Parent Poll: Safety No. 1 for School Satisfaction

Safety -- just behind family and community engagement -- is one of the most import drivers of parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school.

“In traditional public schools, safety is just as important in driving overall satisfaction as teachers, and even more important than academics and learning,” according to a study by scholars at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

In contrast, safety is slightly less important than teachers among charter-school parents.

The study is based on a national  online survey of more than 7,259 parents. 

"The meaning of 'safety' may not be well understood by many school leaders and district administrators," the study’s authors said. The researchers identified five common components:

--Children are physically safe (22 percent).

--Children are mentally safe (20 percent).

--Students are free of violence (14 percent).

--Schools use "adequate disciplinary measures in dealing with disruptive students" (12 percent).

--Schools are consistent and fair "in enforcing disciplinary policies" (9 percent).

“Safety in schools is not an elusive concept," said study leader Vikas Mittal of Rice. “By focusing on these five concrete areas, public schools can improve parent satisfaction with safety, which should help them to attract and retain families.”

Mittal added: "We now have evidence, using the voice of the customer, that safety includes both physical and mental safety of children. More importantly, it has a component of consistency and fairness in developing and enforcing school policies. Our study shows the three biggest drivers of overall satisfaction are safety along with teachers and family and community engagement.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 65 percent of public schools reported that one or more violent incidents had taken place, which amounts to an estimated 757,000 incidents during the 2013-14 school year. 

“School safety is a real issue for children enrolled in our schools,” Mittal said.

Additional members of the research team include Jihye Jung at Rice and Shrihari Sridhar and Yixing Chen at Texas A&M University.

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