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PARENTS ATTITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS REGARDING THE QUALITY

AND ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS

by

Andrea M. Wheeler

BEHROOZ SABET, EdD, Faculty Mentor and Chair

KATHERINE GREEN, PhD, Committee Member

RENEE NASH, EdD, Committee Member

James Wold, PhD, Interim Dean, School of Education

A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for the Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Capella University

October 2015
ProQuest Number: 3739507

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Andrea Wheeler, 2015
Abstract

Preschool can be a vital component for nurturing development, especially programs that

are high quality. High quality preschools can offer developmental support for all young

children, but can be especially beneficial for children with risk factors or developmental

delays that may hinder educational or social/emotional growth. Some children may be

successful with or without preschool. However, children that may benefit from the

experience of attending, sometimes do not attend. This is often due to parental views,

experiences, or factors such as location or cost. Most research regarding preschool is

quantitative. Furthermore, there is limited research regarding parents perceptions of

preschool. Therefore, a basic qualitative method was chosen for this study. Data were

collected by conducting one-on-one unstructured interviews with parents of preschoolers.

The purpose of this study was to examine how parents make decisions about preschool.

This study was guided by a central research question and 5 sub-questions. The central

research question asked, What are parents experiences with the decision-making

process regarding preschools? The first sub-question asked, How important do parents

perceive preschool to be? The second sub-question asked, What do parents believe are

the characteristics of a high quality preschool? The third sub-question asked, How do

parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in selecting a preschool? The fourth

sub-question asked How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling their

child in a preschool? The final sub-question asked What factors influence parents

decision to enroll, or not enroll their child in preschool? The findings of this study

revealed that parents considered many options when contemplating enrolling their child

in a preschool. Parents made choices by comparing their options and determining what
was more important at the time even if it meant selecting a lower quality preschool. In

addition, the findings were consistent with rational choice theory, which suggests that

people make decisions based on the choices that are available to them and are the most

important, or beneficial to them.


Dedication

I would like to dedicate my dissertation to my parents, brother, sister-in-law and

my son. My mother, Lillie Wheeler, has always told me you can do anything that you

put your mind to, which she reminded me frequently as I worked toward completing my

dissertation. Mom, I thank you for that because those words became so etched in my

mind that I recalled them every time I was not sure how I was going to get through this.

My father, Clarence Wheeler Sr., instilled in me the importance of education. Before

passing away in 1996, he always asked me when I was going to finish school. Well dad, I

know that you would be proud of me because I finished schoolseveral times. My dear

big brother, Clarence Wheeler Jr., you have always been a great inspiration to me though

you may not know it. Your smile and nod of approval has always inspired me to keep

going and to do my best, especially now. My sister-in law, Trudi Hunter-Wheeler, thank

you for keeping your promise to my dad to make sure that I finished school. You are truly

a big sister to me. You have always made sure I was ready for the next class by keeping

me on my toes with information and slight nudges to meet deadlines. You are the reason

that I attended Capella. Lastly, to my son, DLorian Davis, thank you for believing in me

and supporting me throughout this entire process. If I told you that I was going to the

moon tomorrow, with excitement in your voice, you would say okay ma you can do it.

You have that same enthusiasm and look in your eyes that you did when you were a

small child that believed that your mother could accomplish anything. To all of you,

thank you so much. I love you all and I appreciate the support and encouragement that

each of you have given me during my doctoral journey at Capella University.

iii
Acknowledgments

Through God all things are possible. I would like to acknowledge all of the people

that I believe God put on my path to help me successfully complete my dissertation. First

of all, I would like to thank my awesome dissertation committee. To my mentor, Dr.

Behrooz Sabet, thank you for being accessible whenever I needed you. I deeply

appreciate your guidance as I worked on my dissertation. I would also like to thank my

committee members, Dr. Renee Nash and Dr. Katherine Green for using their knowledge

and expertise to provide me with much needed feedback and suggestions. I could not

have asked for a better dissertation committee.

I would like to thank Dr. George Smith and Dr. Kenneth Peoples for being highly

supportive and encouraging me to keep going when I struggled the most. Also, thank you

for taking time out of your busy schedules to help me out and keep me on track. To my

friends and family, thank you for your patience, understanding and encouragement. I

would also like to give a special thanks to the site and participants in this study. Your

time and willingness to share was sincerely appreciated.

Finally, to my best friend and future Dr. Shannon Maldonado, thank you for being

there for me. Because you were working on your dissertation too, you truly understood

what I was going through. You were highly supportive during my emotional ups and

downs.

iv
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments iv

List of Tables viii

List of Figures ix

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1

Introduction to the Problem 1

Background, Context, and Theoretical Framework 2

Statement of the Problem 3

Purpose of the Study 3

Research Questions 4

Rationale, Relevance, and Significance of the Study 5

Nature of the Study 7

Definition of Terms 7

Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations 9

Organization of the Remainder of the Study 10

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 12

Introduction to the Literature Review 12

Theoretical Framework 13

Review of Research Literature and Methodological Literature 16

Chapter 2 Summary 31

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 34

Introduction to Chapter 3 34

Research Design 35

v
Target Population, Sampling Method, and Related Procedures 36

Data Collection 39

Field Test 41

Data Analysis Procedures 42

Limitations of the Research Design 43

Credibility 44

Dependability 44

Transferability 45

Expected Findings 45

Ethical Issues 46

Chapter 3 Summary 48

CHAPTER 4. DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS 50

Introduction 50

Description of the Sample 51

Research Design and Introduction to the Analysis 58

Detailed Analysis 62

Summary of Findings 96

Chapter 4 Summary 97

CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION 99

Introduction 99

Summary of the Findings 99

Discussion of the Findings 100

Discussion of the Findings in Relation to the Literature 112

vi
Limitations 124

Implication of the Results for Practice 124

Recommendations for Further Research 124

Conclusion 125

REFERENCES 127

APPENDIX A. STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL WORK 134

vii
List of Tables

Table 1. Demographic Survey 55

viii
List of Figures

Figure 1. Coding Tree: Themes and Sub-themes 61

ix
CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Introduction to the Problem

While children from all socioeconomic statuses can benefit from high quality

early childhood programs including preschools, some research indicates that children

from lower socioeconomic families benefit more than children from more privileged

homes (Loeb, Bridges, Bassok, Fuller, & Rumberger, 2007; McCartney, Dearing, Taylor,

& Bulb, 2007; Votruba-Drzal, Coley, & Chase-Lansdale, 2004). However, many children

who qualify for preschool and may benefit from participating do not attend. A survey

study conducted in Chicago by Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI, 2009)

revealed that over half of the children in low-income areas in Chicago qualified for

preschool programs, but were not enrolled. Unfortunately, the lack of enrollment may be

due to parent experiences, beliefs, or lack of knowledge about preschool.

This study was necessary in order to learn about parents overall view of

preschool and how comparing options and factors may have affected their decisions.

Furthermore, this study may lead to influencing future changes to public policies that

affect the ability for children to attend preschool. Knowing how parents make decisions

about preschool can assist with creating more opportunities to educate parents on what to

consider when selecting a high quality preschool.

1
Background, Context, and Theoretical Framework

Background

A high quality preschool can provide children with social and academic skills that

will extend into adulthood (Espinosa, 2002). Unfortunately, many children either do not

attend preschool or attend a preschool of low quality. A study conducted in Chicago

found that the children who qualified to attend preschool were not in school because of

factors such as parental access to resources, location, transportation, enrollment

procedures, and conflict of schedules (COFI, 2009). For children who do not qualify for

free preschool, parents must pay if they want their child to attend, which can be costly

(Jyoti, 2013). Barnett (2008) suggests that regardless of the family background, the

government should provide all children with access to a high quality education.

Context

The focus of this study was to gain an understanding of how parents perceive the

quality of preschools and the ease of access in order to determine if common themes

existed. This study also focused on how these themes may have influenced parents

decisions to place their child in preschool or if it affected how a preschool was chosen.

Theoretical Framework

The intent of this study was to use qualitative methods to gather information from

parents, and then interpret the data to explain how and why parents developed their views

regarding preschool as well as how it influenced their decisions for preschool enrollment.

Thus, this study was rooted in the theoretical framework of rational choice theory. This

theoretical framework was best suited for this study because it focuses on how parents

compare options to make decisions.

2
In relation to parental decisions,

Rational choice theory suggests that parents are utility maximizers who make

decisions from clear value preferences based on calculations of the costs, benefits,

and probabilities of success of various options; that they are able to demand

action effectively from local schools and teachers; and that they can be relied

upon to pursue the best interests of their children (Bosetti, 2004, p.388).

Parents have several options when making decisions about preschool. There are

many factors to consider such as cost, location, and even if preschool is viewed as

beneficial for their child. Therefore, this study sought to explore parents experiences as

well as investigate the decision-making process when considering placement for their

young child. Further discussion regarding the theoretical framework can be found in

Chapter 2.

Statement of the Problem

While research shows that preschool attendance can be extremely beneficial,

many children miss the opportunity to attend preschool or ultimately attend a low quality

preschool due to parents perceptions of preschool including quality, accessibility and

possible barriers including transportation, location, price and hours of service (COFI,

2009).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore parents perceptions of what

constitutes quality in preschools as well as examine if any factors influenced program

3
selection and the decision for their child to attend preschool. Parents are often the

decision makers when selecting education for their child. However, parents are not

considered as reliable sources of data that are accurate and trustworthy by many early

childhood professionals (Emlen, Koren, & Shultz, 1999). Therefore, many studies do not

represent parents views. In addition, much of the research is quantitative, which fails to

investigate the beliefs and experiences that parents have. In other words, it does not

bring the researcher in close contact with the participants in order to capture their

perspectives on the meaning of reality (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010, p.34).

Vast information is available about what theorists and researchers value in early

childhood education, but very little is known regarding what parents find valuable. It was

the intent of this basic qualitative study to explore what parents faced during the decision-

making process regarding preschools. The method of inquiry included conducting one-

on-one interviews to further explore what factors influenced enrollment decisions.

Research Questions

To gain a better understanding of how parents develop their decisions regarding

preschool the following questions were explored:

1. How important do parents perceive preschool to be?

2. What do parents believe are the characteristics of a high quality preschool?

3. How do parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in selecting a

preschool?

4. How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling their child in a

preschool?

4
5. What factors influence parents decision to enroll, or not enroll their child in

preschool?

