Public school choice education policy attempts to create an education marketplace. Although school choice research has focused on the parent role in the school choice process, little is known about parents served by low-performing schools. Following market theory, students attending low-performing schools should be the primary students attempting to use school choice policy to access high performing schools rather than moving to a better school. However, students remain in these low-performing schools. This study took place in Miami-Dade County, which offers a wide variety of school choice options through charter schools, magnet schools, and open-choice schools.
This dissertation utilized a mixed-methods design to examine the decision-making process and school choice options utilized by the parents of students served by low-performing elementary schools in Miami-Dade County. Twenty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with the parents of students served by low-performing schools. Binary logistic regression models were fitted to the data to compare the demographic characteristics, academic achievement and distance from alternative schooling options between transfers and non-transfers. Multinomial logistic regression models were fitted to the data to evaluate how demographic characteristics, distance to transfer school, and transfer school grade influenced the type of school a transfer student chose. A geographic analysis was conducted to determine how many miles students lived from alternative schooling options and the miles transfer students lived away from their transfer school.
The findings of the interview data illustrated that parents’ perceived needs are not being adequately addressed by state policy and county programs. The statistical analysis found that students from higher socioeconomic social groups were not more likely to transfer than students from lower socioeconomic social groups. Additionally, students who did transfer were not likely to end up at a high achieving school. The findings of the binary logistic regression demonstrated that transfer students were significantly more likely to live near alternative school options.