March 19, 2018

Are Parents’ Ratings and Satisfaction with Preschools related to Program Features?

Anna J. Markowitz
Michelle Zagardo

This study examines whether parents’ overall satisfaction with their child’s early childhood education (ECE) program is correlated with a broad set of program characteristics, including (a) observational assessments of teacher-child interactions; (b) structural features of the program, such as teacher education and class size; (c) practical and convenience factors (e.g., hours, cost); and (d) a measure of average classroom learning gains. It then describes associations between parents’ evaluation of specific program characteristics and externally collected measures of those features. Leveraging rich data from a sample of low-income parents whose 4-year-olds attend publicly funded ECE programs, we find little correspondence between parents’ evaluations of program characteristics and any external measures of those same characteristics. We discuss policy implications, especially in light of recent federal and state informational initiatives, which aim to help families make informed ECE choices.