Rationale, Relevance, and Significance of the Study

Rationale

Several studies are available that have investigated parents perceptions of

preschool regarding topics such as the special education and kindergarten readiness. For

example, a study conducted by Hatcher, Nuner, and Paulsel (2012) investigated parents

and teachers views on preschool promoting kindergarten readiness and found that there

were mixed views between teachers and parents. In another study by Runswick-Cole

(2008) it was revealed that parents perceptions about inclusion varied based on their

childs disability.

While there is plenty of research that expresses the views of parents, there are

very few studies that have investigated how parents beliefs and experiences with

preschools affect their decisions about preschool. The goal of this study was to advance

scientific knowledge by collecting and interpreting data to shed light on the factors that

influence parents to make decisions regarding preschool.

Relevance

It is anticipated that the results from this study may be useful for stakeholders and

policy makers as it may be able to provide insight on how parents experiences can be

examined to determine what practices are most effective for increasing preschool

enrollment. In addition, this study may be beneficial by providing an explanation of why

some parents pay for preschool though free preschools are available.

5
Some data reflects that budget cuts are the culprit for preschools experiencing a

decrease in enrollment. For example, a proposed budget cut to early childhood education

by the Illinois General Assembly was expected to cut about 27,000 children from

preschool programs, which were mostly from low-income families (The Ounce of

Prevention Fund, 2009). However, it is clear that other changes to policies and

procedures can also affect preschool enrollment such as the report from Chicago Public

Schools (CPS), which notes how preschools experienced a 3% decline in enrollment after

changes were made to the application process (Frasier, 2013). As a result of these

changes, some parents experienced difficulty when completing the new application; thus,

making them more reluctant to complete the enrollment process.

Significance

Sahin, Sak, and Sahin (2013) found that research involving parents was often

quantitative. This study, however, used qualitative methods, and sought not to explore the

effectiveness of preschool programs through quantitative methods; rather it investigated

parental views and beliefs about preschool, including effectiveness of programs, the ease

of access to these programs, and how information about preschool was acquired. This

study allowed parents to express their views regarding preschool and explain how those

views affected their decisions. The results were then examined to determine if parents

decisions were influenced by things such as research, word of mouth or trial and error.

Interviewing parents can contribute significantly to the field of early childhood

education, specifically on the preschool level. The findings from this study may be

instrumental in shedding light on the experiences that parents have throughout the

process of searching for and selecting a preschool. It is expected that the information

6
from this study can also have the potential to promote an awareness of how parents

views can be beneficial, especially to policy makers, as decisions are made regarding

preschool programs.

Nature of the Study

A basic qualitative strategy was the research method chosen for this study.

Merriam (2002) states that by conducting a basic qualitative study the researcher pursues

learning about a process, phenomenon, or viewpoints of the participants. Using a

qualitative design provided an opportunity to gain insight into the personal realities that

each participant had to share. Furthermore, qualitative research is a way that interested

researchers can examine the way people create meaning of their experiences (Staller,

2010).

One-on-one unstructured interviews using open-ended questions was the means

for collecting data for this study. Using unstructured interviews allowed the

communication between the researcher and participants to flow more smoothly

(Marvasti, 2004). In addition, Creswell (2009) suggests that qualitative interviews be

unstructured with a few open-ended questions that are intended to attain the views and

opinions of the participants.

Definition of Terms

Childcare / Daycare Centers: Childcare centers are generally an option for

working parents who need their children to be taken care of during the day; centers

accept babies as well as toddlers and are full-time, full-year programs (Kanter, 2013, p.2).

7
Decision- Making: Decision making is the process of making choices by setting

goals, gathering information, and assessing alternative occupations (University of

Massachusetts, 2015).

Early Childhood: Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to eight

years old. A time of remarkable brain growth, these years lay the foundation for

subsequent learning and development (United Nations Educational Scientific and

Cultural Organization, n. d.).

High Quality Preschool: The Essential Indicators of Quality Preschool:

There are positive relationships between teachers and children.

The room is well-equipped, with sufficient materials and toys.

Communication occurs throughout the day, with mutual listening,

talking/responding, and encouragement to use reasoning and problem-solving.

Opportunities for art, music/movement, science, math, block play, sand, water,

and dramatic play are provided daily.

There are materials and activities to promote understanding and acceptance of

diversity.

Parents are encouraged to be involved in all aspects of the program.

Adult-child ratios do not exceed NAEYC recommendations.

Group sizes are small.

Teachers and staff are qualified and compensated accordingly.

All staff are supervised and evaluated, and have opportunities for professional

growth. (Espinosa, 2002, p. 3).

8
Preschool Education: Preschool refers to an early-childhood educational class

for 3- and 4-year-olds. Many offer a part-time schedule (for example, a few hours a day,

and two to five times a week) as well as full-day care, but only from September to May

(Kanter, 2013, p.2).

Rational Choice Theory: In rational choice theories, individuals are seen as

motivated by the wants or goals that express their 'preferences'. They act within specific,

given constraints and on the basis of the information that they have about the conditions

under which they are acting (Scott, 2000, para. 8)

Screening: A short method by which those who exhibit delays or problems are

distinguished from those who do not (Glascoe, 2005).

Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

Assumptions

The first assumption made about this study was that many parents lacked the

knowledge to make informed decisions when selecting a preschool, which was believed

to be one of the reasons for the selection of either a low quality preschool or making the

decision that their child should not attend any program. Another assumption was that few

parents knew the difference between daycare and preschool, or understood the options of

preschools that were available. Furthermore, other assumptions regarding this study were

that some parents have knowledge about preschool programs, knew where to obtain

information, and have considered many factors before deciding. A final assumption was

that the participants would be honest and opened about their knowledge and experiences.

9
Limitations

A potential limitation of this study was that three sites were contacted to request

permission to conduct research and recruit parents; however, it was not guaranteed that

permission would be granted from all three sites. Another possible limitation was that the

researcher sought to recruit a sample size of 10 participants, but was unable to predict

whether the anticipated number of participants would respond or agree to participate in

the study.

Delimitations

Due to time and financial constraints a sample size of 10 participants were

selected, though Patton (1990) states that there is not a rule for sample size when using

qualitative research for inquiry. However, a larger sample size may have offered more

validity to the study by producing data that was more reflective of the selected

population. Furthermore, purposeful sampling was utilized to recruit only parents or

guardians that currently had children in preschool. Whereas, the recruitment of parents or

guardians with preschool aged children not enrolled in preschool, or enrolled in a daycare

may have provided experiences that were different from those that participated.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

Chapter 2 will include a review of literature related to the study as follows: child

development during the preschool years, preschool programs, standards and quality of

preschool programs, parents perceptions about preschool, parental decision making

about education and the theoretical framework: rational choice theory. Next, Chapter 3

will discuss the methodology that was used in this study. Then, Chapter 4 will include the

10
processes that were used during data collection and analysis. Finally, Chapter 5 will

provide the results and conclusions that were discovered during the data analysis.

Additionally, Chapter 5 will compare the findings and other related literature as well as

discuss implications and recommendations for future practices and research.

11
CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction to the Literature Review

A wealth of research has provided significant evidence about what developing

preschool aged children need to increase their chances of being successful. It is now

known that young children, especially those that have risk factors for failure, benefit the

most from attending high quality preschool programs. According to Barnett (2008), early

education programs that are rigorous can greatly increase development and learning as

well as create long term affects for later success in school and employment. Previous

studies revealed that several early childcare centers provided programs that were

extremely low quality (Cryer & Burchinal, 1997). Therefore, many states have adopted

standards for improving preschool quality, but the quality of a program is still based on

how well the standards are followed.

Inequality still exists within early childhood and preschool programs, so parents

should not assume that all programs offer the same developmental and educational

opportunities. For instance, Wood (2011) noted that a few states that offer free preschools

are private programs that develop their own rules. Though this does not mean that the

programs are low quality, parents have a better chance of selecting a high quality

preschool if they knew what to look for. Wood (2011) suggested that parents consider the

following when looking for preschool to determine the best fit:

12
Credentials of school and teachers

Hours of operation

Discipline methods

Nutrition

Art

Policies for visitors

Philosophy

Research stresses that preschool is important, but what do parents think about

preschool? How do parents decide whether or not to put the child in preschool, and which

one? In addition, what values and beliefs do parents hold that help them to decide how

important or insignificant various factors are when they are making decisions regarding

preschool? The following review of literature will provide information on the theoretical

framework, early childhood development, early education options, parents and decision-

making about education, and parental views on preschool.

Theoretical Framework

This study was rooted in the theoretical framework of rational choice theory

because it focuses on how we compare options and make decisions based on the choice

we perceive as the best. Rational choice theory has become accepted and used across

many disciplines with each putting their own twist on it. According to Zey (1998),

rational choice theory has no clear-cut guidelines for providing a common definition as it

is accepted and referenced across various disciplines, which tend to hold different views

and beliefs. The rational choice approach is variously labeled by political scientists as
13
public choice, by economist as neoclassicism and rational choice theory, by

psychologists as expected utility theory, and by sociologists as rational choice theory

(Zey, 1998, para. 1).

Rational choice theory became prominent in sociology in the 1960s with the

works of James Coleman. One of Colemans influences was George Homans whom

developed the framework for exchange theory in 1961 (Scott, 2000), which suggests

social behavior is an exchange of goods, material goods, but also non-material ones,

such as symbols of approval or prestige (Homans, 1958, p. 606). Though Coleman was

influenced by Homans, he later developed his own ideas regarding society and choice

theory, which was influenced by neoclassical economic theory. According to Coleman

(1989) in economics rational choice theory deals with a highly rationalized sector of

social life, focuses especially on the processes through which individual actions in a

market lead to such systemic outcomes as equilibrium prices (p.5).

Coleman has made many great contributions in the area of sociological theory,

including collective action, rational choice, social change analysis, public policy,

educational sociology, and mathematical sociology (Adams & Sydie, 2002). Colemans

work has influenced the discipline of economic sociology that strongly supports the

economic as well as the social features of rational choice.

Coleman examined purposive actions at an individual level and maintained that

people have a reason or goal in mind when they make choices (Adams & Sydie, 2002).

Actors (decision makers) make rational choices based on the options that are available

and they believe is the most important or beneficial. Coleman received a great deal of

14
criticism about his ideas because other theorists felt that it suggested that individuals are

purposive, rational and responsible decision makers.

