Date of Award:

2003

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Ron Thorkildsen

Abstract

There is a perceived crisis concerning public education in the United States. This has led to an increase in the use of standardized tests for the purpose of measuring school effectiveness. However, the use of standardized tests for this purpose is problematic. Among these problems is the concern that standardized tests may not measure what parents believe are the most important attributes of an effective school. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of empirical evidence regarding parent beliefs in this area.

The purpose of this research was to answer the following four questions.

1. What do parents of school-aged children in Utah feel are the most important attributes of an effective school?

2. Are there statistical and practical differences between levels of respondents' association with public schools and their responses to question #1?

3. Are there statistical and practical differences between levels of respondents' level of education and their responses to question #1?

4. Are there statistical and practical significant differences between respondents' gender and their responses to research question #1?

A mail survey of 800 randomly selected Utah parents of school-aged children was conducted to address these questions. To answer research question #1, the method of paired comparisons was used to derive a parent ranking of eight attributes of an effective school. To answer research questions #2, #3, and #4, a chi-square analysis of association was conducted. The practical significance of these results was assessed through the calculation of the effect size w. In total, 199 usable surveys were returned.

Results indicated that parents believed that providing students with a balanced curriculum that encourages a wide range of learning experiences and providing students with the skills necessary to become a productive and useful citizen were more important attributes of an effective school than providing students with a good understanding of basic academic skills. This result is important because it indicates parent support for two attributes of an effective school-wide range of learning experiences and skills to become a productive and useful citizen-that are difficult to measure through the use of standardized tests.

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