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Title:"Controlled" School Choice: Understanding Educational Decision Making for Families of Low Socioeconomic Status And/or Minority Backgrounds
Author(s):Kurlakowsky, Kathryn D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Rappaport, Julian
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Administration
Abstract:Increasing the role of parental choice in education, particularly for parents of low socioeconomic status, is a school reform policy currently receiving a great deal of attention. As a result, various versions of school-choice programs are being implemented throughout the United States. In an effort to better understand how parents of low socioeconomic status make sense of increased educational decision-making opportunities, the present study utilized ethnographic methodology to examine the educational experiences of such families from their own perspectives. Semistructured interviews with ten parents of low socioeconomic status and/or minority backgrounds and three years of participant observation at a local elementary school revealed that parents are continuously engaged with their children's education, although not necessarily according to white, middle class notions of parental involvement. Although educational decisions are often a natural outgrowth of parental engagement, parental engagement does not necessarily result in "school-choice" decisions per se. Exploring past and present educational experiences of participating families was valuable in gaining insight into how parents knew about and understood a novel school choice policy. Unfortunately, school choice reform efforts in the local community have not positively impacted many of the families who participated in the present research. This is particularly disturbing because families in the present study represent the families the school choice policy was theoretically aiming to provide increased decision-making power. The complicated ways in which parents interact with their children's schools, as well as the ways in which the schools interact with children and their parents seems to impede rather than promote genuine collaboration and communication between parents and schools. This hinders parents and teachers ability to obtain a mutual understanding of the unique strengths and weaknesses of a particular child. When understood in the context of the unequal distribution of power in home-school relations, parents who participate in their child's education in nontraditional ways will likely be excluded from many routine aspects of their child's education. Therefore, providing disadvantaged parents with one additional, formal educational option was unlikely to alter their children's education in meaningful ways.
Issue Date:2005
Description:211 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2005.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3199054
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2005

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