According to Adams and Sydie (2002), Coleman included the exchange concept

early on in his rational behavior theory suggesting that interdependence is a system made

up of rationality and exchange by which a vital part of rationality are the resources, or

items that are available to the actors during the exchange process. Coleman further

expanded on rational choice theory by showing that rational choice could be used to

explain social phenomena and decision-making behaviors in areas that others often

consider as economic markets. For example, Coleman expressed how a marriage system

could be considered as a market due to the decisions that people make using attributes

that are highly valued. Furthermore, Coleman believed that a status system could be

thought of as a market that provides and entrance for people who have attributes that are

highly valued (Ritzer, 2005). This theory suggests that people of high statuses are

attracted to one another, therefore making up the higher society, while the lower level is

made up of people with lower statuses whose only choice is to accept those with the same

status (Ritzer, 2005). As such, Coleman began to address how decision making on the

micro-level and macro-level are related.

Actors can only use the choices that are available to them at the micro-level,

which in turn affects the macro-level. Colemans concerns with the levels of society

eventually carried over to proposing designs of institutions to help people at the micro-

level (Ritzer, 2005). The decision to do so came out of discovery of a failing marriage

market, which caused an increase of single parent homes ,thus forcing parents to make

decisions that reduced the amount of resources that children from two parent home might

15
have access to (Ritzer, 2005). To resolve this problem, Coleman proposed developing a

system of child care in which the government would pay for children to attend so that

children could benefit and be raised to function effectively in society. Coleman believed

that if one market was failing, another could be created to fix the issues that it caused

(Ritzer, 2005).

As discussed earlier, many disciplines use rational choice theory, however, each

has a different interest and view that differs across dimensions (Ritzer, 2005). This study

is rooted in the theoretical framework of rational choice theory based on the economic

sociology perspectives of Coleman. As with Colemans theories of how situations can

apply to markets, this study will view preschool as a market that parents will use when

making decisions. This study examined how parents make decisions based on the choices

that are available to them and how they determine what is the most important. Parents

have several options related to making decisions regarding preschool selection. There are

many factors to consider such as cost, location, and even if preschool is viewed as

beneficial for their child.

Review of the Research Literature and Methodological Literature

History and Theoretical Perspectives of Early Childhood Development

Current theories of childhood development have resulted from changes that have

taken place throughout centuries in Western philosophical thoughts regarding children,

cultural values and progressions in science (Berk, 2008). According to Berk (2008), some

evidence during the medieval times revealed that childhood was acknowledged as a

distinct developmental period and that children were vulnerable and needed to be

16
protected, however; during the 16th century children were treated harshly as they were

thought to be born evil. By the 17th century John Locke, a British philosopher that

supported behaviorism, perceived children as tabula rasa, the Latin word for blank

slate which meant that children were not born with innate abilities, but instead were

shaped by their experiences. Then, in the 18th century a French philosopher by the name

of Jean-Jacques Rousseau challenged the concept of children being blank slates. Instead,

Rousseau suggested that children were born with innate abilities to distinguish between

right and wrong, but adults must be sensitive to the childs needs and provide guidance.

In addition, Rousseau believed that development occurred in stages, which introduced a

new view of development. Then, during the 19th century and 20th century even more

views and theories emerged on child development including Erik Eriksons theory of

psychosocial development, Jean Piagets cognitive-developmental theory and Lev

Vygotskys sociocultural theory.

Erik Erikson: Psychosocial Theory

Erik Erikson was a very influential psychoanalyst who developed the

psychosocial theory. He established eight developmental stages that he believed occurred

in sequential order from birth to older adulthood, which included trust, autonomy,

initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity (Sharkey, 1997).

According to this theory society our social experiences have a great impact on how we

develop. During each stage we encounter various conflicts that must be properly

resolved, or we will experience problems later. For example, in the first stage, trust vs.

mistrust, a person may learn to trust or become distrustful depending on whether or not

their needs were met by the caregiver when they were an infant. Eriksons theory takes in

17
account that we may have different experiences due to our different cultures, traditions

and environments.

Jean Piaget: Cognitive Development Theory

Psychologist, Jean Piaget, introduced the cognitive development theory

suggesting that development occurred in 4 stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete

operational and formal operational. Piaget believed these stages accounted for the

differences in thinking in young children, older children and adults. Piaget taught that

children refine their knowledge and construct an accurate understanding of the world by

manipulating concrete objects (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2002, p.6). This theory

suggests that our way of thinking is established through how we use our senses to interact

with our environment. According to Berk (2008), In practical terms, Piagets theory

encouraged the development of educational philosophies and programs that emphasize

childrens discovery learning and direct contact with the environment (p. 20). Piaget

maintained that children are naturally interested in learning about their environment and

are intrinsically motivated. Furthermore, through accommodation and assimilation,

childrens way of thinking changes as their knowledge grows and they continue to

experiment with things in their environment.

Lev Vygotsky: Sociocultural Theory

Sociocultural theory was introduced by psychologist, Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky

believed that a childs cultural environment was directly responsible for higher levels of

functioning or cognitive development and especially emphasized the importance of

adult/child interactions. He believed that the role of the adult or more capable peers was

to provide scaffolding for the child by adjusting the support offered during a teaching

18
session to fit the childs current level of performance (Berk, 2008, p. 335). Vygotsky

gave the term zone of proximal development (ZPD) as the range of tasks that children

cannot yet perform independently, but can perform with the help and guidance of others

(Ormrod, 2008, p. 332). Vygotsky believed that children construct knowledge based on

their social experiences. For example, A child imagining himself as a father and a doll

as a child conforms to the rules of parental behavior (Berk, 2008, p. 336).

Early Childhood Development

Research shows that the most important time in a persons life for

social/emotional, physical, cognitive and language development is during the early

childhood years. During these years, a childs newly developing brain is highly plastic

and responsive to change as billions of integrated neural circuits are established through

the interaction of genetics, environment and experience (United Nations International

Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 2013, para. 1). Furthermore, environments that

are stimulating, have positive interactions with caregivers, and sufficient nutrients are

necessary for optimal development of the brain (2013).

Developmental Domains

Social/Emotional development. Early childhood is considered as a detrimental

time for social and emotional development. For successful outcomes, it is necessary to

surround children with positive and nurturing environments. Children should be exposed

to experiences that will promote emotional well-being as well as help to develop strong

social skills that will allow them to interact with other people in a variety of situations.

According to Dodge, Colker, and Heroman (2002), Social and emotional readiness can

be taught and nurtured most effectively when children are young (p. 19).

19
Szente (2007) indicates that early experiences can affect the way we think, the

choices that we make, and our overall behavior as an adult. Young children that are

exposed to positive social experiences that promote high self-esteem are more likely to

create positive outcomes for themselves as an adult. In addition, self-esteem and self-

efficacy are two components that can affect a child's success later in life (Szente, 2007).

The coping skills to deal with emotions and the positive experiences that children

encounter when they are young can help them to become adults that are confident and

able to display optimistic attitudes during various situations they may encounter.

Cognitive development. Cognitive development refers to the process of

developing thinking and reasoning skills as children acquire language skills (Driscoll &

Nagel, 2008, p. 68). According to Copple and Bredekamp (2009a), During the years

from 3 through 5, children gradually develop their mental representation capacities,

reasoning skills, classification abilities, attention, memory and other cognitive capacities

(p. 137). Dodge, Colker, and Heroman (2002) have set forth three goals for cognitive

development, which is as follows: (a) Learning and problem solving, which they suggest

asking children questions and encouraging them to make predictions as this will help

children to learn, apply their knowledge and then began to further their thinking and

learning; (b) Thinking logically, which suggests encouraging children to interact with

their environment and participate in activities such as sorting, comparing, and classifying

so that they begin to have a better understanding of how things around them work; (c)

Representing and thinking, which suggest encouraging children to think symbolically as

well as use their imagination to explore ideas that are abstract.

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Physical development: fine motor and gross motor. Physical development

deals with the fine motor, which has to do with small muscle movements and gross

motor, which involves the large muscles. Physical development is another area that is

sometimes overlooked during early childhood. According to Dodge, Colker, and

Heroman (2002), Physical development is sometimes taken for granted in the early

childhood classroom because it is often assumed that it happens automatically (p. 20).

Children are developing their gross motor skills when they run, skip, jump, hop etc. The

more opportunities and practice that children have using these muscles, the more skilled

they will become with movements that involve things such as balancing or hoping on one

foot. The same goes for fine motor development, the more practice that children have

doing activities like cutting, stringing beads, painting and so forth the better their

coordination and skills become better. Fine motor skills help with using writing utensils

to make controlled marks.

Language development. Language is a code that we learn to use in order to

communicate ideas and express our wants and needs (Smith, 2006, p.11). As with other

areas of development, language development is of the utmost importance. According to

Smith (2006), language development is unique to each child meaning that children learn

and master language at different ratesthat is an ongoing process. Between the age of

three, a childs vocabulary might consist of 1000 5000 words, 3000 10,000 word by

the age of four, and 5000 20,000 words by age five ( Berger, 2009, p261). Berger

(2009) also states that during early childhood, language is crucial to cognition. However,

in order to nurture language development children must have experiences that expose

21
them to language. Some children are not exposed to positive language experiences, which

may hinder development (Smith, 2006).

History of Preschools

Preschools, initially known as nurseries, have undergone several makeovers

throughout the years. Low-income families often missed out on the opportunities for their

children to attend preschool because it was not affordable for them, which left several

children unprepared for kindergarten. Concerned with these issues, the federally funded

Head Start program was initiated in 1965 to offer medical, social, educational, and

nutritional services to prepare children for success as they begin school (Driscoll &

Nagel, 2008). Most Head Start Programs were half-day programs and the purpose was to

raise the academic skills of disadvantaged children; however, it was later discovered that

it also helped to boost self-esteem and improve social skills (Berger, 2009). According to

Berger (2009), Head Start did not use a particular curriculum or encourage specific

approaches to teaching, which made it difficult to assess the program to determine its

long term effects in regards to what characteristics of the program were beneficial and

which were not. Head Start inspired the movement to create and conduct research on

three programs including Perry or High Scope, Abecedarian, and Child-Parent Centers. In

addition, successful schools like Reggio Emilia and Montessori were examined to

determine what qualities created success. It became apparent that the quality of childcare

was of importance, and that a quality pre-k program with a set of guidelines could have

positive long lasting results. Ingredients of high-quality child care include small group

size, generous caregiver-child ratios, richly equipped activity areas, and caregivers with

22
good educational preparation in early childhood development or a related field (Berk,

2008, p.354).

