Dive Brief:

  • Parents in traditional public schools are less likely than those in charter and private schools to report feeling “very satisfied” with their schools’ efforts to engage with families and the surrounding community, according to a new survey conducted by researchers at Rice University.
  • Among parents with children in traditional public schools, 43% responded that they were very satisfied, compared to 56% of parents whose children attend charter schools and 61% of those with children in private schools. The survey of more than 7,200 parents took place from October through November and was the first use of the Collaborative for Customer-Based Execution and Strategy (C-CUBES) Benchmark K-12 School Study.
  • The survey is intended as an evidence-based approach to gathering input from parents and other community members for strategic planning and implementation in public schools, and a white paper on its results will be published next year. At public and charter schools, the survey shows that family and community engagement was the “largest driver” of a parent’s overall satisfaction, while in private schools, parents were focused more on teachers and safety.

Dive Insight:

In states such as California, gathering input from parents is now expected to ensure that strategic plans and programs reflect the needs and desires of the local community. California’s Local Control Funding Formula requires school districts to include parent and guardian input, particularly that of disadvantaged populations, as they develop plans to allocate state funding. Surveys and focus groups are among the methods districts are using to inform their plans.

The C-CUBES survey also suggests the challenges that some public schools face as the school choice options expand for families and charter schools compete for students. “The yawning gap in the satisfaction shows a clear area of strategic improvement for public schools to become competitive with private and charter schools,” Vikas Mittal, a marketing professor at Rice and the leader of the study, said in a press release. Schools, he says, can increase parent satisfaction by involving them in school activities, allowing parents to have input into school policies, improving communication and clearly explaining grading and assessment methods.

In the survey, parents were asked to respond to statements about aspects of family engagement, such as whether they are encouraged to visit and observe classrooms, whether parent-teacher conferences accommodate their schedules, whether administrators are eager to hear their input, and whether communication strategies are adequate.

Some schools are beginning to see their efforts to attract and keep families pay off. In the Shelby County (TN) Schools, enrollment has started to climb after a merger with Memphis schools and the creation of a “turnaround” district led to significant drops. District leaders attribute the increase to better communicating what schools have to offer and training principals on how to market their schools.