Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Teaching, Learning, and Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Jianping Shen

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Warfield

Third Advisor

Dr. Brian Wilson


Parental choice of schools has been a hot political issue for more than a decade and has become a cornerstone of federal educational policy. This study investigated the relationship between parental characteristics and school choice, and whether the decision to choose schools is related to family characteristics, school characteristics, parental beliefs, and/or parental satisfaction.

This study used existing national data that were gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and were extracted from the School Safety and Discipline (SS&D) component o f the 1993 National Household Education Survey (NHES:93). 12,680 parents with children in 3rd through 12th grades were interviewed.

Hypotheses were tested at an alpha .05 level, and data were analyzed using chi-squared tests, one-way ANOVA, and Discriminant Function Analyses. These analyses enabled the researcher to determine if there were relationships between parents and their choice of schools among the four types of school choice when family characteristics, school characteristics, parental beliefs, and parental satisfaction were taken into consideration separately.

There were several findings. First, parents with higher family incomes and higher educational levels tend to choose private school for their children. Parents who choose private schools for their children tend to have higher parental involvement and positive perceptions of their children’s academic achievement. Second, parents who exercise choice have a positive perception of school qualities and higher parental satisfaction with school than do parents who do not exercise choice. Finally, parents who choose assigned and religious private school are more likely to find children of their same ethnicity in their schools than will parents who choose chosen and nonreligious schools.

The results presented here should sound a note of caution regarding the self-fulfilling prophecy phenomena, social stratification, and cultural/racial segregation of school choice. Allowing schools to become more selective may make people feel more positive with the schools, but it does not appear to change the quality of the education. The competition between schools might be based not just on the quality of a school but also on the social class, cultural differences, and racial composition o f the student body. Discussion of the findings and policy implications are provided.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Education Commons