The Preschool Years

The terms preschool or pre-kindergarten are considered the school year or years

prior to kindergarten. Preschoolers are considered children that are ages three to five

years old and ... are grouped together because their growth and development are so

fluid (Driscoll & Nagel, 2008, p.47). According to Copple and Bredekamp (2009a),

learning and development is vital during this time because this is when functioning skills

are occurring in the areas of emotional and social, physical, language and cognitive,

which has to do with: reasoning, memory and other characteristics of intellectual and

academic development. Though these aspects of developmental areas are listed as

separate entities, each area actually overlaps and is influenced by the other (Dodge,

Colker, & Heroman, 2002). To nurture these areas of development Tout and Zaslow

(2002) stated research shows that children develop best if relationships with their

caregivers are warm, supportive, responsive, and cognitively stimulating (para.7).

During these years, stability of care is also important, as it is hard to form sustained

relationships if caregivers come and go (para.6). While some children engage in these

experiences with their parents at home, many other children benefit from participating in

early childhood programs outside of the home (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009a).

Dodge, Colker, and Heroman (2002) describe preschoolers as children that are

three to five years of age and at the special time in their life when they start to trust

people that are not in their family and begin to become more self-aware by showing

independence, self- control, initiative, and assertiveness in ways that are socially

23
acceptable. Because preschool is a prime setting for gaining social and emotional

competence, social/emotional development is an important focus for teachers (p.19).

Children this age are also becoming more observant and interactive with the world

around them by speaking to other people, problem-solving, and investigating things in

their environment. Preschoolers should also be provided with plenty of opportunities to

work together. According to Copple and Bredekamp (2009a), when preschoolers are not

given the chance to interact with each other for extended periods, social competence

cannot be achieved.

Standards and Regulations of Pre-School Programs

The expectations for early childhood programs to offer quality services have risen

tremendously over the years. In 1986, the National Association for the Education of

Young Children (NAEYC), the largest professional organization of early childhood

educators created developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) (Bredekamp & Copple,

1997). Many early childhood educators use DAP as a guide to ensure that the classroom

environment is developmentally stimulating and appropriate for young children at each

age and ability. In regards to DAP, NAEYCs Position Statement states:

The core of developmentally appropriate practice lies in this intentionality, in the

knowledge that practitioners consider when they are making decisions, and in

their always aiming for goals that are both challenging and achievable for children

(Copple & Bredekamp, 2009b).

NAEYC has also devised standards that are listed in the Overview of the

NAEYCs Early Childhood Program Standards, which include relationships, curriculum,

teaching, assessment of child progress, health, teachers, families, community

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relationships, physical environment, and leadership and management (NAEYC, 2008).

The practices of these standards are assessed when an organization is seeking

accreditation from NAEYC and when executed correctly are the ingredients for a quality

pre-k program. Another tool used to evaluate the quality of early childhood programs is

the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale Revised (ECERS-R). By collecting data,

this tool has become a researched means to assess the quality of early childhood

programs that can be used as a criteria for licensing purposes, credentialing, receiving

accreditation and as a guide for making improvements (Cryer, Harms, & Riley, 2003).

The ECERS-R rates the dimensions found in early childhood programs by using a 7-point

scale, seven being the highest, to rate 43 items that are organized into seven subscales:

Space and Furnishings, Personal Care routines, Language-Reasoning, Activities,

Interaction, Program Structure and Parent and Staff (Cryer, Harms, & Riley, 2003). The

subscales listed in the ECERS-S are components that are seen in many early childhood

programs, but to be high quality it must be practiced correctly.

Characteristics and Benefits of High Quality Preschools

Programs that do not offer an opportunity to nurture the developmental areas are

not as successful with preparing preschool aged children for the skills that they will need

as they enter kindergarten and higher grades. There are many skills introduced during the

preschool years, though it may not be mastered immediately it will become apparent

later. The mere exposure to various activities in pre-kindergarten programs help to

promote emerging skills that can promote success and lessen the chance of students being

retained.

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In the following study, preschool children were assessed in the areas of academic

development, cognitive abilities and social skills. The participants included 2,439 pre-

kindergarten students from 671 pre-kindergarten classrooms in 11 states to evaluate their

abilities, which were compared to the quality of the programs they were enrolled in.

(Mashburn et al., 2008). Teachers also participated in the program by allowing

observations of their interaction in the classroom environment to be measured by being

assessed by their ability to follow the guidelines of nine standards to ensure program

quality, instructional methods and interactions with the students. The students

participated in assessments that were then compared to quality outcomes of the pre-

kindergarten programs. The findings revealed that programs which utilized the

combination of following standards, adhering to classroom environmental guidelines, and

had teachers that participated in professional development to improve interactions with

students were successful at promoting school readiness. Thus, the quality of a program is

highly important according to Burchinal et al. (2008).

The findings in a similar study conducted by Burchinal et al. (2008) suggested

that the quality of the preschool classroom, including interactions with the teacher, can

affect the outcome of children during their kindergarten year. After the classrooms were

examined for activities and manipulatives that were developmentally appropriate for the

age of the children, it was also discovered that the interactions between teacher and

student improved the overall quality of the classroom.

While standards have been put in place to improve quality, the quality of a

program is still based on how well the standards are followed. Since there is still

inequality in pre-k programs, parents should not assume that their child will receive the

26
education and opportunities that are needed. Children that attend high-quality preschool

programs are more likely to be successful in academics compared to children that attend a

preschool of lesser quality (Burchinal et al., 2008).

Parents Perceptions of Preschool

According to Cryer, Tietze, and Wessel (2002), parents in the United States do

not understand the difference between a high quality and low quality program, which

may hinder their understanding of the effects the programs may have on their children as

well as impact their ability to determine what their child needs so that they can request

services that are higher quality. In some instances parents associate higher quality with

public programs even though the standards in that state may be the same for private and

public settings. For example, even when a private program has the same settings as a

public program such as curriculum, teacher/student ratio and teacher requirements, some

parents still perceive it as low-quality (Barnett & Hustedt, 2011). Misconceptions as such

can lead to missed opportunities for a child that can truly benefit from participating in a

program. On the other hand, some parents will pay large sums of money for a preschool

when the same services are available for a lot less. A study conducted by Cryer and

Burchinal (1997) presented evidence that many parents overestimated the quality of care

and did not realize that they were not receiving the quality that they valued. Furthermore,

the selection of program may be due to parents not being well informed (Cryer, Tietze, &

Wessel, 2002). Also, many parents are obligated to select early childhood programs that

provide less than high quality services because they feel economically or socially

pressured (Cryer & Burchinal, 1997).

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Synthesis of Research Findings

Years of research has provided necessary evidence of what developing preschool

aged children need to be successful. However, research on preschool attendance seems to

present a mixture of outcomes and views. While most research strongly suggests high

quality programs, there is a division between which children receives the most benefits.

Some research suggests that all young children benefit from preschool, while other

research suggests that mostly young children with risk factors benefit from preschool

attendance. Some research shows that preschool attendance may do more harm than

good, while others found that a child can strive and be successful in any environment

provided that the caregivers are nurturing and provide opportunities for growth. The

following studies are examples of how there is a contrast of views regarding preschool

programs.

A study conducted by the Reason Foundation in Quebec measured the well-being

of 30,000 students that attended the universal preschool program between the years of

1994 and 2002, which reflected that the children presented a decrease in well- being

suggesting that they were more anxious and displayed hyperactivity to social skills and

motor skills compared to those who did not attend (Snell, 2006). In addition, in

comparing the preschools in the U.S. it was noted that even after an increase of preschool

enrollment, student achievement did not increase (Snell, 2006).

In another study conducted by Reynolds and Temple (1998) several intervention

strategies were implemented for a group of students that fit the typical profile for being at

risk. The study evaluated reading, math and grade achievement of a group of children that

were followed from preschool until eighth grade. All the children participated in a

28
follow-on program, which required heavy family participation and school support that

was offered from pre-school to third grade. Though the program was available to third

grade, some students only participated to kindergarten from which they continued to a

regular first grade classroom that did not demand the systems of support as the follow-on

program offered. At the end of the study, it was revealed that the children that

participated from preschool to third grade had a lower rate of grade retention and higher

scores on the achievement tests than the children that did not (Reynolds & Temple,

1998).

According to Barnett (2008), high quality programs often yield positive outcomes

in development and learning, especially for children that are from disadvantaged families.

Espinosa (2002) concluded that academic and social benefits can occur far after

kindergarten when children have the opportunity to participate in an early childhood

program, especially young children from low-income families that attend quality

programs. Barnett, Carolan, Fitzgerald, Squires, and National Institute for Early

Education Research (2012) stated the research is clear that only high-quality pre-k has

produced substantial gains in school readiness, achievement and educational attainment,

higher productivity in the labor force, and decreases in social problems like crime and

delinquency (p5). Children that participate in poor-quality childcare settings tend to

have more behavioral issues as well as have lower scores on measures of social and

cognitive skills (Berk, 2008).

Though each study focused on achievement after preschool attendance, the

studies yielded different outcomes. The differences in outcomes may be attributed to

various factors that were present during the study. For example, the study conducted by

29
Reynolds and Temple (1998) implemented strategies to support the students from

preschool to third grade. Whereas, it is not known what support the students may have

had before or during data collection in the study conducted by the Reason Foundation.

Critique of Previous Research

Though researchers have different perspectives on preschools and other early

childhood programs, one commonality seems to be that there is a mutual understanding

that early childhood is a detrimental time for development and that young children need

to be with caregivers that will provide nurturing experiences to produce positive

outcomes.

While several research studies suggest that children greatly benefit from attending

preschool, other articles reflect the children that do not attend a preschool program can

still be successful if they are exposed to positive environments that nurture development.

Furthermore, there are studies that suggest that young children with risk factors benefit

the most when they attend a high quality preschool, while others found preschool to show

no benefits at all.

The study conducted by Reynolds and Temple (1998) provided evidence of how

early educational experiences, especially as early as preschool can have a positive impact

on academics skills in higher grades. However, it also suggests that the children that were

possibly successful because the parents participated, and the school provided support

until third grade. This study prompts further discussion regarding the effects of parent

participation and perhaps strong support from schools. In investigating school support, it

will be necessary to determine what types of support was given. To conclude the study, it

was revealed that the children that discontinued the program in kindergarten did not do as

30
well as those that remained for the entire study. Again, the lack of family and school

support could have been the cause.

The study conducted by the Reason Foundation found that preschool attendance

was more damaging than beneficial. While the study did reflect a different take on

preschool, the quality of the preschools were not mentioned. Since there is not enough

detail regarding the type of practices that the teachers used, teacher/staff credentials,

classroom environments etc., it is difficult to determine whether the outcome was due to

the children attending low quality preschools, or if the preschool environment truly had a

negative effect on the children because it is not a beneficial tool. Then again, other

factors may have affected the outcome such as the hours that the children spent away

from home. As cited in Fram, Kim, and Sinha (2012),

Belsky (2006) found that increased hours in nonmaternal care, especially center-

based care, during the first 4.5 years of life resulted in increased levels of

externalizing behaviors at 54 months and later in kindergarten. More hours spent

in child care has been associated with negative outcomes in general (Loeb et al.,

2007); however, high quality of care appears to diminish the possible negative

effects (Peisner-Feinberg et al., 2001). (p. 481).

