Study: Public schools lagging in family and community engagement

Although schools’ family and community engagement is the top driver of overall satisfaction among parents, public schools nationwide get poor marks for it, according to a new study by scholars at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Credit: Shutterstock.com/Rice University

The inaugural 2017 Collaborative for Customer-Based Execution and Strategy (C-CUBES) Benchmark K-12 School Study was based on a nationally representative online survey of 7,259 parents conducted during October through November. The goal of the ongoing study is to provide an evidence-based approach to incorporate the stakeholder input in strategic planning and execution for public schools. The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.

Parents who participated in the survey rated overall satisfaction with their child’s school along with critical drivers of overall satisfaction. Using statistical analysis, the research team determined that parents’ satisfaction with “family and community engagement” was the biggest driver of overall satisfaction with the school.

Based on an assessment of overall satisfaction, only 43 percent of parents in public schools were “very satisfied,” 61 percent of the parents in private school were “very satisfied” and 56 percent of the parents in charter schools were “very satisfied.” At public and charter schools, family and community engagement emerged as the largest driver of overall satisfaction. In contrast, family and community engagement was the third-most important determinant of overall satisfaction at private schools, just after teachers and safety.

Satisfaction with family and community engagement showed similar disparities. At public schools only 34 percent of the parents were “very satisfied,” while 50 percent at private schools were “very satisfied” parents and 47 percent at charter schools were “very satisfied.” Satisfaction was similarly low among parents whose child is qualified for free-and-reduced lunch (39 percent). The results did not find any evidence of racial differences. The proportion of parents who said they were “very satisfied” was similar among African-American (41 percent), Asian (34 percent), Caucasian (36 percent) and Hispanic (39 percent) parents.

“The yawning gap in the satisfaction shows a clear area of strategic improvement for public schools to become competitive with private and charter schools,” said study leader Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice. “Our study provides a concrete road map that schools can implement to satisfy parents’ need for further engagement. This road map includes involving parents in school activities, developing avenues for parents to give input in school policies, improved communication and clearly explaining to parents how their child is graded and assessed.”

Additional members of the research team include Jihye Jung at Rice and Shrihari Sridhar and Yixing Chen at Texas A&M University.

For more information about and insights from Jones School faculty research, visit the school’s Rice Business Wisdom website, http://ricebusinesswisdom.com.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.