Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Charles Hausman

Abstract

School Choice is a topic that finds itself at the top of school reform and political agendas across the United States, while also being a significant focal point in the educational literature. However, little attention in the debate has been placed on private, independent school choice – including private religious school choice – despite that data that shows “seventy-nine percent of all private schools had a religious affiliation in 1999– 2000: 30 percent . . . affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and 49 percent with other religious groups” (U.S. Department of Education, 2002, p. 3) and that “initial research on school choice that concentrated on private schools did acknowledge that many parents are likely to choose a private school for religious values” (Bauch and Goldring, 1995).

This study focuses on examining the choice behaviors of families who choose independent, nondenominational Christian education, including the reasons they choose to exit before graduation and including the central role of information sources in making such choices. The study uses Rational Choice Theory and Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty Theory as theoretical frameworks in order to couch the findings. The conclusions of this study are further couched in a bi-modal framework that posits choice involves “foundational factors” necessary for further investigation of potential schools and “factors of ethos” that, in essence, “break the tie” in the choice process – leading families to choose one particular school over others.

The findings of the study, similar to the findings within other school choice literature, show that word-of-mouth information sources – predominant in informal/relational connections – are clearly the “most helpful” and “most important” sources of information in the choice process. However, the importance of web-based sources and achievement test scores also are found to be significant information sources for families who choose private, nondenominational Christian Education. In addition, in this study the differences between exiters and families that reenroll are not shown to be statistically significant and, therefore, the author suggests that theories focused on the ongoing relationships between constituents and organizations, instead of theories related to exit such as Hirschman’s Exit theory, may be more beneficial in the ongoing school choice and school reform debates.

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