographics rather than academics, unfettered choice may actually decrease the pressure on schools to improve their academic performance and one of the most basic promises of choice may dissipate.
- Advocates of choice need to design a system that can produce a socially acceptable trade-off between a more efficient school system and one of that mixes together children of different races and classes.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Charter Schools, Choice, Parents, Racial Composition, SES Composition, Segregation
Method of Analysis:
Internet-Based Methodological Tools
Parents who visited the website
Unit of Analysis:
- Parental preferences revealed through information search patterns.
- Study the site http://www.DCSchoolSearch.com
- To gather information about visitors to the site everyone wishing access had to fill out a short set of questions to generate a user profile. Questions asked for the status of the visitor (parent, student, other), the education level of the visitor, the person’s frequency of Internet use, and the site from which the person was signing on (home, work, or school).
- Takes place in Washington, DC.