Parents, Choice, and Some Foundations for Education Reform in Massachusetts

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Author: William G. Howell, Harvard University

Drawing from a telephone survey of 1,000 public school parents in the ten largest school districts in Massachusetts, this paper critically examines public school parents’ knowledge of and interest in alternative schooling options. From the analysis, three basic findings emerge: First, while parents claim to be familiar with NCLB, the vast majority of those who in fact qualify for NCLB’s choice provisions do not know that their child’s school is on the state’s list of underperforming schools. Second, parents with children in underperforming schools are especially interested in pursuing alterna- tive schooling options; this interest, however, does not derive from pointed dissatisfac- tion with their current schools, and it is regularly directed toward options that NCLB does not afford—specifically, private schools. And third, in matters involving education, the personal sphere retains strong links to the political: parents who express interest in an alternative schooling option for their child are especially likely to endorse policy initiatives like school vouchers.

Parents, Choice, and Some Foundations For Education Reform in Massachusetts