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Serving about six percent of the U.S. school-age population and with one million other students waitlisted, the charter school sector is the most rapidly growing segment in K-12 education. But little is known about what charter parents think of their children’s schools. Two new studies released by Education Next provide the first analyses of the views of nationally representative samples of parents that compare perceptions of school operations in the charter, private and district-operated sectors. Both studies find that charter parents, on average, are more satisfied with their children’s schools than are district-school parents. However, both charter and district-school parents are less satisfied than private-school parents.
The first study reports the responses to a survey administered by Education Next in May and June of 2016 to a nationally representative sample of 1,519 parents with school-aged children. The second study reports the results of a survey conducted in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Education, which was administered to more than 17,000 households with children in charter, private, assigned district, and chosen district sectors (about nine percent of all district schools). The large sample size permits comparisons of parent satisfaction within race, income, and other categories.
Among the key findings from the Education Next survey:
Among the key findings from the U.S. Department of Education survey:
“Although parental perceptions cannot necessarily be interpreted as identifying in-school realities, they do suggest that parental demand for charters and private schools is likely to grow,” says Martin R. West, editor in chief of Education Next. Commenting on the small differences in satisfaction levels among parents with children in the charter and chosen district sectors, Paul E. Peterson, professor of government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School, notes that “chosen district schools serve a smaller percentage of students of color than charters do, and they are more likely to use examinations as entry requirements, while most charter schools must accept all applicants or use a lottery to select among them.”
"What Do Parents Think of Their Children’s Schools: EdNext poll compares charter, district, and private schools nationwide," by Samuel Barrows, Paul E. Peterson, and Martin R. West and "How Satisfied are Parents from Various Backgrounds with Their Children’s Schools? First results from a U.S. Department of Education survey," by Albert Cheng and Paul E. Peterson will be released online at educationnext.org on Tuesday, December 13 and will appear in the Spring 2017 issue of Education Next, available in print on February 28, 2017.
To receive an copy of the studies or to arrange an interview with the authors, please contact Jackie Kerstetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Authors: Paul E. Peterson is professor of government and director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. Martin R. West, editor-in chief of Education Next, is associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and deputy director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School, where Samuel Barrows and Albert Cheng are postdoctoral fellows.