Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Dennis McCrumb

Third Advisor

Dr. Janet Dalman


School choice, district reform impact, phenomenology, public school choice, mothers, economic stress


As districts attempt to achieve higher accountability for student results while making complex decisions to balance budgets, it has become increasingly more common to restructure or reorganize educational delivery systems in ways that affect children and their families. Understanding how families and, in particular, mothers translate their experiences with structural and other changes enacted by the schools serving their children can assist in defining a new strategic direction of renewal, growth, and revitalization.

The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of 18 mothers, and their children, who were participants in multiple school reform initiatives in an urban school district. Using the lens of a social constructivist worldview, the focus of the study was on developing meaning to understand their views of public school choice within the historical and cultural contexts that operated within their district.

This study desired to understand the reasons why mothers chose public education for their children in the first place; the reasons for staying enrolled in a district K–12 during times of economic stress, public school criticism, and multiple restructuring initiatives; and how they described their overall personal experiences. In essence, why did they keep their children enrolled while others left the district; did they feel trapped in the system without any choice; and if they had to do it all over again, would they enroll their children today in a traditional public school district?

Nine of the 18 participants did look at leaving the district at one time or another. Surprisingly, with all of the changes that occurred, and the experiences over a 10-year period of time, 15 of the 18 participants said that they would enroll a child in the district again if they had a kindergarten student today. The three mothers who did not, indicated that they would do more research today about school-of-choice options in comparison to what they did initially before making a final decision.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access