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Trends in the Use of School Choice: 1993 to 2007
NCES 2010-004
April 2010

Parental Perceptions and Considerations of Public School Choice Availability in 2003 and 2007

In 2007, NHES asked parents about their perception of the availability of public school choice in their district,19 whether they considered schools other than the one in which their children were currently enrolled, if the school in which their children were enrolled was their first choice, and if they had moved to a neighborhood so their children could attend a particular school.20 This information was also collected in 2003. For almost all subpopulations, there was no measurable difference when comparing 2003 to 2007.

Parents who reported that public school choice was available

Table 7 shows that 50 percent of students had parents who thought that public school choice was available in their district in 2007. Awareness of public school choice varied by the school type in which students were enrolled, race/ethnicity, locale, and region. A greater percentage of students in assigned public schools had parents who reported that public choice was available than did parents of students in private schools. Specifically, 42 percent of students enrolled in assigned public schools had parents who thought that public school choice was available compared with 38 percent of students in religious private schools and 32 percent of students in nonsectarian private schools (figure 5). A smaller percentage of Asian students had parents who thought that public choice was available than did White, Black, or Hispanic students (41 percent vs. 48, 54, and 52 percent, respectively) (figure 6). A higher percentage of students living in cities had parents who thought public school choice was available (58 percent) compared with students living in suburbs, towns, or rural locales (43 percent suburbs, 49 percent towns, and 49 percent rural locales). Regionally, higher percentages of students from the West (59 percent) and the Midwest (58 percent) had parents who thought that public school choice was available than did students in either the South (45 percent) or the Northeast (36 percent).

Parents who considered other schools

Overall, 32 percent of students had parents who considered enrolling them in a school other than the one they were attending in 2007 (table 7). Among students in assigned public schools, 25 percent had parents who considered enrolling them in other schools, which was lower than the percentage for students in chosen public schools (47 percent), religious private schools (49 percent), and nonsectarian private schools (61 percent). Forty-three percent of Black students had parents who considered enrolling them in other schools, which was higher than the 30 percent for White students, 28 percent for Hispanic students, and 34 percent for Asian students (figure 6). In terms of disability, a greater percentage of students with a disability than without a disability (37 vs. 30 percent, respectively) had parents who considered other schools for them. Thirty-three percent of nonpoor students, a greater percentage than that of near-poor students (29 percent), had parents who considered other schools for them (figure 7). Parents' education was also associated with whether they considered sending their children to other schools. A greater percentage of students whose parents' highest level of education was a graduate or professional school considered other schools (40 percent) compared with students whose parents had less education (32 percent with a bachelor's degree, 31 percent with some college or vocational or technical school, 27 percent who a high school diploma or GED, and 26 percent who did not complete high school) (figure 8). Also, 39 percent of students in cities had parents who considered sending them to other schools, compared with 31 percent of students in suburbs, 25 percent of students in towns, and 25 percent of students in rural locales.

Parents who reported that their child's school was their first choice

Although about one-third of students had parents who considered other schools for them in 2007, most (83 percent) had parents who reported that their child's school was their first choice (table 7). This percentage varied by school type and by student and household characteristics. A smaller percentage of students in assigned public schools (81 percent) than in any other type were attending the school that was their parents' first choice (figure 5). Black students had the lowest percentage (70 percent) of parents who reported that their children were enrolled in the school that was their first choice (figure 6). White students had the highest percentage of parents who reported that their child's school was their first choice (88 percent). A greater percentage of students without a disability (85 percent) than those with a disability (78 percent) had parents who reported that their child attended the school that was their first choice. A greater percentage of nonpoor students (87 percent) than near-poor or poor students (79 and 77 percent, respectively) were enrolled in the school that was their parents' first choice. Similarly, higher percentages of students with parents who had a bachelor's degree or graduate degree (87 and 88 percent, respectively) were enrolled in the school that was their parents' first choice compared with students with parents who had less education (figure 8). In terms of family structure, a greater percentage of students with two parents attended their parents' first-choice school than did students in one-parent families (86 percent vs. 75 percent, respectively). Finally, a smaller percentage of students living in cities (78 percent) than in suburbs, towns, and rural locales (84 percent suburbs, 88 percent towns, and 88 percent rural locales) were enrolled in the school that was their parents' first choice. Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of students in chosen public schools who attended their parents' first-choice school increased from 83 to 88 percent.

Parents who reported that they moved to current neighborhood for a particular school

Moving to a neighborhood is an option some parents can use to enroll their child in a particular school. Table 7 shows the percentage of students whose parents moved to a particular neighborhood for their school by school type and student characteristics. In 2007, a greater percentage of students in assigned public schools (28 percent) than students in chosen public schools (18 percent) had parents who reported that they moved their family to a neighborhood for their child's school (figure 5). A lower percentage of Black students' families (18 percent) moved than did White (29 percent), Hispanic (25 percent), or Asian (36 percent) students' families (figure 6). In turn, a higher percentage of Asian students' families moved than did Hispanic students' families, as did a higher percentage of White than Black or Hispanic students' families. In terms of poverty status, a higher percentage of nonpoor students (30 percent) had parents who moved their family to a neighborhood for a particular school than did near-poor or poor students (21 percent for both groups) (figure 7). Smaller percentages of students whose parents had a high school diploma or GED or less than a high school diploma or GED (21 and 18 percent, respectively) had parents who moved their family to a neighborhood for a particular school than did students whose parents had more education (25 percent for some college; 31 percent, a bachelor's degree; and 34 percent, graduate education) (figure 8). Moving to attend a particular school varied by family structure as well. A higher percentage of students in twoparent families (29 percent) had families that moved than did students in one-parent families (22 percent). Regionally, a higher percentage of students in the Midwest (30 percent) had parents who moved their family to a neighborhood for a particular school than did students who lived in either the South (26 percent) or the West (24 percent). Finally, a higher percentage of students in the suburbs had parents who moved their family to the neighborhood (33 percent) than did students in cities, towns, and rural locales (23 percent for cities, 20 percent for towns, and 23 percent for rural locales).

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19 Parents who reported that their children attended a chosen public school were coded as having public school choice available in their school district.
20 The results presented here represent the estimates for all students whose parents were asked about availability of public school choice, whether other schools were considered, and whether the school was the parents' first choice. Only public school students' parents were asked about moving to their neighborhood. Table B-9 Excel format (105 KB) in appendix B presents the estimates for the latter three questions (considered other schools, first-choice school, and moving to the neighborhood) for the subset of students whose parents reported that public school choice was available in their school district.


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education