Thomas Stewart, Patrick J. Wolf, Stephen Q. Cornman, Kenann McKenzie-Thompson
Georgetown University Public Policy Institute
This is the third annual report about what parents participating in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) think about it. The findings are in some ways similar to those of previous years. For instance, most parents don't look to measurable educational outcomes, such as standardized test scores and grades, to gauge their children's progress. Still, parent attitudes have perceptibly shifted from immediate concerns for student safety and "intermediate outcomes" such as "increased enthusiasm," to "end outcomes" such as "educational growth" and "desire to attend college." Their attitudes toward the schools themselves have similarly evolved. Whereas in their first year parents cited safety, class size, and location as the three most important factors in selecting a school, in their second and third years they were more likely to consider curriculum, academic rigor, and even religious orientation when evaluating and choosing schools. Because their schools are safe and intimate, parents can now focus on higher-level aspects of education. The report also identifies aspects of the program that parents think could be improved. For instance, some parents expressed a desire for greater oversight of the schools participating in the program, as they thought "a small number of schools misrepresented various aspects of their programs." As in last year's report, parents also worried about the lack of capacity for high school students--only 22 percent of OSP's participating schools serve the higher grades. Indeed, OSP risks losing many participants if it doesn't address this issue. On the whole, though, OSP continues to disprove the common allegation that low-income parents can't make smart choices regarding their children's schooling. Keep an eye out for the Institute for Education Sciences second-year evaluation of the program's educational impact (we looked at last year's here) for an even fuller picture. You can download the report on parent attitudes here.