IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Why Do Parents Choose Schools for Their Children?

Have you ever wondered why parents choose a specific school for their child? New data from the Parent and Family Involvement (PFI) Survey of the National Household Education Surveys (NHES) program allow us to identify the factors that parents of K–12 students rate as “very important” when choosing a school. In the 2018–19 school year, 36 percent of students had parents who indicated that they had considered multiple schools for their child. Among these students, 79 percent had parents who indicated that the quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff was “very important” (figure 1). Other factors that a majority of students’ parents indicated as being very important include safety (including student discipline) (71 percent) and curriculum focus or unique academic programs (e.g., language immersion, STEM focus) (59 percent).


Figure 1. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


Although parents of students attending different types of schools (i.e., public assigned schools, public chosen schools, private religious schools, or private nonreligious schools) rated most factors for choosing a school similarly, some differences were observed. For example, higher percentages of students in private nonreligious schools than of students in all other kinds of schools had parents who indicated that the following factors were very important when choosing a school:

  • Quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff (92 percent) (figure 1)
  • Curriculum focus or unique academic programs (74 percent) (figure 1)
  • Number of students in class (58 percent) (figure 2)

In addition, a higher percentage of students in private nonreligious schools (42 percent) than of students in public schools (30 percent for public assigned schools and 31 percent for public chosen schools) had parents who indicated that student body characteristics were very important when choosing a school (figure 2). Conversely, a lower percentage of students in private nonreligious schools (14 percent) than of students in any other school type (ranging from 22 to 29 percent) had parents who rated cost as very important.


Figure 2. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


Thirty percent of students in public assigned schools had parents who reported that they had considered other schools for their child. What did parents of students in public assigned schools value more than other parents (figure 3)?

  • Extracurricular options (including before- and after-school programs): 31 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 25 percent in public chosen schools and 24 percent in private religious schools.
  • Special facilities (e.g., gymnasium, planetarium, library): 26 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 20 percent in public chosen schools and 15 percent in private religious schools.
  • Quality or availability of special education (including services for students with disabilities): 25 percent of parents of students in public assigned schools indicated that this factor was very important, compared with 13 percent in private religious schools and 17 percent in private nonreligious schools.

Figure 3. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


On the other hand, a lower percentage of students in public assigned schools had parents who indicated that the quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff was very important (77 percent) than did students in any other type of school (82 percent of students in public chosen schools, 84 percent of students in private religious schools, and 92 percent of students in private nonreligious schools) (figure 1).

Only 38 percent of students in private religious schools had parents who indicated that the religious orientation of the school was very important when choosing a school (figure 4). Likewise, only a quarter of students overall had parents who indicated that convenience of location was very important when choosing a school.


Figure 4. Among K–12 students whose parents considered multiple schools, percentage whose parents indicated that selected factors were “very important” when choosing child’s school, by school type: 2018–19

SOURCE: Hanson, R., and Pugliese, C. (2020). Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019 (NCES 2020-076). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.


More details about the characteristics and factors that play a role in school choice, as well as additional statistics on family involvement in schools, are available in the recent NCES release Parent and Family Involvement in Education: 2019.

 

By Sarah Grady, NCES

New Report on Crime and Safety in Schools and on College Campuses

Crime in our nation’s schools and college campuses has generally declined over the past two decades, according to Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019, a recently released NCES report. This report highlights new analyses of mental health services provided by public schools and the prevalence of school and school neighborhood problems. The report also covers topics such as victimization, school conditions, safety and security measures at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.

In 2018, students ages 12–18 experienced 836,100 total victimizations (i.e., thefts and nonfatal violent victimizations) at school and 410,200 total victimizations away from school. These figures represent a rate of 33 victimizations per 1,000 students at school and 16 victimizations per 1,000 students away from school. From 1992 to 2018, the total victimization rate and the rates of specific crimes—thefts and violent victimizations—declined for students ages 12–18, both at school and away from school.

This edition of Indicators of School Crime and Safety examines new data on school shootings. While such events represent a small subset of the violent incidents that occur at schools, they are of high concern to those interested in the safety of our nation’s students. In school year 2018–19, there were 66 reported school shootings with casualties at public and private elementary and secondary schools (29 school shootings with deaths and 37 school shootings with injuries only). Between 2000–01 and 2018–19, the number of school shootings with casualties per year ranged from 11 to 66.

Student bullying was the most commonly reported discipline problem among public schools over the past two decades. In school year 2017–18, about 14 percent of public schools reported that bullying occurred among students at least once a week, representing a decrease from the 29 percent of schools that reported student bullying in 1999–2000. In 2017–18, about 15 percent of public schools reported that cyberbullying had occurred among students at least once a week either at school or away from school.

