Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Barbara Strobert

Committee Member

Michael Osnato

Committee Member

Adunni Anderson

Committee Member

Melvin Katz

Keywords

Middle school choice, Magnet schools, New Jersey, Northern New Jersey, Education

Abstract

Since their creation over two centuries ago, public schools have been coupled with students via geographical zones. Bolstered by compulsory attendance laws, public schools have a very consistent clientele. Based solely on where they resided, students were required to attend specific schools between Kindergarten and Grade 12. Schools have, in essence, a monopoly. Like all monopolies, they developed and operated quite inefficiently, especially when contrasted with their counterparts in the highly competitive, non-monopoly, for-profit business world. In the latter environment, companies that operate incompetently and wastefully find themselves out of customers and soon thereafter out of business altogether. With public school zones and compulsory attendance laws, public schools are guaranteed a steady supply of customers. In recent years, this business model has come under scrutiny from parents attempting to reform the system from within. This study attempts to look at a unique K-12 school district in Northern New Jersey. The Montclair Public Schools is distinctive due to the magnet nature of the public schools and levels of socio-economic and ethnic diversity found in the township. Parents and students have the option of attending any one of seven elementary schools and three middle schools in town. Integrating both qualitative and quantitative elements, the researcher surveyed the parents of students as they exited the Grade Five Magnet Elementary Schools and attempted to select from one of the three public Magnet Middle Schools. The Survey of Middle School Choice attempted to interpret the decision­ making process and isolate key factors influencing this decision. Quantitative components included Multi-Choice Elements as well as Likert-Type Responses. Frequency statistics, mean scores, t-tests, analyses of variance and Post Hoc Tests were used to determine significance. Qualitative elements included Open-Ended Responses and provided the respondents an opportunity to elaborate on specific components of the middle school choice process. These responses were transcribed and analyzed for key terms and phrases. The findings reveal that the single greatest factor influencing parents' school choice is the quality of the teaching staff This factor cuts across all racial, gender and socio-economic groupings and is affirmed within each of these subgroups. Additional but secondary factors include magnet theme, quality of the administration and the overall perception of the school.

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