Let’s Go Shopping


 (Guest post by Patrick Wolf)

We interrupt this celebration of the Jay P. Greene Blog’s four years of extraordinary wonderfulness for a “stop the presses” headline:  71% of parents in Detroit have shopped for (and enrolled a child in) an alternative to their assigned public schools within the past five years.  This is only one of many interesting results from the study Understanding School Shoppers in Detroit by Thomas Stewart and me.

Our study is based on the administration of a door-step survey to over 1000 parents living in nearly 300 different city blocks selected at random for canvassing.  We also held follow-up focus groups with parents and older students.

The report was sponsored by Michigan Future, a non-partisan non-profit organization committed to creating 35 high-quality high schools in the city over the coming years.  They are leading community efforts to improve education in Detroit and enlisted us to perform the first-ever demand study of urban schooling.

The people at Michigan Future sought basic research to better understand Detroit parents as shoppers for k-12 schools.  They wanted to know how many parents had experience with school shopping (a lot!), when did they shop (May-August), how did they shop (through social networks, school fairs, web searches, and a limited number of school visits), and what were they looking for (schools with a strong academic program and safe environment).

Charter schools are the most popular schools of choice for Detroit parents, but a staggering 15% of Detroit children currently attend public schools outside of the city.  Nearly 30% of parents said they would transport a child “up to 8 miles” to access a desirable school, and many clearly are doing so.

Stewart and I further determined that 59% of Detroit parents had the characteristics of “veteran” shoppers in that they had exercised choice in the past as well as the present and plan to continue to shop in the future.  About 12% of parents were classified as “emerging” shoppers who were new to school choice and still trying to figure out where the good stores are.  Another 8% of Detroit parents were “potential” shoppers with many of the characteristics that predicted school shopping, such as disappointment with their child’s school and an expressed willingness to travel long distances to a better school, but who had not yet actually shopped.  The final 21% of parents were classified as “unlikely” school shoppers, with attributes and attitudes that suggest they will continue to accept the default of assigned public schools.

Enjoy browsing!

5 Responses to Let’s Go Shopping

  1. There was nice coverage of this report in the Detroit News:

    And Pat has a nice quote in this WSJ article today about how vouchers are gaining ground: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303624004577338131609745296.html

  2. mmazenko says:

    Colorado has what, in my feeling, is the most effective and least controversial system. Statewide open enrollment and a thriving charter and magnet system. Neighborhood schools should exist, but students should always have an opportunity to choose another school if it better fits them.

    • allen says:

      Unfortunately, the district system is inherently averse to parental choice in favor of the wise overlordship of elected representatives and their hired minions.

      • Some yes, some no. Our district is open to choice, and more CO districts are. Even DPS which still practices forced placement of teachers is also a hotbed of charter activity. So to talk about the “district system” is simply to be disagreeable with no real goal of progress.

      • allen says:

        No, all. Just like all lions are carnivores.

        Observing a lion lying down with a lamb doesn’t signal a change in the character of lions. It’s just means you’ve come across an unusual lion and probably one that’s not hungry.

        Districts are averse to parental choice, and input, for the same reason they’re averse to teacher input – both parents and teachers are at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy and, absent some legislative directive to the contrary, both will stay at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy.

        Even with legislation to alter the relationship human nature will dictate constant pressure on the part of those atop the organizational hierarchy to subvert that theoretical, legislatively-conferred influence. If you’re running the school, or the district, the more power in your hands, and the less interference from those over whom you have power, the better.

        It’s not a situation peculiar to the public education system being a function of human nature. It is, however, exacerbated by the structure of public education and is only partially, relatively and temporarily redressed by the expansion of charters. Given time those with power will seek to acquire more power and having power will have an advantage in the acquisition of the power they covet.

        And just to be clear, the only reason I’m “disagreeable” is because I won’t agree to abide by your taboos.

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