How Parents Experience Public School Choice

Parents are actively taking advantage of the opportunity to choose among public and public charter schools, but more needs to be done to improve options and help parents find the best schools for their children, according to a new report released by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington Bothell. The report surveyed 4,000 parents in eight ‘high-choice’ cities, including Washington, D.C.

Parent optimism and ease of navigating school choice vary widely among the eight cities. While some cities are improving parents’ ability to choose with confidence, each city has room for improvement to ensure that every parent can find the right school for their child.

Key findings include:

  • When parents get the opportunity to choose, they take advantage of it, though many wish there were better options. Nearly two-thirds of parents reported choosing a non-neighborhood-based school. When asked whether they had other good options beyond their current school, 65 percent of parents reported having good public school options available to them. 










  • African American and Hispanic parents are less optimistic optimism about whether schools are improving compared to white parents. More than half of all parents reported that the District’s schools are getting better.








  • Some parents are forced to make difficult trade-offs between academics, safety, and location. Eighty percent of parents in Washington, DC report prioritizing academics over safety and school location.










  • Parents with less education, minority parents, and parents of children with special needs are 20 percent more likely to report having difficulty navigating choice. Parents with a high school diploma or less were significantly less likely than parents with a bachelor’s degree or more to report choosing on the basis of academic quality and more likely to cite safety and location as salient concerns.























According to the report, Washington DC has made the most progress on transportation, fair enrollment, and information systems, compared to the other cities surveyed.  The survey focused on parents in Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Parents struggled to get the information they need, even in cities with comprehensive parent information systems. And were the least likely to report transportation as a barrier in New Orleans, the only city where most non-neighborhood public schools provide transportation.

The researchers recommend that civic and school leaders in these cities focus on making more high-quality schools available, develop more customized solutions for parents struggling to navigate their options, provide greater transportation assistance for those seeking a better school, and invest more heavily in information systems to help parents make more informed choices.

CRPE conducted this survey in the spring of 2014, gathering data from 500 parents or guardians in eight high-choice cities across the country. This report, which breaks out the survey findings among each of the eight cities, is the second in CRPE’s Making School Choice Work series, with the first report issued in July 2014.



