Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Helen Sobehart

Committee Member

James Higgins

Committee Member

Antoine Garibaldi


parents, choose, Catholic, schools


Catholic schools in the United States are at a critical juncture. The Catholic bishops speak as if parents choose a Catholic school mainly because of the spiritual mission of the school. But what are the real reasons that parents choose Catholic school for their children? Current research provides no social or religious understanding of the phenomenon of school choice.

Research Questions and hypotheses

As the title indicates, the purpose of this study is to investigate the real reasons that parents choose Catholic school for their children as understood by using a social theory model and as influenced by many forces in our society that have changed over the past several decades. The study will use survey results gathered from parents who have students enrolled in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Erie, PA, as well as a focus group made up of parents. This study seeks the answers to several questions:

1. What is the relationship between background variables gathered in the demographic section of the survey and the reasons parents give for choosing Catholic schools?

2. In the experience of the parents involved in a focus group, have their reasons for sending their children to Catholic schools evolved and changed as their children have aged and moved up in grade, and if so, how?

3. How do their responses reflect the influence of societal trends vs. religiosity, using the lens of Julian Rotter's Social Theory and the implications of the changing Catholic culture as outlined by Thomas Groome?

There are four hypotheses that this author expects to be the outcome of the on-line survey taken by parents. In the case of each hypothesis, some conclusions will be offered in narrative form.

1. Although the bishops continue to speak of spiritual and faith matters as the primary reason that parents choose Catholic schools today, the survey questions that relate to spiritual matters will be rated by the majority of parents much lower than the other questions listed on the survey.

2. Data will demonstrate that students today have a great share in the decision about schooling and that the majority of students have "exclusive" or "most" input into the decision to enroll in a Catholic school.

3. A correlation will be found between how parents are rated in the Locus of Control portion of the survey and the answers they give to the ten questions asked in the survey. There will be a positive relation between those with a high locus of control score and survey questions on safety, behavior, public schools, the academic program and extracurricular programs. There will be a positive relation between those with a low locus of control score and survey questions about spirituality, family atmosphere, community and values.

4. There will be no correlation between parents' attendance at Catholic school and their belief that Catholic school attendance is a matter of tradition.