This edition of the report also contains an analysis of new survey items that asked administrators at schools serving fifth-graders about issues in neighborhoods around their schools. In spring 2016, “crime in the neighborhood” and “selling or using drugs or excessive drinking in public” were the two most commonly reported school neighborhood problems. Thirty-four percent of fifth-graders attended schools where crime in the neighborhood was a problem, and 31 percent attended schools where selling or using drugs or excessive drinking in public was a problem. For the five school neighborhood problems examined in the report, fifth-graders attending schools where these were a big problem or somewhat of a problem consistently had lower scores in reading, mathematics, and science than did those attending schools where these were not a problem.



In addition to reporting data on student victimizations and school safety conditions, Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019 also includes information on the programs and practices that schools had in place to promote a safe school. The new report includes a special analysis of mental health services provided by public schools. During the 2017–18 school year, 51 percent of public schools reported providing diagnostic mental health assessments to evaluate students for mental health disorders. Thirty-eight percent of public schools reported providing treatment to students for mental health disorders. When asked about whether certain factors limited their efforts to provide mental health services in a major way, 52 percent of public schools reported that inadequate funding was a major limitation, and 41 percent reported that inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals was a major limitation.



The report also looked at safety and security practices. In school year 2017–18, about 92 percent of public schools had a written plan in place for procedures to be performed in the event of an active shooter. Forty-six percent had a plan for procedures in the event of a pandemic disease. Between 2005–06 and 2017–18, the percentage of public schools that reported having one or more security staff present at school at least once a week increased from 42 to 61 percent.

Shedding light on postsecondary campus safety and security, the report shows that the number of reported forcible sex offenses on college campuses increased greatly while the overall number of reported criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions fell. Between 2001 and 2017, the number of reported forcible sex offenses on college campus increased 372 percent (from 2,200 to 10,400 offenses) while the overall number of criminal incidents reported on postsecondary campuses decreased by 31 percent (from 41,600 to 28,900 incidents). However, in the most recent data (between 2016 and 2017), the overall number of criminal incidents reported on postsecondary campuses increased by 2 percent. In 2017, a total of 958 hate crimes were reported on college campuses, of which the most common types were destruction, damage, and vandalism (437 incidents) and intimidation (385 incidents). Race, religion, and sexual orientation were the categories of motivating bias most frequently associated with these hate crimes.

To view the full Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2019 report, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2020063.

 

By Ke Wang, AIR

New Education Data from the Household Pulse Survey

Recognizing the extraordinary information needs of policymakers during the coronavirus pandemic, NCES joined a partnership with the Census Bureau and four other federal statistical agencies to quickly develop a survey to gather key indicators of our nation’s response to the global pandemic. Thus, the experimental 2020 Household Pulse Survey began development on March 23, 2020, and data collection began on April 23, 2020. This new survey provides weekly national and state estimates, which are released to the public in tabular formats one week after the end of data collection.

The Household Pulse Survey gathers information from adults about employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption. The education component includes questions about the following:

  • The weekly time spent on educational activities by students in public and private elementary and secondary schools
  • The availability of computer equipment and the Internet for instructional purposes
  • The extent to which computer equipment and the Internet for students were provided or subsidized

Since this survey is designed to represent adults 18 years old and over, the responses to the education questions concern students within the households of adults 18 years old and over, not the percentage of students themselves.

In the Household Pulse Survey during the weeks of April 23 through May 5, adults reported that their average weekly time spent on teaching activities with elementary and secondary students in their household was 13.1 hours. These results differed by educational attainment: adults who had not completed high school reported a weekly average of 9.9 hours in teaching activities with children, whereas adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree reported 13.9 hours (figure 1). In terms of the average weekly time spent on live virtual contact between students in their household and their teachers, adults reported a lower average of 4.1 hours.



Adults’ reports about the school instruction model need to be interpreted carefully because respondents could choose multiple types of approaches. A higher percentage of adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (84 percent) reported that classes for elementary and secondary students in their household had moved to a format using online resources than did adults who had completed some college or an associate’s degree (74 percent), adults who had completed only high school (64 percent), or adults who had not completed high school (57 percent).

Higher percentages of adults with higher levels of education than of adults with lower levels of education reported that computers and the Internet were always available for educational purposes for elementary and secondary students in their households (figure 2).



The percentage of adults who reported that the school district provided a computer or digital device for children in their households to use at home for educational purposes was higher for adults who had not completed high school (44 percent) than for adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (33 percent). Also, a higher percentage of adults who had not completed high school than of adults with higher levels of educational attainment reported financial assistance for student Internet access.

It is important to note that the speed of the survey development and the pace of the data collection efforts have led to policies and procedures for the experimental Household Pulse Survey that are not always consistent with traditional federal survey operations. Data should be interpreted with proper caution.  