I sure would like to know who put this report out and when these surveys were done. I haven't seen any of it. I will agree that we as parents, the responsible ones, have had to make choices such as safety of our children versus a good quality school way out of the way somewhere. I think about that all the time. I work, I don't drive, my kids and I take metro, and I have to drop my youngest off and watch my eldest walk to another bus stop to get to her school. Once she is around the corner she is out of my sight and the neighborhoods here in ward 8 are not safe at all. There aren't enough choices of schools in ward 8, but the ones that are here aren't any good except for three of them, one being a public school. Yes I am a black parent and no some of these schools are not improving. There are things going on in these schools the board doesn't know about. Then when the parents do express outrage and concern, neither DCPS or DPCSB wants to hear what we have to say. You all don't offer enough choices, but you can sure give run around answers when questioned. I said I would never consider putting my kids in a DCPS, but because charter schools are less experienced in helping children with special needs, I am forced to do so and in a hurry I might add. My priority is my kids' education and if I cannot get the board to do their job, then why would I expect the charter schools to do theirs? I have long since wondered what happened to our education system? Why are you all firing good old teachers that know how to teach and bring in these young non experienced kids? They don't know how to handle these kids today. And you all set the standards so high, they can barely teach. When I was in school we had, recess, we had a principal that cared about us, we had teachers that stuck together to teach and educate us without pause from anyone. We didn't eat this fake food being passed around now. Its more expensive to send these kids to school because of the uniform prices, the supplies list and they don't even use them all, but ask the parent to bring in more after the winter holiday. Really?? We had physical education, some of these schools do not, but you complain of obesity. We had home economics classes that taught us the bare minimums on how to cook and sew. Some of these kids are raising themselves now and they need those skills, you all do offer that. All you school people care about is facts, numbers, and money. And if you are poor you are screwed. These kids are doing good now because there is not one person doing anything to motivate these kids to learn. And if you come to some of these schools you see there are kids walking around not knowing something is wrong with them. All you all do is sweep it under the rug and say "its the parents issues not ours". But it is your issue if the child is attending one of your schools. If I had the money to do so I would stay at home and self educate my kids. I could do a better job than some of these teachers out here. As time has grown you so called educators have lost your way and it is affecting these kids here in DC. If you really cared, you would go back to the way things used to be a long time ago. Remember the lunch ladies that COOKED the food, not ordered it or catered it? Remember the COACHES that taught phys ed? Remember when kids had extra energy and they went outside for RECESS to burn it off on the playground? Yeah, what happened to those days? Will you all start caring about the kids or will you just care about lining your pockets full of money? If it's that easy maybe I need to change my job and become a teacher. WHEN WILL YOU ALL GET A SCHOOL THAT HELPS SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS WITH ALL PROBLEMS? PLEASE DON'T SAY ST. COLLETTA DOES BECAUSE I HAVE HEARD HORRO STORIES ABOUT THAT SCHOOL FROM THE STAFF MEMBERS THEMSELVES. AND YOU REALLY NEED TO WATCH THE STAFF THAT HIT ON THESE KIDS. Y'ALL TURN YOUR CHEEKS ON THAT TOO.
Estella Johnson (not verified)
School bus transportation is really vital for students. All schools and colleges should provide bus services to students for their safe transit. Most of the parents unable to provide personal transportation facilities and here comes the role of school to help them this way. Thanks for this article.
Neil Right (not verified)
My sons school won't pay for transportation. Apparently, it is too pricey. The problem is the school is no where near a metro. If you don't live in the schools neighborhood it is very difficult to get there using public transportation. There is a bus, but unfortunately the bus is not reliable and seems to run every 20 minutes or so during rush hour. I walk my son to and from school every single day. The school is two miles away. I walk 8 miles a day. There are days when we can have a ride, but I feel it is rude to ask someone for a ride everyday. I don't understand how it is easy for other charter schools to get transportation. Is there a grant given to charter school for transportation? Just in my neighborhood alone, within a 5 block radius, there are 15-20 children. If there is a grant, I know that parents would happily make up any additional money needed. Thank you! The charter schools have changed so many life's. My son was not successful while in a well known public school. It wasn't the schools fault per-say, it was the fact that there was one teacher with one teachers aid to 33 children. Out of those 33 children, about 10 of them, needed constant attention. The poor teachers had to spend more than half of their time on these misbehaving students. This lead to many students, like my son, fall through the cracks. Sadly, this also lead to bullying. Teachers were too busy to realize there was serious bullying going on. Of course I went to the teacher, then counselor, and finally the principal before I decided my son had to leave. It broke my heart because he was so very successful in pre-s and pre-k. He has the most amazing teachers and the class was split into two so he has a small class size. Then, it seemed like Kindergarten was when everything was different. I loved His kindergarten teacher because we became close. She explained the difficulties she had to deal with on a daily basis. I have seen them myself. She understood why we had to leave and I told her it was in no way her fault. She tried very hard, but she had to spend all her time and energy on the children who were disruptive. MovIng on, when my son started his current school it was a complete 180! He was way below grade level when he started 1st grade. Because his teacher was AMAZING and had the opportunity to work individually with all the children the entire class benefited. He had four teachers (two main teacher and two student aid, this not including the two language teachers, music teacher, and by third grade a PE teacher) to 11 kids! He went from well below reading level while in 1st grade, to a sixth grade level reading AND comprehension in 4th. I am so proud of him, and because he realized that he was intelligent and could do anything! With the solid teaching during the day and a home life that supports that, he will continue on that path. So, what this all about is transportation. I apologize for the rambling, but I needed to explain the entire picture to make my Point. My sons first public school was three blocks away from our home. When we found this charter school we thought it was a blessing because it was two blocks away. Then the school moved two miles away. I panicked; I didn't know how I was going to get him there. I can walk when it is beautiful out. However, when it's raining it is not fun. I don't even want to imagine what it Will be life when it is going to be ice/snow season. I'm not the only parent that is worried. Our PTA has said we can afford it. I know there MUST be another way. Please help! Many thanks again for all you do. (PS-I apologize for any typos. I am unable to go back to the top to re-read and edit. Forgive me. I promise I am totally literate, I just can't type with the best of them.)
Private (not verified)

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