What is most important to parents in choosing a school for their child? What challenges do families face in their decision making? Through hundreds of emails and conversational interviews with parents, educators, and local/national community stakeholders, the Cleveland Transformation Alliance Family Listening Campaign has become a thoughtfully designed research tool that will answer these important questions and more when it comes to school choice for Cleveland public schools.

In hopes of engaging the city’s district and charter schools, parents and education decision makers, the survey results will guide the work of Cleveland Transformation Alliance and will be updated annually to inform the organizations programming and service model. “Does the information we provide match up with what parents are looking for?” This is the key question that led Executive Director Meghann Marnecheck to engage researchers Audrey Altieri and Hailey Oppenlander in the development of a family-centric research protocol for school choice.

Altieri, a high school math teacher turned education policy wonk, is excited about the potential of gathering research results that will directly impact the lives of students and families. “There are so many organizations doing similar things in other cities but have not gathered parent perspectives in this way. It’s pretty novel to directly reach out to parents, and we have no idea what’s going to come from this — the future for Cleveland Transformation Alliance is going to be driven by parent voices.”

Both Altieri and Oppenlander, an undergrad at the University of Notre Dame, are experienced researchers who have been pleasantly surprised by the level of excitement and support the Family Listening Campaign has generated from the organization’s community partners. “I don’t know of many other places where you reach out with this level of success and willingness to help. So many people have been willing to review the survey, partner with us to send it out to their trusted networks. That’s [usually] so hard to get in research.”

Launched on July 20, 2020 for a period of 2 weeks, the survey is open to anyone. To design the survey, CTA engaged numerous stakeholders with interest in the Cleveland education landscape — including teachers, parents, principles, housing organizations, city council representatives, faith-based groups, refugee groups, and a student focus group of 8th-grade students.

“We know that COVID-19 will affect how parents are looking at schools, and the survey will tell us what they would like to know about technology, masks, safety, etc.,” said Oppenlander. The pandemic has clearly changed the landscape of school choice, and so the survey tool was designed to evolve year after year to reflect the most up-to-date information and resources parents are seeking and making it available in ways that are most helpful to them.

“This is really meant to put parents and students at the center of the conversation,” is the collective sentiment conveyed by the researchers and the Cleveland Transformation Team who are excited to elevate Cleveland’s high-quality schools and dynamic school choice model into the national conversation.

The Family Listening Campaign takes less than 5-minutes to complete. Click here to take the survey and/or share with your networks