What parents say is most important when selecting a school

EdChoice’s “2021 Schooling in America” survey gives insight into parents’ reasons for choosing a school.

The survey polled a national sample of parents from June 14-July 8, 2021 and asked them a wide variety of education-related questions, including what they looked for when choosing a school. Participants were given multiple responses to select from.

As expected, parents’ top reasons for choosing a school varied by learning environment, but topics that often get a lot of attention such as diversity, class sizes and test scores weren’t the most important to parents across the board.

Public District School

The top three reasons parents chose a public district school were the location of the school/close to home or work (42 percent), socialization/peers/other kids (38 percent), or that it was the family’s assigned district/neighborhood school (34 percent). The fourth reason was the school’s academic reputation at 31 percent followed by safe environment (28 percent) and extracurricular activities (19 percent). A school’s diversity was listed in eighth place (16 percent) and tied with structure/discipline.

Public Charter School

Charter school parents prioritized the school’s academic reputation (35 percent), safe environment (32 percent), and morals/character/values instruction (26 percent). Structure/discipline came in fourth at 25 percent, followed by location, socialization and class size all at 24 percent. Test scores and one-on-one student attention tied for ninth (17 percent), with diversity right below at 16 percent.

Private School

Similar to charter school parents, private school parents listed academic reputation (40 percent), a safe environment (37 percent), and morals/character/values instruction (30 percent) as their most important factors when selecting a school. Structure/discipline and one-on-one student attention tied for fourth at 24 percent, with a school’s location next at 22 percent. Diversity and test scores tied for ninth (16 percent).


More than a majority of parents selected safe environment (54 percent) as their top reason for homeschooling, followed by one-on-one student attention at 43 percent. Location and morals/character/values instruction tied for third, but were significantly less important (27 percent). Structure/discipline (24 percent) and academic reputation (23 percent) were closely behind.


What are the takeaways? Frederick Hess with the American Enterprise Institute sums it up well:

First, parents are particularly concerned about academic reputation and school safety — especially when they’re actively choosing a school. Second, for all the attention devoted, for better or worse, to test scores, class size, and diversity in the popular media and in school materials, these just aren’t the things that most parents say they’re focused on. For those of us who tend to think that parents have the best sense of what’s right for their child, it’s well worth taking a few moments to contemplate what these parents may be telling us.

Source: EdChoice, 2021 Schooling in America Survey