Chapter 2 Summary

Through extensive research, it has been determined that during the early

childhood years, children need to be exposed to nurturing environments to promote

development. The environments that children are exposed to should be very nurturing as

it can be very influential in shaping a persons future. We cannot change children

31
however we would like, but we can create environments that alter genetic influences

(Berk, 2008). Knowing this has encouraged early childhood educators to create

environments that will promote development by allowing children to explore and use

their innate abilities along with past experiences to build new experiences while

developing their own understanding about their world.

Furthermore, Anderson et al. (2003) maintained that the course of a persons life

can be affected during child development experiences, which includes acquiring

knowledge, establishing relationships and developing distinct skills. There are several

factors that affect these areas of development including the development of relationships

with caregivers, psychosocial and physical experiences that occur in the environment

with the caregivers (2003).

Educational and child care programs that are state or federally funded are

intended to directly promote childrens skills including cognitive, academic, and social

(Snow & Van Hamel, 2008). These government funded programs are often required to

have some form of standards in place that can be monitored. However, funding

requirements do not ensure the quality of the program. In fact, some states have equal

standards for public and private programs and others have high standards for public

institutions and lower for private programs, which can affect the quality of the program

(Barnett & Hustedt, 2011). Nevertheless, to be considered high quality the standards must

be adhered to.

There is an abundance of research regarding preschools and other early childhood

programs, which appear to be easily accessible to parents. However, it is important for

parents to be knowledgeable about how to find the information. Furthermore, there are

32
plenty of views about preschools, but it is ultimately the responsibility of parents to

decide what their child needs. Parents will have to compare the options that are available

to them and then make a decision that is rational to them and their situation.

33
CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY

Introduction to Chapter 3

According to Sahin, Sak, and Sahin (2013), research studies that involve parents

are frequently obtained through quantitative methods. There is access to an abundance of

information regarding what theorists and researchers value in early childhood education;

however, very little is available regarding what parents find valuable. Therefore, this

study used qualitative methods to explore what components parents believe are effective

in preschool programs. Furthermore, this qualitative study investigated parental views

and beliefs about preschools that included their views on the effectiveness of preschools

and the ease of access to preschool programs. The way parents acquired information

about preschools was also investigated.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine if any factors influenced

program selection, explore parents beliefs about what they considered to be quality in

preschools and to learn about the experiences that parents had during the decision-making

process. The method of inquiry included conducting one-on-one interviews, which

allowed parents the opportunity to express their individual experiences.

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Research Questions

Central question: What are parents experiences with the decision-making

process regarding preschools?

Sub-question 1. How important do parents perceive preschool to be?

Sub-question 2. What do parents believe are the characteristics of a high quality

preschool?

Sub-question 3. How do parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in

selecting a preschool?

Sub-question 4. How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling

their child in a preschool?

Sub-question 5. What factors influence parents decision to enroll, or not enroll

their child in preschool?

Research Design

The research method chosen for this qualitative study was a basic qualitative

strategy. A qualitative design was chosen because it created an opportunity to learn about

the personal realities that each subject had to offer. According to Staller (2010),

qualitative research is a means for interested researchers to discover how people create

meaning and make sense of their experiences.

The data for this study were collected by conducting oneon-one unstructured

interviews using open-ended questions. According to Marvasti (2004), using

unstructured interviews will allow more fluid interaction between the researcher and the

respondent (p. 9). Furthermore, Creswell (2009) suggested that qualitative interviews be

35
unstructured and comprised of a few open-ended questions that aim to obtain the

participants opinions and views.

Target Population and Sampling Method

Target Population

The sample for this study was drawn from a preschool in a community located on

the Southside of a large Midwestern city, which is comprised of a diverse population

including people from different socioeconomic statuses, races and ages.

Sampling Method

The participants in this study were selected by using purposeful sampling to

ensure that they were knowledgeable about the information that was associated with the

purpose of this study (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). Creswell (2009) suggested

that purposefully selecting the participants or sites assists the researcher with

understanding the research question and problem. For quality assurance, the participants

were purposefully selected for this study using the criterion technique, which was

suggested by Miles and Huberman (as cited in Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007, p, 114).

Therefore, it was necessary for the participants in this study to meet the following

criteria: be the biological parent or guardian, have a child that was enrolled in preschool

and be available to participate in a face-to-face interview that could last from 30 to 45

minutes.

Sample Size

The sample size consisted of 10 participants. The decision to select 10

participants for this study was based on time constraints as well as cost. According to

36
Patton (1990), there are no rules for sample size in qualitative inquiry (p.184).

However, Patton (1990) also stated that the sample size depends on what you want to

know, the purpose of inquiry, whats at stake, what will be useful, what will have

credibility, and what can be done with available time and resources (p. 184). By

following the recommendations of Lincoln and Guba to maximize information and

discontinue sampling when redundancy occurs (as cited in Patton, 1990, p. 186), it was

anticipated that by interviewing 10 participants and collecting rich data, redundancy or

saturation would occur as noted by Morse (2000).

Setting

Creswell (2009) suggested that participants or sites be purposefully selected in

qualitative studies. Therefore, the participants were purposefully selected. However, one

site may not have been suitable for every participant. For example, some parents may

have chosen not to enroll their child, or encountered difficulty enrolling their child into a

preschool program. Whereas, another participant may have found a preschool and was

dissatisfied, but had no other choice than the current placement. Furthermore, some

parents might have felt reluctant to share information in that preschool environment. For

that reason, it seemed more suitable for the researcher and parent to select a site that was

convenient and neutral for both parties as well as meaningful to the parent so that they

were comfortable and able to speak freely regarding their experiences. Turner III (2010)

suggested that it might be easier to conduct the interviews with participants in a

comfortable environment where the participants do not feel restricted or uncomfortable to

share information (p.757).

37
While permission to conduct research was received from two sites, only one site

gave the researcher permission to conduct interviews in a private room at the facility,

provided it is was available during the requested times. Otherwise, the interviews were

scheduled to take place in a private room at the local library. The researcher was also

prepared to utilize a private room at the local library for the participants that were

recruited from the site where approval was not given to conduct interviews onsite. The

same opportunity was an option for participants that may have felt more comfortable in a

setting other than the preschool.

Recruitment

The recruitment process included identifying and contacting the appropriate

persons at institutions to request to conduct research at the facility by recruiting

individuals that they serviced. According to Lodico, Spaulding, and Voegtle (2010), the

researcher must identify the persons who serve as gatekeepers, persons with official or

unofficial roles that manage access to people and places at the site (p.113). Written

permission was granted from two preschools located in communities of diverse Southside

areas of a large Midwestern city that likely serviced individuals that met the criteria for

this study. According to Eide (2008),

Use of existing agencies, service organizations, and/or social groups that involve

the target population is another avenue for recruitment. This has the advantage of

efficiency because the groups or agencies are already serving an identified

population that meets all or most of the study's criteria (p.744).

Flyers containing information regarding this study, including criteria and contact

information were distributed at the facility where permission was received to conduct

38
research. The individuals that responded to the flyer contacted the researcher via

telephone though email was an option. A prescreening was also conducted by phone to

establish if interested individuals met the inclusion criteria to participate in this study.

The potential participants that met the criteria and were qualified to participate in this

study were mailed various documents through the post office to review. These documents

contained information regarding this study including: the purpose, completion of a

demographic survey, consent forms to perform the study and to allow audio recording,

confidentiality, compensation, and their rights as a participant. In addition, the potential

participants were given the opportunity to contact the researcher prior to the interview

date with any questions and concerns.

The potential participants were instructed to bring the consent forms and

demographic survey on the day of the interview so that it could be discussed, reviewed,

and any questions they had could be answered. The participants signed the consent forms

and completed the demographic survey prior to the interview.

Data Collection

The data was collected through face-to-face unstructured interviews. According

to Englander (2012), The face-to-face interview is often longer and thus richer in terms

of nuances and depth (p.27). Furthermore, during unstructured interviews

respondents are not forced to choose from a pre-designed range of answers; instead,

they can elaborate on their statements and connect them with other matters of relevance

(Marvasti, 2004, p. 21). An interview protocol was used as suggested by Creswell

(2009), which included the following components:

39
A heading (date, place, interviewer, interviewee)

Instructions for the interviewer to follow so that standard procedures are used

on one interview to another

The questions (typically an ice-breaker question at the beginning followed by

4 - 5 questions that are often the subquestions in a qualitative research plan,

followed by some concluding statement or question, such as, Who should I

visit with to learn more about my questions?

Probes for the 4-5 questions, to follow up and ask individuals to explain the

ideas in more details or to elaborate on what they have said

Space between the questions to record responses

A final thank-you statement taken knowledge the time the interviewee spent

during the interview (p.183).

The following procedures were used to collect the data for this study:

The interviews were conducted using face-to-face unstructured interviews,

which were audio recorded as well as some handwritten notes taken.

Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed using the Transcribe

dictation program.

Written notes were only used to describe the atmosphere, when necessary,

during the interview including participants body language and facial

expressions, which could not be detected through the audio device.

Transcriptions were then analyzed and coded into themes using the Dedoose

qualitative research platform software.

During coding, emerging themes were identified.


40
The coded data were interpreted.

To check for credibility and validity, member checks were used. Member

checking allowed the participants to review transcribed data to ensure that

their perspectives were accurately portrayed.

Audio recording provided dependability provided that it is was accurately

transcribed.

Transferability was established as themes were identified that reflected

similarities in participants experiences.

After checking for credibility, dependability, and transferability, the

interpreted data were written up.

Field Test

Prior to IRB approval, field tests were used to ensure that the questions being

used in the study were suitable and appropriate for this study. Three people were selected

that would be able to provide feedback based on their expertise and knowledge related to

the background of this study. The first reviewer is a Family Psychologist that has

extensive knowledge regarding parenting, child development, and families. The first

reviewer has also conducted research and published various works. The other two

reviewers are both educators that have earned Masters degrees in early childhood

education and are highly knowledgeable about preschool programs, child development,

as well as working with parents and families. Feedback from all the reviewers were

extremely helpful with providing suggestions for obtaining more in-depth answers from

the interviewees.
41
Data Analysis Procedures

The data for the study were collected from conducting unstructured face to face

interviews that were audio recorded with some handwritten notes. To prepare for

analysis, the data from the handwritten notes were typed and sorted. The audio recordings

were transcribed using the Transcribe dictation program developed by Wreally Studios.

