Do parents care about test scores?

Not when it comes to choosing a school, according to the roughly 1,500 parents who participated in EdChoice’s 2023 Schooling America Survey. But academic quality was a top factor in school selection for charter school, private school, and home education parents.

Current parents with children in a district school, charter school, private school or homeschool were asked to select from 14 reasons for choosing that learning environment, and test scores was near the bottom of the list.

The highest ranked factors for school selection among public district school parents were “location/close to home or work,” socialization/peers/other kids, and the fact that it was their assigned district/neighborhood school.

“Safe environment,” “academic quality or reputation,” and location came in as the top priorities for public charter school parents; “morals/character/values instruction,” academic quality, and a safe environment for private school parents; a safe environment, individual/one-on-one attention, and academic quality for homeschool parents.

While I have written much on declining test scores and significant drops in academic achievement as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and Minnesota’s Comprehensive Assessments, this recent survey shows parents don’t really consider them when picking a learning environment for their child. (I do still think they play a role in accountability, at least until we come up with something better.)

But not all families have the leeway to access the learning environment that they actually want. And that’s why educational freedom is so empowering.

When parents have the opportunity to pick from a variety of educational settings (unburdened by financial barriers) they can select the learning environment that aligns with their values and needs and “decide what a ‘quality’ learning environment looks like and what constitutes a ‘good’ school,” points out Kerry McDonald with the Foundation for Economic Education.

If given the choice, only 29 percent of polled parents would prefer to send their child to their assigned district school, with more instead preferring their child attend a private school.

As 2023 continues to be the “Year of Universal Choice,” it’s time for Minnesota to join its neighbors and states across the country in making sure access to a quality education — in whatever form that takes — is available to all. And it’s up to the Minnesotans who have voiced overwhelming support for school choice to help make it a reality.