Most parents are pragmatists

Nearly all parents want their child’s school to provide a strong core curriculum in reading and math and  stress science and technology, concludes a new Fordham study. They want their children to learn good study habits, self-discipline, critical thinking skills and speaking and writing skills. But, after that, parents have different priorities, concludes What Parents Want.

Pragmatists (36 percent of K–12 parents) assign high value to schools that, “offer vocational classes or job-related programs.” Pragmatists tend to be less educated with lower incomes. They’re also more likely to be parents of boys.

Jeffersonians (24 percent) prefer a school that “emphasizes instruction in citizenship, democracy, and leadership.”

Test-Score Hawks (23 percent), who tend to have academically gifted and hard-working children, look for a school that “has high test scores.” If they’re not satisfied, they’ll switch schools.

Multiculturalists (22 percent), who are more likely to be urban, liberal and black, want their children to learn “to work with people from diverse backgrounds.”

Expressionists (15 percent), more likely to be liberals and parents of girls, want a school that “emphasizes arts and music instruction.”

Getting their child into “a top tier college” is important to Strivers (12 percent), who are far more likely to be African American and Hispanic.

After the “non-negotiables” (reading, math and science) and the “must-haves” (study habits, critical thinking, communications), “desirables” include “project-based learning, vocational classes, and schools that prepare students for college and encourage them to develop strong social skills or a love of learning,” the study found. Rated “expendable” are small school enrollment, proximity to home and updated building facilities. Teaching love of country and fluency in a foreign language also was a low priority for most parents. “When forced to prioritize, parents prefer strong academics,” Fordham concluded.

There’s a lot of overlap between Test Score Hawks and Strivers: Add them together and you get  35 percent of parents focused on academic success, nearly as large as the Pragmatist group.  Jeffersonians and Multiculturalists don’t overlap as much, but arguably both groups are concerned about preparing children to be citizens in a diverse society.

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  1. The thing about the Test Score Hawks is— Test scores don’t tell you much about a school or curriculum, but they tell you a lot about THE OTHER STUDENTS.

    So, seeking out schools with high test scores means you get to minimize the number of classmates who don’t care or actively disrupt the class. It also lets you select for schools where the other parents are likely to be on your page.

  2. Crimson Wife says:

    I didn’t like that the quiz forced me to choose between “high standards for student behavior” and “extremely high academic standards”. I want both in my kids’ school. Private schools have both- why can’t public schools?

    • cranberry says:

      True–the six question quiz forced parents to select “the most important.” On at least one question, I longed for a “none of the above” option.

      A demanding academic course of study, high standards for behavior, and exposure to the arts–these are not mutually exclusive. They tend to go hand in hand. Given a choice, parents will gravitate to schools which offer a great all-around program.

  3. I’d think that the results are skewed by having to make either/or choices where there could be ‘both’. It also seems that parents might make different choices for different kids. Your budding doctor needs a rigorous academic program, while your future plumber needs a tech program.

    • Good point. And heck, even if *MY* precocious plum needs a full suite of AP classes and beyond, I have nothing against ALSO funding votech classes for the kids who feel like they’ll stab their eyeballs out with a pencil if they have to spend one more second in a desk. Heck—My precocious petunia may want to take a votech class or two just to learn life skills just in case that “Creative Writing” degree doesn’t pan out for her.

      (As a HS kid, I really wanted to take electronics. But they eliminated that in favor of marketing just when I was old enough to take it!)

      • They don’t let you take classes from another “track” in our high schools. So if you’re gifted, and want to take some vo-tech classes? You can’t.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    I don’t see anything there mutually exclusive with anything else…unless you think diversity means necessarily discounting academic achievement. In theory, of course, it does not….
    There is no reason, theoretically, not to teach all, except for resources.
    If it were up to me, the questions would be…which would you take away first?