Ep. 15: Why IN Parents Choose Survey with Drew Catt & Evan Rhinesmith

September 20, 2017

Authors of our newest research report, Why Indiana Parents Choose, Drew Catt and Dr. Evan Rhinesmith hop in the studio to discuss the responses of Indiana school parents from all sectors to a survey that aims to measure what motivates them to choose schools, their children’s schooling experiences, their awareness of school choice options, their satisfaction levels and goals they set for their children’s education.

Catt: Hello, I’m Drew Catt, EdChoice’s director of state research and policy analysis, and I’m joined today by Dr. Evan Rhinesmith, senior researcher at Basis Policy Research, to discuss our co-authored report, Why Indiana Parents Choose: A Cross-Sector Survey of Parents’ Views in a Robust School Choice Environment. Thanks for joining us Evan.

Rhinesmith: Hey, not a problem.

Catt: We received survey responses for more than 3,000 voucher, tax-credit scholarship, non-choice private—which is those in private school, but not in one of Indiana’s school choice programs—also, district and charter school parents in Indiana. Evan, what did you find most interesting in the results of our survey?

Rhinesmith: The most interesting thing for me was just that we continuously find the same finding, really, with satisfaction research. Parents who are given the opportunity to choose always state that they are more satisfied than their peers who don’t have the same opportunity to choose their school.

Catt: I was intrigued, it’s still the private school parents being significantly more likely than the district school parents to report being satisfied.

Rhinesmith: Correct.

Catt: I was astounded by the fact that of all of the private school, district school and charter school parents that weren’t participating in the voucher or tax-credit scholarship program, a third of those parents, actually more than a third, said that they didn’t even know that the programs existed.

Rhinesmith: That was an interesting finding too. In a state where we have all these different school choice programs, to have that many parents say that they didn’t know that the programs even existed is a shock.

Catt: Yeah. If we, looking at the findings of how parents found out about their school, which could’ve also maybe been how they found out about the program, but let’s not jump to any conclusions since we didn’t specifically ask that question. But similar to a survey that we conducted last year, it was the majority of parents found out about the school in the voucher or tax-credit scholarship program through friends or relatives or through church, which goes to show the power of social networks.

Rhinesmith: I believe it does. The church finding makes a lot of sense especially when you consider that a lot of the private schools that participate in the state’s voucher programs are religiously affiliated. That’s not as big of a shock for me, but it is interesting just how much parents rely on just that network of friends, relatives and the church setting to find a school that they believe will fit their child’s needs.

Catt: Yeah, because in my mind, it is all about finding that best fit. Whether it’s the private school in the next county, the charter school near where the parents work or if it’s the ZIP Code-assigned district school right down the street.

Rhinesmith: Exactly.

Catt: Speaking of parental preferences, we also asked what parents preferred in terms of educational goals and I found some of those responses, personally, to be pretty interesting. Just about how across the board, parents are very, it seems, in tune with what they want for their children and their expectations from education.

Rhinesmith: That is a good part of the school choice world is giving parents the opportunity to find something for their child that they value.

Catt: We also found that hopefully through participation in these school choice programs that within their voucher or tax-credit scholarship school, parents were more likely to communicate with teachers compared to their previous school, which was a similar finding to what we had last year. In addition to more than half of the school choice parents said that they participate in school activities more, work on math or arithmetic with their children more and even volunteer and perform community services more often now they’re in the voucher or tax-credit scholarship school.

Rhinesmith: It’s good that the program empowers parents along with the students. A lot of it has to do with parents getting invested in the school once they have to make that choice. At least when they’re afforded the opportunity to make the choice. They do own that decision that they’re making and it shows when they say that they’re participating in these activities more.

Catt: Speaking of what parents do and the sacrifices that they make for their children, we asked parents whether they have taken on a part time job or other job for additional income, changed their job and or have taken out a new loan to support their child’s K–12 education. And it was more than two-thirds of the private school choice parents, said that they had done one of those things. Which just goes to show the sacrifices that some parents are willing to make in order to allow their child to attend what they deem to be a best fit for them.

Rhinesmith: It is interesting how much these parents were willing to fight for their child’s education. It’s a comforting thing to see just how invested these parents get.

Catt: It’s also important to point out that it’s not just the private school parents that are making the sacrifices. Or the private school choice parents making the sacrifices.

Rhinesmith: Just over a third of the charter school parents said that they had participated in at least one of those activities, too, to try and afford a better educational opportunity for their child.

Catt: Same with, little less than a third of the district school parents, so maybe that’s taking out a loan to move to a different district or who’s to actually say one way or the other. It all comes down to parents valuing the opportunity to choose a school they believe is a better fit for their student.

Rhinesmith: It’s important to recognize, too, that in the survey we weren’t just looking at private school parents, but also the parents in the district schools. Understanding that parents in all sectors of education value their child’s education is a really important finding here.

Catt: Yes, I most definitely agree with you there. It’s regardless of the school type. Regardless of where a family lives or how much money they are able to bring in. It’s the importance they are still placing on education.

Rhinesmith: Yes. Correct.

Catt: What’s next for you, Evan? Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?

Rhinesmith: I continue to work on higher ed aspects. My dissertation work was the first evaluation of Arkansas’ statewide college remediation policy for all first-time college enrollees. Trying to package those out to send out to journal articles, as journal articles rather. Digging into a lot of the ongoing research that Basis Policy Research, my current position, they have ongoing trying to jump in and drink from the fire hose as it were with all the work that we have ongoing. Hopefully, we’ll see some more stuff coming out in the near future.

Catt: Definitely. Looking forward to that. Do you have anything else to add?

Rhinesmith: I do not, thanks for having me on.

Catt: Yeah, thank you so much for joining us, Evan.

Rhinesmith: It was my pleasure.

Catt: There you have it. Check out the description box for a link to our full report and don’t forget to subscribe to our podcasts for more of our coverage of new school choice research and education reform policy chats. Thank you for listening and until next time, take care.


To download the full report, visit Why Indiana Parents Choose.