Opening Doors: How Low-Income Parents Search for the Right School

January 2007

Researchers working for CRPE's Doing School Choice Right initiative zero in on school-choice decisions made by 800 low- to moderate-income families in three cities. The parents surveyed rely on multiple sources of information but trust word-of-mouth more than documentation; seek quality schools but limit the number they examine; and feel well-informed and appear satisfied with the school-choice decisions they make. The parents have specific ideas about what their individual children need in a school and try to find the right match.

The study also reveals that when children are involved in the decisionmaking, parents report a higher level of satisfaction with the school selected than when children are left out of the choice process. The parents studied had already made at least one school-choice decision. Low-income parents who have never before had the opportunity to choose among schools might not be as efficient as those in the survey. But the study shows that parents who know they have options take choice seriously and quickly develop sources of information.