After the initial review the data was further analyzed and coded. Coding is the

process by which data is sorted and organized by systematically labeling categories such

as words, phrases, numbers, and symbols so that concepts and ideas found in field notes,

interview transcripts, etc. can be assigned to one of these categories (Center for

Evaluation and Research, n. d.). It is an inductive process of data analysis that involves

examining many small pieces of information and abstracting a connection between them

(Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010, p. 183). Though coding could have been done by

hand, it would have been more time-consuming. Therefore, the Dedoose qualitative

research platform software was used to assist with analyzing and coding the data. The

researcher was still responsible for deciding how the analysis should be done as well as

how to interpret the coded data (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010).

Analyzing data in qualitative research involves the classification of events,

persons and things as well as the attributes that they are characterized by according to

Schatzman and Strauss (as cited in Creswell, 2009, p.199). The description should

capture the essence of the participants experiences and then be further developed by

creating units of meaning from the analysis of the statements that are significant Creswell

(2009). Therefore, following the suggestions of Creswell, the transcribed data was read

thoroughly and reviewed to identify significant statements, which helped to determine

42
general ideas, credibility, and how the information could be used in the study was

highlighted and noted in the margin (Creswell, 2009). In addition, data from interviews

or conversations may be reviewed specifically to analyze the ways in which each

individual uses language, noting words or phrases that seem distinctive or analyzing the

audience that the participant seems to be addressing (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle,

2010, p. 182). Member checks were used to check for credibility and to manage

researcher bias (Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010). Dependability of this research

study was achieved by using rich descriptions to interpret the collected data and by

following the qualitative procedures for data analysis.

Limitations of the Research Design

A possible limitation when conducting qualitative research is finding participants

that will be reliable sources meaning that the researcher has to rely on the participants in

the study to provide accurate information. Another potential limitation is that qualitative

researchers must receive and interpret the details that were provided by the participants

without including their own biases. For example, the researcher must be careful not to

respond or behave in a manner that may reflect their own difference in opinion. Doing so

may offend the participant or influence their responses.

Furthermore, when doing qualitative research, the samples size is often small and

the participants are not randomly selected. If a participant decides not to participate in

the study, they are not required to do so because they are volunteers. The problem is that

the researcher may be faced with finding a replacement participant that is suitable for the

43
type of research being done. In addition, if the researcher has already collected

information from the participant whom is no longer involved, the data cannot be used.

Finally, another possible limitation of conducting qualitative research is

convincing participants of how information will be used as well as guaranteeing the

participant that participating will not be harmful to them. For example, information that

could be embarrassing or damaging to a persons image may require that the persons

name and likeness not be included. Additionally, the researcher must ensure the

participants that their information will remain confidential as well as not put them in any

harm.

Credibility

According to Lincoln and Guba, one of the important factors for creating

trustworthiness is to establish credibility (as cited in Shenton, 2004, p.64). While there

are many accepted techniques for establishing credibility, the most suitable method for

this study was to use member checking. Creswell (2009) suggested that qualitative

researchers use member checking to determine the accuracy of the qualitative findings

through taking the final report or specific descriptions or things back to participants and

determining whether these participants feel that they are accurate (p.191). Therefore,

follow-up interviews were conducted for participants to review the analyzed data to

check for accuracy.

Dependability

Another important factor in qualitative research is checking for dependability,

which is similar to reliability and quantitative research. Dependability refers to whether

44
one can track the procedures and processes used to collect and interpret the data

(Lodico, Spaulding, & Voegtle, 2010, p. 172). The interviews in this study were audio

taped, which according to Lodico, Spaulding, and Voegtle (2010) is a means for

supporting dependability.

Transferability

Shenton (2004) noted that it is difficult to show that the findings and conclusions

of a qualitative study can be applied to other populations and situations because the

findings are specific to a small selection of particular environments and individuals.

However, it is suggested that transferability can be achieved by providing rich

descriptions of participants experiences, and determining whether the experiences are

typical (Krefting, 1991). Therefore, to achieve transferability, the suggestion of Lodico,

Spaulding, and Voegtle, (2010) was followed by looking at the richness of the

description included in the study as well as the amount of detail provided about the

context within which the study occurred (p. 173).

Expected Findings

This study was rooted in the theoretical framework of rational choice theory

because it focuses on how we compare options and make decisions based on the choice

that we perceive as the best. Though the researcher must not show bias when conducting

research, it was expected that the study would reveal that parents utilize the rational

choice theory during the decision-making process regarding preschool selection. As for

practical implications, it was anticipated that results from this study could be useful for

45
stakeholders and policy makers as it could provide insight on how parents experiences

could be examined to determine what practices were the most effective for increasing

preschool enrollment and guiding program success. Thus, hopefully this study will create

an awareness of how future qualitative research regarding parents experiences about

preschool can be beneficial.

Ethical Issues

To ensure confidentiality, each participant was provided with a numeric

identification code that was assigned during the screening and used for the entirety of the

study. All information provided by the participants, including audio recordings, were kept

in a secure locked file cabinet that was only accessible by the researcher. Identifying

information was not collected on the survey as the numeric code that was assigned to the

participants consent form were used.

To protect the identity of the participants, pseudonyms were assigned in the

published dissertation. Furthermore, the names of facilities that participated in the study

were not be identified by exact location or name, only by area such as geographical

location. In accordance with Capella Universitys policy and regulation, after seven years

paper documents will be destroyed using crosscut shredding and audio recordings will be

erased. The audio recordings that were saved to a jump drive will be destroyed and

discarded separately to ensure that information cannot be retrieved.

Researcher's Position Statement

As an early childhood educator, the researcher is familiar with child development

as well as practices that are expected in a preschool environment. In addition, the

46
researchers participation during the preschool screening process has made the researcher

highly knowledgeable of requirements on the state and federal level. The experiences

during the screenings presented opportunities to interact with numerous parents that

wanted to enroll their child but did not qualify, had a child that was eligible, but chose

other options, or who had a child that was eligible and followed through with enrollment.

The interactions with these parents are what prompted the topic for this study. There

became an interest to learn about the experiences directly from parents, rather than

developing an opinion based on being an observer. Furthermore, the researcher

understood that as an expert on this topic, all biases had to be set aside so that the

participants were able to share their personal experiences in order to gather valid data for

this study.

When conducting interviews the researcher has the opportunity to collect data

based on the participants recollection of the phenomenon. However, the researcher must

approach each interview with an opened-mind and be biased free. In other words, the

researcher/ interviewer must listen without exhibiting behavior that may sway the

participants opinion. The interviewer should be aware of body language, gestures or

comments that may offend, intimidate, or change the view of the participant. According

to Lodico, Spaulding, and Voegtle (2010), Good interviewers are acutely aware of their

own behavior and avoiding doing things that might change or bias what the interviewee

says (p. 129). Furthermore, the interviewer is responsible for creating a climate in

which the research participant will feel comfortable and will respond honestly and

comprehensively (Moustakas, 1994, p.114).

47
Though Moustakas focuses mainly on phenomenological research, the role of the

researcher in this basic qualitative study was to utilize the Epoche, which Moustakas

(1994) describes as a preparation for deriving new knowledge but also as an

experience in itself, a process of setting aside predilections, prejudices, predispositions,

and allowing things, events, and people to enter a new into consciousness, and to look

and see them again, as if for the first time (p. 4 ).

Chapter 3 Summary

This study was necessary in order to learn about how parents overall view of

preschool and how the challenges they anticipated or encountered affected their

decisions. These findings will hopefully lead to influencing changes to public policies

that increase the ability for all children to attend preschool. In addition, it is hoped that

the findings can also assist with creating more opportunities to educate parents on

selecting a high quality preschool.

There are several studies that have investigated parents perceptions of

preschool regarding topics such as special education and kindergarten readiness. For

example, Hatcher, Nuner, and Paulsek (2012) found that parents and teachers had mixed

views on preschool and kindergarten readiness. Whereas, another study conducted by

Runswick-Cole (2008) found that parents views regarding inclusion varied depending on

their childs disability. Because few studies have investigated how parents beliefs and

experiences with preschools affect their decisions, the goal of this study was to advance

scientific knowledge by collecting and interpreting data to shed light on the factors that

influence parents to make decisions regarding preschool.

48
Conducting a basic qualitative study by interviewing parents can greatly

contribute to the field of early childhood education, especially preschools. In addition, the

findings from this study could be instrumental in shedding light on the experiences that

parents had throughout the process of searching for and selecting a preschool. This study

can also potentially promote an awareness of how parents views are vital and can be

useful to policy makers, as decisions are made involving preschool programs.

49
CHAPTER 4. DATA ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

Introduction

Research regarding preschool is often quantitative and often involves what is

considered appropriate for development during this age, or examines student progress

after preschool attendance. While there is research available that discusses parents

experiences and perceptions of preschool, it is very limited. Quite frequently studies are

conducted that involve things such as inclusion, or other special education related topics.

Not only was it necessary to learn about the perceptions and experiences that parents

have regarding preschool, it was also important to interview parents to hear directly from

them.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore parents perceptions of what

constitutes quality in preschools, to examine if any factors influenced program selection,

and to learn about the encounters that parents faced during the decision-making process.

The central question surrounding the interview was: What are parents experiences with

the decision-making process regarding preschools? The following sub-questions were

asked:

1. How important do parents perceive preschool to be?

2. What do parents believe are the characteristics of a high quality preschool?

50
3. How do parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in selecting a

preschool?

4. How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling their child in a

preschool?

5. What factors influence parents decision to enroll, or not enroll their child in

preschool?

Description of the Sample

This study consisted of 10 participants. The first 10 participants who contacted

the researcher and met the criteria were selected. All of the participants were over 18

years old, had a child enrolled in preschool, and were the biological parent, though legal

guardians were invited to participate. The sample was obtained from a preschool located

on the Southside of a large Midwestern city.

The sites and participants were purposefully selected, as it was important to have

participants that were knowledgeable about the topic presented in this study (Lodico,

Spaulding, &Voegtle, 2010). Three preschools were initially contacted with a request to

participate in the study. However, only two preschools responded and showed an interest

in the study. Written permission was received from both preschools to recruit participants

from their facility. However, only one of the preschools gave permission for onsite

interviews. Contact was made with the directors to discuss further details of recruitment.

