Parker, Tara Wooten (2015). Understanding the private school choice decision process: A Q-methodology study. Doctoral dissertation (Educational Administration and Supervision), North Carolina State University.

Abstract: The availability of school choice options has increased the schools’ accountability to both parents and students. This study’s purpose was to gain a deeper understanding of the subjectivity of the school choice decision process that private school parents undergo. Q methodology was utilized to explore this decision process. Research literature was reviewed and led to the development of statements addressing influential factors on school choice decisions. These statements were printed, and thirty-five private school parents sorted these statements based on the factors’ influence on their school choice decision. Post-sort interviews further explored the subjectivity of the decision process. The Q sorts were factor analyzed to determine the statistical correlations between the statements. Three emerging factors surfaced as distinct preferred school environments by private school parents. Data analysis explored these factors and a name for each factor was assigned based on the strongest influential statements. These three factors included a Developing the Whole Child Environment, a Strong, Academic Environment, and a Safe Environment with Like Peers. Findings presented numerous factors that influence school choice decisions. Data also provided information regarding perceived strengths and weaknesses of both public schools and private schools. The findings directed implications for both public and private school administrators and policymakers. These implications can help drive school reform initiatives. Without addressing these parent preferences, schools will not be able to compete in the market economy created by school choice.