More information on the Household Pulse Survey, detailed statistical tables, and microdata sets are available at https://www.census.gov/householdpulsedata. The Household Pulse Survey site includes breakouts of the data by other characteristics, such as race/ethnicity. In addition to participating in the development of this new survey, NCES has also generated new analyses based on existing data that respond to new needs for policy information, such as the availability of the Internet for student learning.

 

By Xiaolei Wang, AIR

Bar Chart Race: Changing Demographics in Postsecondary Enrollment

Last month, we released a blog post showing the changes over time in public elementary and secondary school enrollment by race/ethnicity. Now, we’re taking a look at the changing demographics of postsecondary enrollment. The visuals below, which use data from an array of sources, depict the changes in fall enrollment of U.S. residents in degree-granting postsecondary institutions from 1976 to 2028 by race/ethnicity. It should be noted that the predicted enrollment does not take into account future impacts from the current coronavirus pandemic.


 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), “Fall Enrollment in Colleges and Universities” surveys, 1976 and 1980; Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), “Fall Enrollment Survey” (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2018, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions by Race/Ethnicity Projection Model, 1980 through 2028.


Here are some highlights from the data:

  • 1976: Of the 10.8 million U.S. residents enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, some 9.1 million, or 84 percent, identified as White. Lower percentages of postsecondary students identified as Black (10 percent), Hispanic (4 percent), Asian/Pacific Islander (2 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (1 percent).
  • 2002: The percentage of postsecondary enrollment made up of White students dropped below 70 percent.
  • 2003: Postsecondary enrollment of Black students surpassed 2.0 million for the first time in history.
  • 2006: About 17.2 million U.S. residents were enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, a 23 percent increase since 1996. Over this 10-year period, Hispanic and Black students had the largest increases (68 and 51 percent, respectively), compared with Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and White students (41, 32, and 13 percent, respectively). However, White students still accounted for 67 percent of total U.S. resident enrollment in 2006.
  • 2007: Postsecondary enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed 2.0 million for the first time in history.
  • 2010: U.S. resident enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions peaked at 20.3 million.
  • 2012: Enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed enrollment of Black students, making Hispanic students the largest minority population enrolled in postsecondary education.
  • 2028: It is projected that enrollment of U.S. residents in postsecondary institutions will increase slightly between 2016 and 2028 (from 18.8 million to 18.9 million) but remain lower than the all-time high in 2010 (20.3 million). In 2028, it is projected that 52 percent of U.S. residents enrolled in postsecondary institutions will be White, 21 percent will be Hispanic, 15 percent will be Black, 7 percent will be Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 percent will be of Two or more races, and 1 percent will be American Indian/Alaska Native. The Census Bureau estimates that in 2030, roughly 56 percent of the population will identify as White, 14 percent as Black, 21 percent as Hispanic, 7 percent as Asian, and 4 percent as of Two or more races (https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.pdf).

 

By Rachel Dinkes, AIR

NAEP Opens a Pathway to Exploring Student Problem Solving in Assessments

A newly released NCES First Look report, Response Process Data From the NAEP 2017 Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment (NCES 2020-068), introduces a new type of data—response process data—which was made available after the NAEP reading and math assessments transitioned from paper to digitally based assessments in 2017. These new datasets will allow researchers to go beyond analyzing students’ answers to questions as simply right or wrong; instead, researchers will be able to examine the amount of time students spend on questions, the pathways they take through the assessment sections, and the tools they use while solving problems. The new First Look report provides an overview of data that will be available when the restricted-use data files for the 2017 grade 8 mathematics response process data are released later this summer.

NAEP reporting has hinted previously at the promise of response process data. With the release of the 2017 mathematics assessment results, NCES included a feature on The Nation’s Report Card website to show the different steps students took while responding to a question that assessed their multiplication skills. The short video below shows that students used a total of 397 different sequences to group four digits into two factors that yield a given product. The most popular correct and incorrect answer paths are shown in the video. Response process data, such as those summarized in this example item, can open new avenues for understanding how students work through math problems and identifying more detailed elements of response processes that could lead to common math errors.



The First Look report describes the forthcoming data files that will enable researchers to access student response process data from two 30-minute blocks of grade 8 mathematics assessment questions (or a total of 29 test items) and a 15-minute survey questionnaire where students responded to questions about their demographic characteristics, opportunities to learn in and outside of school, and educational experiences. Researchers will be able to explore logs of the response process data collected from each student along with a file containing students’ raw responses and scored responses, time stamps, and demographics. In addition, researchers can explore a file that summarizes defined features of students’ interactions with the assessment, such as the number of seconds spent on specific questions or the number of times the calculator was opened across all students.

To explore this response process dataset, interested researchers should apply for a restricted-use license and request access to the files through the NCES website. By providing this dataset to a wide variety of researchers, NCES hopes to encourage and enable a new domain of research on developing best practices for the use and interpretation of student response process data.

 

By Jan Marie Alegre and Robert Finnegan, Educational Testing Service