After numerous attempts, the researcher was unsuccessful corresponding with one of the

preschools directors. The decision was made to proceed with the study using only one

preschool.

51
The researcher communicated with the director numerous times and eventually

met with the director to distribute the flyers. The flyers contained the details of the study

including the purpose, criteria for participation, and contact information for the

researcher. The flyers were placed in the mailboxes of children at the preschool that the

director felt had parents that met the criteria for the study. All of the interested

participants contacted the researcher by phone, though email was also an option. During

the phone call, a prescreening was done by asking a few short questions to ensure that the

individuals met the criteria to participate. Once it was determined that a person met the

requirements, additional information was obtained including name, email address, phone

number, and an address to mail the interview documents. Though responses were

received from 13 parents, only 10 were used in the study as planned. Once the intended

sample number was reached, the other parents were thanked and informed that the

number of participants needed for the study had been obtained.

The participants were instructed to read over the material once they received it.

Instructions were also given to bring the documents with them on the day of the interview

so that consent forms could be signed and the demographic survey completed. The

participants were advised that the interviews would take place at the local library and that

the researcher would be contacting them regarding date and time. However, the

participants could contact the researcher if there were any questions prior to the

interview. The researcher began contacting the participants to establish a time and date

for the interview. Initially, the only option was to conduct the study in a private room at

the local library which is where the first five interviews were took place. Then, the

director offered to allow the researcher to use the directors office to conduct interviews

52
once it is available at the end of the day. Upon a mutual agreement between the

participants and the researcher, the final five interviews were conducted in the directors

office at the preschool.

Upon arrival to the interview site, each participant signed an adult consent form

agreeing to participate in the study and for the interview to be recorded by digital audio.

Before the interview began, the participants also completed a demographic survey, which

included the following: relationship to child, age, highest level of education, employment

status, household income, race, relationship status, and whether this was their first time

making decisions about early childhood programs.

Ten percent of the participants reported being between the ages of 21- 29 years,

60% were between the ages of 30 39 years, and 30 % were between ages 40 -49 years.

Seventy percent of the women identified themselves as African American, 90 % of the

men identified themselves as African American and 10 % identified as White.

Sixty percent reported that they attended some college, while 10 % had earned a

bachelors degree and 30% of the participants had obtained graduate-level degrees. As

for marital status, 60% of participants reported themselves as being married, 20%

reported themselves as separated, 10% of the participants reported being single, and 10%

reported that they were not married, but had a significant other.

Ten percent of the participants reported the household income as being under

$20,000, 10% reported the household income as between $20,000 - $34, 999, 30% of the

participants reported the household income as $35,000 $49,000, twenty percent of the

participants reported the household income as $50,000 $64,999, ten percent participant

53
reported the household income as $80,000 $94,000, and ten percent reported the

household income as over $95,000.

Forty percent of participants has other children and has made decisions in the past

regarding programs, while 10% of the participants had experiences in the past because

their child attended different programs. The remaining 50% of the participants expressed

that this was their first time making a decision regarding preschool (see Table 1).

54
Table 1: Demographic Survey

Highest
Relationship Employment Household Relationship First Time
Level of Race
To Child Status Income Status Making
Education
Decision
about
Preschool

Mother Graduate Full-Time $50,000 - African Married Yes


Degree $64,999 American

Father Some Self- $65,000 - African Separated No


College Employed $79,000 American

No
Mother Graduate Part-Time $35,000 - African Married
Degree $49,999 American

Father Some Full-Time $80,000 - White Married Yes


College $94,000

Mother Some Full-Time Less than African Significant Yes


College $20,000 American Other

Mother Associate Part-Time $50,000 - African Married No


Degree $64,999 American

Mother Graduate Full-Time $35,000 - African Single No


Degree $49,999 American

Father Some Full-Time $95,000 or African Married No


College More American

Mother Bachelors Full-Time $35,000 - African Married Yes


Degree $49,999 American

Mother Some Part-Time $20,000 - African Separated Yes


College $34, 999 American

55
The Participants

Melinda (Pseudonym): Melinda was the first participant to be interviewed.

When she first entered the room there was a certain confidence about her. As Melinda

completed the consent form, she seemed somewhat embarrassed as she shared that she

only has one child and hoped that she would be able to provide enough information

during the interview. Despite Melindas concerns, she kept her confident demeanor

throughout the interview, and actually offered an abundance of detailed information.

Ron (pseudonym): Ron arrived to the interview exactly on time and reached

out his hand to introduce himself in a very business-like manner. He was dressed

impeccably and appeared to be serious. Sensing that Ron has a busy schedule and likes to

be prompt the researcher immediately began reviewing the documents, then proceeded

with the interview once all of the documents had been completed. Ron became even more

serious as he spoke about the expectations for his children, which was apparent as the

tone of his voice changed as well as his facial expressions. However, he offered a smirk

every now and then, and surprisingly laughed a couple of times during the interview.

Lena (pseudonym): When Lena arrived at the location, she was very energetic

with a bubbly personality. Lena spoke about a lot of things in a short time, but the

researcher was pleased when she said, I have three children, which one do you want to

know about? The researcher knew then that she enjoyed talking and probably had a lot

to share. Lena was excited throughout the interview and seemed happy that she could

share her experiences.

Stefan (pseudonym): Despite of Stefans tall stature, he had a boyish

appearance and appeared to be shy when he first arrived. He began to loosen up and

56
become more comfortable as the interview progressed. By the end of the interview,

Stefan seemed like a different person in terms of his initial shyness.

Shelby (pseudonym): Shelby looked somewhat tense as she sat down because

she folded her arms on the table tightly as if she were cold. Upon being asked if she was

alright, Shelby expressed that she had never been interviewed before and was a little

nervous. The researcher reassured her that there was nothing to be nervous about and she

would just be talking about her experiences with preschools. After reviewing the details

of the study, Shelby seemed to be more comfortable and actually had great information to

share. She laughed several times and actually seemed very anxious to speak, as if she

needed to get it all out.

Jaleeza (pseudonym): When Jaleeza arrived for the interview she had a big

grin on her face. She was extremely outgoing and friendly. Talking with her was like

talking to an old friend. Throughout the interview she used several hand gestures and was

very passionate when she spoke about various experiences. At times she was emotional,

but her willingness to speak about her experiences was deeply appreciated. Jaleeza

appeared to be excited and comfortable as she spoke. She provided very detailed

encounters during the interview.

James (pseudonym): James spoke with great confidence, but appeared to be

honest whenever he was not sure about something, or could not recall various details. He

entered the room and sat down with a very relaxed and laid back appearance. James

immediately leaned back in the chair as if he was ready to respond to any question that he

was asked. However, the researcher noticed that as James spoke at certain times during

the interview he sat up in his chair, or leaned forward as if he was trying to make a point

57
about something. It seemed to the researcher that during these times the topic was

important to him.

Miriam (pseudonym): Dressed conservatively, Miriam, with great posture sat

up straight and appeared to be very serious. At first meeting, her appearance is that of

someone who is knowledgeable, highly efficient and usually does things by the book. As

she spoke during the interview, it seems that the researchers first impression of her was

correct. Miriam was very knowledgeable and spoke with great authority. At the end of

the interview she smiled and said that she was little nervous, though it was never obvious.

Bethany (pseudonym): When Bethany walked into the room she smiled and

introduced herself. She was friendly, but spoke with conviction when it was something

she perceived to be important. She was extremely detailed about what she wanted for her

children and was very open to sharing. Bethany seemed to be well organized and family

oriented. Though she has a young appearance, she spoke with great maturity and in a

motherly manner.

Larissa (pseudonym): Larissa was extremely outgoing and was not hesitant

about sharing information. Throughout the interview Larissa laughed about different

situations as she spoke, but became serious when she spoke about the type of

environment that she wanted her child in. She was clear that she had to be able to afford

it, but would not just settle for anything just because it is inexpensive.

Research Design and Introduction to the Analysis

This study was conducted using a basic qualitative design by which data was

collected data through one- on- one unstructured interviews. The interviews did not

58
exceed an hour. According to Merriam (2002), through a basic qualitative study, the

researcher attempts to comprehend and discover a phenomenon, a method, or the

viewpoints of the participants. The researcher felt that saturation was reached by the

eighth interview as no new information was collected. However, a decision was made to

continue because the sample was small and the researcher wanted to ensure that there was

enough rich data collected.

The interviews were conducted following an interview protocol as suggested by

Creswell (2009). After permission was received from each participant, the interview was

digitally recorded using the Hi-Q MP3 application on a Samsung Galaxy tablet so that the

recordings were in MP3 format for easier transcription later. The recordings were

transferred to the computer, then to a secure blank flash drive selected specifically for the

interviews. The recordings were then erased from the Samsung Galaxy and computer.

During the interview the researcher also took some handwritten notes to highlight

significant comments, document body gestures, or facial expressions that were made by

the participant. Cautious not to distract the participant or divert from important details

that each participant shared, the researcher wrote notes sparingly. Following the

interview each participant was advised that they may be contacted to review documents

once it was transcribed. Then, the participants were thanked and given a stipend of $20

for participating in the study.

The interviews were transcribed by the researcher using the online

transcription/dictation software called Transcribe at https://transcribewreally.com.

Transcribe is an online transcription application that is protected by a password and

allows the researcher to securely upload a selected file. Because the interview files were

59
in MP3 format, the files were easily uploaded. Each time the user is logged off, the files

were erased from Transcribe. However, the Transcribe application has a time stamp that

allows the user to stamp the time on the typed document before logging off. This feature

enables the user to easily navigate to the last point of the document once the subscriber is

logged back in and the file is uploaded again, but it was up to the researcher to remember

to use the timestamp each time there was a break during transcription. Furthermore, the

researcher was able to use the Transcribe application to speed up, slow down, or repeat

during playback. The researcher simultaneously listened to the recordings and typed the

participants responses into a Microsoft Word Document.

The data were audio taped, transcribed, and reviewed multiple times to ensure

accuracy, which supported dependability according to Lodico, Spaulding, and Voegtle

(2010). Once the transcriptions were complete, the researcher performed member checks

with the participants to establish credibility, which according to Creswell (2009) helps to

determine if the documents are accurate according to the participants. Once member

checks were complete, the researcher began the coding process.

