How Parents’ Perceptions of Public Schools Influence School Choice

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This is a qualitative study regarding a rural fringe school district in North Carolina. Initial interest for this study involved analyzing the State School Report Card ratings and the impact of these ratings on parental perceptions and school choice. For the purpose of this study, interviews were conducted with parents, principals, and teachers from elementary and middle schools. In North Carolina, each school’s grade is calculated using student proficiency and growth data with 80% of the school grade based on student achievement and 20% on school growth as measured by the Education Value-Added Assessment System used by the state. This school grading system has become controversial among education advocates across the state, especially as research has revealed that school grades are highly correlated to family income, with schools with greater poverty scoring more Cs, Ds, and Fs than schools with less poverty. This current study examines to what extent parents use school report cards when making school choice decisions. Findings reveal that parents held very little consideration for school report cards when considering school choice decisions. The results overall showed factors such as: (a) teacher satisfaction, (b) school location, (c) school focus and philosophy, (d) availability of services, and (e) the local political climate were most influential in decisions around school choice. Parents felt these areas were better indicators of the climate within a school, and thus were the drivers of parents’ school choice decisions because of how these factors may affect their child’s education.





Farr, Tiffany (2020). How Parents’ Perceptions of Public Schools Influence School Choice. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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