Title

School Choice for Children with Disabilities: How Parents Choose

First Presenter's Institution

University of Texas at Austin

Second Presenter's Institution

NA

Third Presenter's Institution

NA

Fourth Presenter's Institution

NA

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Harborside East & West

Strand #1

Family & Community

Relevance

The presenter will share insights gained through a comprehensive review of the literature focused on the school choice decision making process for parents with a child with a disability. Parents are responsible for making crucial choices surrounding their child's education but school choice options and the need for the appropriate education for their child with a disability further complicates these choices. Participants will learn how parents navigate the complex task of choosing a charter school and what factors influence this decision.

Brief Program Description

The objective of this presentation is to provide insights gathered from a systematic literature review on parent decision making regarding school choice for their child with a disability. The target audience is school leaders and policymakers because this information will hopefully provide a voice for parents entrenched in making these difficult decisions.

Summary

While there is a great deal of research on school choice in general, for parents with children receiving special education services the decision-making process for choosing a school includes one important additional component: how the school will implement the child’s special education services. Parents want to know the teachers’ ability to meet the child’s needs, to have discussions with other parents, and know if their voice as a parent is valued (Byrne, 2013). Parents are also interested in knowing more about the school’s facilities and whether they are appropriate for the child, the school environment, their child’s happiness, and how the child’s IEP will be implemented (Byrne, 2013). With special education services constituting an umbrella of services, settings, and disability categories, the school choice decisions are different for each family considering these factors.

When parents chose to leave traditional public schools they did so for varying reasons because parent “choice sets” are different based on social capital and networks. Parents are deciding upon charter schools because they were unhappy with the previous school or because the new school drew them in because of something specific such as curriculum or the school philosophy. One parent shared that the basis of her choice was focused on appreciate for the school mission to educate the whole child and focus on more than standardized testing (Villavicencio, 2013). While other parents expressed the desire for a more advanced school for their child that would challenge them academically because the previous school did not.

Parents have to review these concerns, viewpoints and outcomes and consider them with their own family values and determine which school is best for their child. The enormous burden that this task places on families can be even more difficult when parents do not have access to information and the resources to support them through this decision making process. This presentation will focus on how the literature provides a glimpse of how complex school choice is for parents with a child with a disability.

Evidence

A review of the literature was conducted to examine how parents make decisions to enroll their children in different school types (e.g., charters, traditional public schools, private). The research showed that parents do not have equal access to information and resources. Therefore, the choice parents make can be a reflection of access to educational opportunities and family values. For example, parents do not make choices based on all options available (Bell, 2009; Villavicencio, 2013). Instead they use “choice sets” that are determined in part by a parent’s social and economic capital (Bell, 2009; Villavicencio, 2013). Parents work to narrow the large pool of options because, “choice sets are shaped by family characteristics and not necessarily by the characteristics of the schools themselves” (Villavicencio, 2013, p. 4).

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Alexis McCoy is a 3rd year doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin in the special education department in the multicultural concentration. Her research interests include parental involvement, school choice for children with disabilities, and stigma for families and individuals with disabilities. Currently, she is an educational diagnostician in a local Austin school district where she evaluates children for disabilities and facilitates IEP meetings. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she taught middle school students with autism spectrum disorders for four years in Houston and Dallas, Texas.

Keyword Descriptors

School choice, Charter schools, Special education, Parent decision making

Presentation Year

2017

Start Date

3-7-2017 4:00 PM

End Date

3-7-2017 5:30 PM

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Mar 7th, 4:00 PM Mar 7th, 5:30 PM

School Choice for Children with Disabilities: How Parents Choose

Harborside East & West

The objective of this presentation is to provide insights gathered from a systematic literature review on parent decision making regarding school choice for their child with a disability. The target audience is school leaders and policymakers because this information will hopefully provide a voice for parents entrenched in making these difficult decisions.