Parental Satisfaction With Schools Linked To Higher SAT Scores


Linda Jacobson

Dive Brief:

  • Administrators who want to raise students’ SAT scores might want to consider how parents feel about their schools, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Rice University in Houston as part of the Collaborative for Customer-Based Execution and Strategy’s K-12 Benchmark project, a survey of over 7,500 public school parents.
  • Analyzing the responses of high school parents from the online survey, the researchers found that parent satisfaction toward their child’s school is “positively associated” with higher scores on the college entrance exam, with a 169-point difference in scores between schools where parents say they are “very dissatisfied” and those where they are “very satisfied.”
  • Last fall, the researchers released results showing that parents in traditional public schools are less satisfied than those in private and charter schools, and they also plan to examine connections between parent satisfaction and other measures of school success, such as attendance rates and student discipline.

Dive Insight:

“This study provides evidence that the customer’s voice is a good barometer to measure outcomes that matter most to leaders, parents, students and other stakeholders,” Vikas Mittal, the lead researcher and a professor of marketing at Rice, said in a press release. “SAT is one such outcome.”

With states increasingly replacing high school exams with the SAT or ACT and including them as part of their accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act, school leaders’ reasons for preparing students to take those exams go beyond making sure students are ready for college-level work. The findings also suggest that relationships with parents continue to be important into the high school years — a time when parents are often less involved.

There are a variety of factors that determine students’ SAT scores, but parents’ views toward their children’s schools could be one of those factors. And while there is a large body of research about the impact of parent involvement on children’s academic achievement, less is known about the role of parental satisfaction.

In a recent study from England, researchers from the University of Sussex and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, examined data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, a sample of over 10,000 students. They found that it took strong family-school relationships and high levels of parent satisfaction with the school to boost student performance. Citing previous research, the authors suggest that it could be a chicken-and-egg scenario in that parents are satisfied because their child attends a good, high-performing school. But they also note that parents who are happy with their child’s school and feel welcome are more likely to be “open and responsive to school supports” designed to improve their child’s learning.

Mittal notes that schools often focus “inward” when trying to raise achievement, and that whether or not the schools are already high-performing, the study shows parent satisfaction is a good indicator of SAT performance. “From a business perspective,” he says, “we are always saying you should measure customer satisfaction.”

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