Rice U. study: Safety has many meanings for parents with children in schools

Jeff Falk

Rice U. study: Safety has many meanings for parents with children in schools

HOUSTON – (Feb. 5, 2018) – Safety, just behind family and community engagement, is one of the most import drivers of parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school. “In traditional public schools, safety is just as important in driving overall satisfaction as teachers, and even more important than academics and learning,” according to a study by scholars at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

In contrast, safety is slightly less important than teachers among charter-school parents.

The inaugural 2017 Collaborative for Customer-Based Execution and Strategy (C-CUBES) Benchmark K-12 School Study is 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.

The meaning of safety may not be well understood by many school leaders and district administrators, the study’s authors said. A multivariate analysis conducted by the research team identified five components that represent 77 percent of the overall concept of safety:

  • Children are physically safe (22 percent).
  • Children are mentally safe (20 percent).
  • Students are free of violence (14 percent).
  • Schools use adequate disciplinary measures in dealing with disruptive students (12 percent).
  • Schools are consistent and fair in enforcing disciplinary policies (9 percent).

“Safety in schools is not an elusive concept,” said study leader Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice. “By focusing on these five concrete areas, public schools can improve parent satisfaction with safety, which should help them to attract and retain families.”

“We now have evidence, using the voice of the customer, that safety includes both physical and mental safety of children. More importantly, it has a component of consistency and fairness in developing and enforcing school policies. Our study shows the three biggest drivers of overall satisfaction are safety along with teachers and family and community engagement.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65 percent of public schools reported that one or more violent incidents had taken place, which amounts to an estimated 757,000 incidents during the 2013-14 school year. “School safety is a real issue for children enrolled in our schools,” Mittal said.

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 inaugural 2017 study on public schools and parent satisfaction, which focused on family and community engagement, Nov. 29. A summary can be viewed here. A second study, released Dec. 5, found that traditional public schools are less likely to earn an A or A-plus from parents than private or charter schools are. A third study, released Dec. 14, found that traditional public-school parents who are “very dissatisfied” with their child’s school are 2.5 times more likely to switch to a charter school than parents who are “very satisfied.”

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


Follow the Jones Graduate School of Business via Twitter @Rice_Biz.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

About Jeff Falk

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