Fordham Foundation study: Parents favor school choice

28 Aug

School choice is just as important for poor students as it for their more privileged peers.
Joseph P. Viteritti wrote in the 1996 Brookings article, Stacking the Deck for the Poor: The New Politics of School Choice:

A new model of school choice has begun to emerge in state legislatures and in Congress. One might call it the “equal opportunity model.” Its goal is to give children who could not otherwise afford it the chance to attend a high-quality private or parochial school. The first such plans were enacted in Wisconsin and Ohio, but others have received serious consideration elsewhere. All provide public assistance to students on the basis of economic need. There is no skimming here, for the target population is students who are most underserved by public education, the lowest achievers. Nor do these initiatives portend an end to public education, for only a small portion of the population can meet the means-tested criteria for eligibility.
The Problem: Separate and Unequal
Defenders of the present government monopoly can conjure up whatever images they may of a future shaped by greater choice in education. But the system they propose in its stead offers little hope for many children who come from minority and poor families. Notwithstanding the promise enunciated by the Supreme Court in the Brown decision 42 years ago, the condition of public education in the United States still can aptly be described in two words: separate and unequal. David Armor gives an account in his recent book, Forced Justice: despite the best efforts of civil rights advocates and the federal courts over the past four decades, most black children today attend de facto racially segregated public schools, the condition improving minimally since 1968. Moreover, a substantial body of empirical research and a flood of litigation in the state courts (in nearly two-thirds of the states) shows wide disparities in per-pupil spending between poor and middle-class districts. No resolution to either situation appears in sight. Public schooling, for all its virtues, just hasn’t been very kind to some children. The same system that helped assimilate generations of European immigrants is not working very well today for the most disadvantaged members of society.
Yes, there has been some notable progress in American education. De jure segregation has been all but eliminated. Ambitious compensatory programs have been spun out of Washington and the state capitals. After a precipitous 15-year decline in national test scores that began in 1964, student achievement is beginning to show signs of gradual improvement. But these victories tell only part of the story. Our system of public education betrays a persistent gap in student performance defined by race. In 1995, black students trailed white students on SAT verbal scores by 92 points. The disparity in mathematics was 110 points. The data on Hispanic students is only slightly less discouraging. If we are serious about education reform in America, then the first order of business is to meet the needs of those students whom the existing system has failed the most. We must move aggressively to close the learning gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Most parents want a quality education for their child.

Moi wrote in School choice: Given a choice, parents vote with their feet:
Most parents want the best for their children and will make many sacrifices to give their children a good life. In the movie Waiting for Superman, a remarkable group of parents was trying to overcome the odds stacked against their children in failing public schools. David Miller Sadker, PhD, Karen R. Zittleman, PhD in Teachers, Schools, and Society list the characteristics of a strong school. Strong schools must be found in all areas. At present, that is not true. It is particularly important where student populations face challenges. Strong principals, effective teachers and parental involvement are key to strong schools. Charmaine Loever describes What Makes A Principal Effective? It really doesn’t matter the income level or the color of the parent, most want the best for their child.

Karla Scoon Reid reported on the Fordham Foundation study about education choice in the article, Parents Favor ‘Niche’ Schools, Fordham Institute Market Study Finds:

A new study released today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that parents have educational preferences that fall into what it calls “niche” markets ranging from vocational education to multiculturalism.
For “What Parents Want: Education Preferences And Trade-Offs,” the Fordham Institute hired Harris Interactive, a market-research firm, to examine which characteristics parents value in a school. The online survey of 2,007 parents of public and private school students in kindergarten through 12th grade was conducted in August 2012.
The study found that most parents surveyed agree on the non-negotiable attributes of a school, including a high-quality core curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and math along with instruction that supports the development of critical-thinking and good writing skills.
While those attributes are on most parents’ shortlist of education must-haves, Fordham’s researchers also found that parents want more.

Here is the press release from Fordham:

What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-offs
By Dara Zeehandelaar, Ph.D. , Amber M. Winkler, Ph.D. / August 27, 2013
Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. , Michael J. Petrilli
Filed under: Charters & Choice , Curriculum & Instruction , Digital Learning , Standards, Testing, & Accountability , Talented Tenth , Teachers
This groundbreaking study finds that nearly all parents seek schools with a solid core curriculum in reading and math, an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and the development in students of good study habits, strong critical thinking skills, and excellent verbal and written communication skills. But some parents also prefer specializations and emphases that are only possible in a system of school choice.
• Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.” Compared to the total parent population, Pragmatists have lower household incomes, are less likely themselves to have graduated from college, and are more likely to be parents of boys.
• Jeffersonians (24 percent) prefer a school that “emphasizes instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership,” although they are no more likely than other parents to be active in their communities or schools.
• Test-Score Hawks (23 percent) look for a school that “has high test scores.” Such parents are more likely to have academically gifted children who put more effort into school. They are also more likely to set high expectations for their children, push them to excel, and expect them to earn graduate degrees. Test-Score Hawks are also more apt to report that their child has changed schools because, as parents, they were dissatisfied with the school or its teachers.
• Multiculturalists (22 percent) laud the student goal: “learns how to work with people from diverse backgrounds.” They are more likely to be African American, to self-identify as liberal, and to live in an urban area.
• Expressionists (15 percent) want a school that “emphasizes arts and music instruction.” They are more likely to be parents of girls and to identify as liberal; they are less likely to be Christian. (In fact, they are three times more likely to self-identify as atheists.)
• Strivers (12 percent) assign importance to their child being “accepted at a top-tier college.” Strivers are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic. They are also more apt to be Catholic. But they do not differ from the total population in terms of their own educational attainment.
What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs uses market-research techniques to determine what school characteristics and student goals are most important to parents.
What type of parent are you? Take our quiz below to find out!

Perhaps, the best testimonial about this school comes from an editorial which describes the emotions of one parent. The NY Daily News editorial, My Baby Is Learning describes a protest against charter schools:

Those words were spoken by a mother who had brought her child for the first day of classes at Harlem Success Academy 2 Charter School – and faced loud protesters with her youngster.
The demonstrators were part of a movement that portrays charter schools as an elitist threat to public education. They are not. They are publicly funded schools that admit neighborhood kids by lottery. Their students far outperform children in traditional public schools.
Charters have proliferated in Harlem, and thousands of parents have children on waiting lists – a trend that has driven activists, including state Sen. Bill Perkins, into shamefully charging that charters are creating a separate and “unequal” system.
But parents, the vast majority of them minorities, know better. Like the woman who confronted the protesters, they’re flocking to charters as a way out of failing local schools. And the bottom line for them is crystal-clear: Their babies are learning.

The only way to overcome the great class divide is to give all children a first class education. AP reports in the article, More Students Leaving Failing Schools which was printed in the Seattle Times that given the choice, many parents choose to take their kids out of failing schools. Well, duh.

The next great civil rights struggle will be education equity for low-income and poor children. ALL options for educating children must be on the table.

A charter school for young entrepreneurs shows the diversity of charters

Poor people and school choice: The Cristo Rey work/school model

University of Arkansas study finds Milwaukee voucher students go to college at higher rate

School Choice

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