Two National Surveys find Charter-School Parents More Satisfied than Those with Children in District-Operated Schools – by External Relations, Education Next

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Contact: Jackie Kerstetter: 814-440-2299,, Education Next

Two National Surveys find Charter-School Parents More Satisfied than Those with Children in District-Operated Schools
Private school parents most satisfied of all

December 6, 2016— 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:

Charter parents are considerably more satisfied with their schools than are district-school parents. Across five key characteristics—teacher quality, discipline, expectations for achievement, safety, and instruction in character and values—charter parents are on average 13 percentage points more satisfied than district parents. Private-school parents are on average 12 percentage points more satisfied than charter-school parents across the same five characteristics.
District-school parents are more likely than are private-school parents to say that problems at their school are either serious or very serious; charter parents fall in the middle. Of four indicators of social disruption—students using drugs, students destroying property, fighting, and missing classes—district parents are on average 8 percentage points more likely than charter parents to perceive a problem as serious or very serious. But charter parents are on average 14 percentage points more likely than district parents to report lack of extracurricular activities as a problem.
Charter parents report more extensive communications with school staff than do either district- or private-school parents. As compared to parents of children in district schools, charter parents are 15 and 7 percentage points more likely to say they have communicated with the school about volunteering and about their children’s accomplishments, respectively. As compared to parents of children in private schools, charter parents are 14 percentage points more likely to say they have communicated with school officials about their children’s schoolwork or homework.

Among the key findings from the U.S. Department of Education survey:

Satisfaction levels are higher among private-school parents than among those with children at charter schools and chosen district schools, who in turn register higher levels of satisfaction than parents of students attending assigned district schools.
In all four sectors, high-income parents are more satisfied with their schools than are low-income parents, but the difference between private schools and assigned district schools is greater for low-income parents than those of high income.
In all but the private sector, parents of elementary-aged children are more satisfied with their schools than are parents of children in their high-school years, but charter schools gather higher rates of satisfaction than assigned district schools at all age levels.
Black, white and Hispanic parents express higher satisfaction with private schools than with schools in both the charter and district sectors, but Asian parents do not. Differences in satisfaction between charters and the chosen district sector is 5 percentage points for blacks and Hispanics and 1 percentage point for whites, but none of these differences are statistically significant.

“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.”

To preview the full results, see the “Results from the 2016 EdNext Parents Survey” interactive graphic here (press preview) and the “Results from the National Center for Education Statistics 2012 Parents Survey” interactive graphic here (press preview). PDFs of tables containing the full results are also available upon request.

To learn more about these studies, JOIN US in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, December 13 at 11:30 AM for a presentation of findings by Paul E. Peterson followed by a panel discussion moderated by Martin R. West featuring Nina Rees (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools); Chris Cerf (Superintendent, Newark Public Schools); and Howard Fuller (Marquette University). Event and registration information available here.

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 on Tuesday, December 13 and will appear in the Spring 2017 issue of Education Next, available in print on February 28, 2017.

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.

About Education Next: Education Next is a scholarly journal committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform, published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School. For more information, please visit

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In the News: Where Students Get Two Years of College in High School for Free – by Education Next

“Early college” programs are not a new idea but have experienced rapid growth in recent years. And the term “early college” has expanded to include a range of different activities, Emily Deruy notes in an article for the Atlantic.

ednext-dec2016-blog-ototn-early-college-high-schoolSometimes it means giving high-school students access to college classes online, sometimes it involves having kids spend half their day at high school and half on a nearby college campus; sometimes students take vocational classes while in high school, and sometimes they take liberal arts classes.

For her article, Deruy visits a high school in Baltimore that is part of the Bard Early College Network.

At most Bard locations, students essentially complete ninth and 10th grade and then transition to a two-year, tuition-free college curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences. At the end, most have an associate of arts degree (about 60 transferable credits) and a high-school diploma. Instead of having to leave campus to go to an affiliated college, Bard students are generally taught in all four years by teachers with Ph.D.s. Unlike at Simon’s Rock, the schools are public and students do not have to pay, meaning they can earn an associate’s degree at no cost. Most of the expense is covered by the partner school districts, but Bard does also receive some private funding from groups like the Carnegie Corporation.

For the Summer 2016 issue of Education Next, Joanne Jacobs wrote about Salt Lake City’s Innovations Early College High School, a blended learning school with a “career-tech” focus.

Innovations occupies the corner of an airy new building on the South City campus of Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), along with the district’s Career and Technical Center (CTC). The state reported that last year about 1 in 10 Innovations juniors and seniors took community-college classes and more than half took courses through the CTC, whose offerings range from computer programming and CD graphics to barbering and nail design. In addition, students may ride a shuttle bus to their local high school to participate in classes or extracurriculars, such as choir, band, foreign language, or sports.

As Deruy concludes her article

The coming years stand to bring more rapid growth, both within the network and more broadly. The concept was recently acknowledged in federal legislation for the first time, and the U.S. Education Department is exploring the use of Pell grants, federal funds low-income students use to pay for college, for such programs. It’s a concept that actually enjoys some bipartisan support. In January, the College in High School Alliance coalition, which counts Bard along with groups like Jobs for the Future and the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships as members of its steering committee, will officially launch with the aim of promoting policies that advance such programs.

“The high-school diploma is a vestigial credential,” Bickford said. Now, he added, the goal for proponents is to show that quality early-college models are scalable, and that they can help reduce achievement gaps and dropout rates not by dumbing things down, but by challenging kids and exposing them to new opportunities.

– Education Next

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