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.