School choice in rural North Carolina: understanding parents’ experiences navigating the school choice process

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Roland C. Ham (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Carl Lashley

Abstract: Historically research on the concept of school choice and the perspective of parents partaking in the school choice process has been isolated to urban areas. However, school choice options are no longer isolated to large cities. More education options for parents in rural settings are becoming available every day. Charter schools are on the rise. Many states are providing vouchers for students to attend private schools. Even rural public school systems are now offering more magnet programs and choice options. Information on how parents in rural areas are participating in school choice is lacking. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine what factors influenced rural parents who have taken part in the school choice process. Additionally, this study is designed to learn what strategies rural school and school system leaders are using to help inform the parental decision making process. A qualitative study design was used to determine what factors influence rural parents when making a school choice decision as well as what strategies school administrators employ in order to shape that decision. Data was collected from participants in three ways. The first way was through a semi-structured interview process. Second, each participant was emailed a copy of their interview transcript along with follow-up questions in order to gain more depth and clarity. Finally, a document analysis of all available digital media was conducted in an effort to determine how effective these efforts were in shaping the decision-making process. The data revealed that parents are highly impacted by their previous experiences with schooling. These experiences drive parents to conduct choice work, where they analyze all of the available school options that are available to them. Through school visits and conversations with trusted friends and family members, parents include or exclude schools from their choice set before making a final school choice decision. Administrators in this study were most effective at promoting their schools through face-to-face communication despite a growing online presence. Finally, the data revealed that charter schools could possibly be driving private schools in rural areas to closure.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Rural, School Choice
Rural schools $z North Carolina
School choice $z North Carolina
Education $x Parent participation $z North Carolina

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