What Do Parents Choose?

Published May 1, 2000

If parents were given the power to choose schools for their children, would they make wise choices?

Harvard University economics professor Caroline Hoxby recently reviewed the evidence in favor of choice-based education reforms, where parents would choose their child’s school:

What Parents Say: When surveyed, parents say their first priority is learning, especially in reading, writing, math, science, and history.

Choosing Charter Schools: Most of the nation’s 1,700 charter schools emphasize academics. To date, none of these schools of choice has emphasized sports.

Choosing Public Schools: In areas where there are many public school districts for parents to choose from–i.e., where choice-based performance incentives already are in place–the average school is more academically oriented and sets higher standards for homework and in-school behavior.

“The evidence suggests that parents ought to be believed when they say what they want,” said Hoxby. “If parents’ preferences are given greater sway, they may well trigger higher standards for academic behavior.”

For more information …

“What Parents Choose When Given Choices,” an essay by Caroline Hoxby, is available on the Hoover Institute’s Web site at http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/pubaffairs/we/current/hoxby_0300.html.