Study: Parents grade public schools lower than private and charter schools

Public schools are less likely to earn an A or A-plus from parents than private or charter schools are, according to a new study by scholars at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Credit: 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 were asked to grade their child’s school using a simple grading scale (from A-plus to D or below).

Only 50 percent of parents with children in public schools gave the schools an A or A-plus. In contrast, 74 percent of the parents with children in private school gave it an A or A-plus, with 62 percent in of the parents in charter schools doing the same. The disparity in overall grade was based on the parents’ overall satisfaction with the school. Parents based their overall satisfaction on strategic areas such as academics and learning, school administration and staff, safety, teachers, safety, family and community engagement, and extra-curricular activities. At public schools, only 43 percent of the parents were “very satisfied,” while at 61 percent at private schools were “very satisfied” and 56 percent at charter schools were “very satisfied.”

When it came to lower grades, 27 percent of parents in public schools and 22 percent of parents in charter schools gave a grade of B or lower to their child’s school. In contrast, only 10 percent of parents in private schools gave a B or lower.

“In most service industries, overall customer satisfaction is a critical driver of client ratings,” said study leader Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice. “Public schools are much less likely to earn an A or A-plus grade and much more likely to get a grade of B or lower. This is related to the lower overall satisfaction of parents in public schools. Over time, lower satisfaction will not only earn public schools a lower grade, but also lower willingness among parents to re-enroll their child at public schools. Our study provides a concrete road map that schools can implement to increase parent satisfaction and retention. Interestingly, the road map for improving parent satisfaction at public schools is different from that for private and charter schools. Copying charter and private schools is unlikely to help public schools become competitive.”

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

C-CUBES released its first study on public schools and parent satisfaction, which focused on family and community engagement, Nov. 29. A summary can be viewed here.

For more information about and insights from Jones School faculty research, visit the school’s Rice Business Wisdom website,

About Jeff Falk

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