As suggested by Merriam (2002), the data were inductively analyzed to find any

frequent patterns or themes that were common. The coding process included

systematically organizing the data by words or phrases, then assigning them to categories

(Center of Evaluation and Research, n.d.). Because the process could be very time-

consuming if done by hand, the researcher used the Dedoose Qualitative Platform

software to assist with analyzing and coding the data. While using Dedoose, the

researcher used an encrypted password to protect the data that only the researcher had

access to. Once the transcripts were uploaded to Dedoose, the researcher still had the

60
responsibility of reading and examining the data for each transcript. However, Dedoose

allowed the researcher to systematically organize key phrases and words to create a

coding tree. There were 99 codes established from the initial analysis of data. As the

researcher continued to analyze and compare codes to identify themes and determine the

category that it belonged to, patterns in the participants responses began merging into

one theme. Each time data was analyzed, the codes were reduced. A commonality

between themes began emerging which allowed the themes to be combined under one

code. The final analysis produced four themes and 10 sub-themes. The themes were

Perceptions of Early Childhood Programs, Making Decisions about Preschool, Parents

Expectations of Preschool Programs, and Perceptions of Enrollment. (see Figure 1).

Perception of Making
Early Childhood Parents' Perceptions
Decisions Expectations of of
Programs about Preschool Enrollment
Preschool Programs
Influencing
Comparing Factors Teachers/Staff Paperwork
Programs

Research Environment
Benefits of
Preschool Screening
Word-of- Communication/
Mouth
Collaboration

Figure 1: Coding Tree: Themes and Sub-Themes

61
Detailed Analysis

Ice Breaker: Can you tell me your thoughts on preschool education?

When the participants were asked to share their thoughts on preschool education,

every participant believed that it was important though the reasons varied. For example,

Stefan said, preschool education provides the fundamentals for children to start off in

grammar school. Melinda said, I think its important based on the childs background.

Shelby stated, I think preschool is important and I believe that it would help my son

become a well-rounded individual. Six of the 10 participants replied that they believed

that preschool is very important, three participants felt that it was important, and one

participant described preschool as a good thing.

Upon further probing for additional information, the participants spoke about how

they felt about preschool vs. daycare. All of the participants agreed that there was a

difference between daycare and preschool. There appeared to be a general consensus

amongst the participants that preschools have structure and some academic component.

Whereas, daycares were viewed as being the opposite with less structure, little or no

academic piece and providing more of a babysitting service. Some participants even

said that daycare does not emphasize social development.

Every participant was confident as they spoke about what they believed to be the

difference between daycare and preschool. However, many of the participants used the

terms preschool and daycare synonymously throughout the interview, even when

speaking about the preschool that their child currently attends. A few participants

corrected themselves including Melinda, whom apologized and explained that her child

62
had also attended daycare at the same facility when he was two years old, and then he

went to the preschool when he turned three, so she still says daycare at times.

Melinda said, Daycare is just that, its a child being cared for and being watched

by a responsible adult, whereas preschool is where theres some learning component and

you know your child is being engaged and stimulated. She recalled her own experience

when she was a child and stated, preschool was very beneficial to me... it gave me a

boost in life. Coming from a low income family she expressed that her preschool

experience was a crucial component during her life. Melinda seemed very pleased as she

spoke about her experiences and what she gained from going to preschool. She began by

sharing how she was a child of a low-income single teenage parent and the only option

was for her to go to preschool and she could recall practicing writing and learning about

letters and numbers. She stated that preschool is very important especially depending on

the child and the childs background and historyit can be a game changer for them in

their lives.

Ron felt that preschool was important. He said that it was definitely a precursor

to full blown education and that it will give kids an initial learning curve that they need

to go past first gradeIts just a good start for kids academically and socially. Bethany

articulated that preschool is very important, especially for the basic foundation of

education and social experiences.

Lena believes that preschool is very important and that it is a good start for

school, and that it will help children in the future. While she admitted that she did not

know much about different options for preschool programs, she went on to describe what

she believes are the differences between preschools and daycares.

63
In my opinion, preschool youre learning, theres some academics, and theres

some emotional and social development. And, in a daycare theyre just watching

the children and theres no real emphasis, in my opinion, on academics or even

the social development.

Stefan also felt that preschool was important. He stated that it is very

fundamental. Sharing the beliefs of several of the other participants, he thought that the

main difference between preschool and daycare is really the education behind itwhere

daycare provides kind of like a babysitting service.

Shelby believed that preschool is very important and she shared some of the same

sentiments as the other participants as she presented her thoughts on preschool and

daycare by saying: I believe that the difference between daycare and preschool is that

preschool has academic things to get kids ready for kindergarten, and daycare is more

like somebody watching your child.

Like the other participants, Jaleezas attitude toward preschool was that it is a

good thing, as she described it. Opening up about why she felt that there is a difference

between preschools and daycares, she explained that it became apparent to her after

visiting her nephews preschool while her oldest child was young and attended a daycare.

She explained:

I was not familiar with preschool. I was more or less like, daycare you know

somebody to watch my child, but it wasnt until I had actually come into the

preschool setting. When I saw that the children were actually learning things, and

I said well you know at the daycare they just sit there, but my nephews school,

hes doing his ABCs and coloring and I thought that was a good thing.

64
Miriam said I think preschool is very important. She felt that kids need at least a

year of preschool or else they might be a little behind by the time they go to kindergarten.

Miriam also mentioned how competitive the world is and that preschool is good for kids

to get an early start. She described daycare as a babysitting service:

You just bring your kids and there is no expectation or a lot of teaching. Maybe

they do arts and crafts, but mostly only social training, and more of a babysitting

type of situation. Preschool is typically more academically focused in terms of

actually reaching developmental goals. And then it also includes, of course, some

level of care, but its mostly focused on reaching some goals that will push kids

towards kindergarten.

Likewise, James considered preschool to be very important. He replied, Its a

jump start for kids to get started you know, K through high school ... Its a good base.

With further elaboration James stated daycares I guess more like a babysitting service

and I guess Pre-K is like a jump start to kindergarten.

Similar, to the other participants, Larissas opinion of preschool is that it is very

important because our children need not sit at home and not be educated. During the

interview she also expressed that preschool was beneficial because it helps kids develop

structure that can follow them throughout life.

Bethany revealed that her child started out in the home daycare and she found that

the structure was a little different than a preschool environment. She communicated her

feelings toward both setting as follows:

Daycare, sometimes you dont have that teacher, per se. You have someone just

to have worksheets and things like that to go over with the kids. In preschool I

65
feel theyre more structured to gear them towards going to school, and learning

about how it is to actually follow the line, the rules, and guidelines of structure in

schools.

How did you go about getting information regarding preschool?

Each participant discussed how they obtained information about preschool. Some

participants described the type of information that they found, the steps they took to find

a preschool, as well as the time dedicated to finding a suitable preschool program. The

participants that actively spent time on researching preschool ranged from two months to

a year with some eventually following suggestions of friends or family members. Two

participants explained that some time was spent contemplating preschool as an option;

however, not much time was actually dedicated to researching preschools because the

selection was solely based on word of mouth.

This was Melindas first time having to think about preschool. She said that she

spent about a year researching programs that began with her speaking to friends, family

members, and colleagues at work regarding finding a daycare or preschool for her son.

She said that her retired mother had been watching him, but just like when she was a

child, everyone told her that he needs to go to school because he was getting so smart.

Melinda stated that she had her child later in life and so several of her friends children

were older. Her goal was to find someone with recent first-hand experience. Melindas

response:

I talked to my friend who has children that were younger. They were closer in age

to my son. Her son and daughter were like four and five or five and six and she

had just gotten through preschool for two children. So, when we talked and she

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was giving me the information I was like definitely glad to get it because she was

someone who has just gone through it. So, thats how I was able to get the

information about my sons current preschool, and it was great.

Ron has more than one child, but said that he received information through

friends and neighbors. With further probing from the researcher, he admitted that he had

not received very detailed information other than go check it out. He said though he

contemplated preschool for a couple of years, he made his final decision when his child

turned three and that he did not spend a lot of time researching programs. Ron decided on

the preschool that he had heard about through friends and neighbors.

Lena spoke of her friends giving her information. She said, Well I have friends

that have children and they put their children in preschool, and so when it was time for

me to choose one for myself, I inquired with my friends. While she found out about

academics and the teachers on her own, her friends gave her information about location,

hours of operation and the types of parents associated with the preschool. She stated that

it took her around three to four weeks to find a preschool, and that she made several calls,

but only visited a few preschools based on their phone conversation.

Stefan stated that he and his wife spent about a month not necessarily searching,

but discussing preschool as an option. He and his wife chose a preschool that was

recommended to them. Stefan said It was word of mouth; we did visit the preschool and

based on our impressions of that preschool we just really went with that one preschool.

After searching the Internet and inquiring with family members and friends,

Shelby indicated that she spent about three to four months searching for preschool. She

said that several of her friends had children her sons age that was in daycare. Shelby

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commented on how one of her friends encouraged her to use preschool that her son had

gone to because her friend talked about how well her son did.

Jaleeza has more than one child and said that she has had experiences with

daycares and preschools. She said that she had spoken to a family member in the past, but

by the time it was time for her youngest child to go to preschool, she already knew what

to do.

Miriam spoke of past experiences with her first child and said that the process

took about two months and she did research on her own because the people that she asked

initially were not helpful. However, because of her past experiences she said that she

already had in mind what she wanted for her youngest child.

James stated Im a word of mouth type of guyrelatives, just seeing how their

kids thrived after you know, preschool or daycare. Bethany heard about the preschool

that her children attend from a friend as well, but ultimately made her decision about the

preschool because she said they just offered, I feel more of a security where this

particular facility is located, which is why I chose them. Larissa expressed that she

found out about the preschool through word of mouth as well, but I did the leg work to

find out the cost. She said that the whole process to find a preschool took about two or

three months. She laughed as she elaborated further and mentioned that she had visited

the preschool first. She said, I need to know whose teaching my child, what the

environment looks like.

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What factors are important to you when looking for a preschool? (Location, cost,

enrollment, teacher/student ratio, program hours and staff)

The participants spoke about how certain factors, word-of-mouth, research or

their expectations of the program influenced their decision. Most of the participants

discussed more than one factor that they considered as important including cost, location,

cleanliness, program hours, children engagement, class size, staff/teachers attitudes, and

what they expected their child to gain. In expressing which factors were important, some

of the participants explained why certain factors were important. Many of the participants

stated their willingness to pay more or travel further for a preschool that they thought was

of quality. None of the participants expressed enrollment as a factor, and as mentioned

earlier, all of the participants felt that is was a simple process. Some participants

expressed that the information that they had received from friends or family was enough.

On the other hand, some participants spoke about the environment and what they

expected for their children to experience.

On her quest to find a preschool, Melinda and her husband considered many

factors. Two things that she said was very important to them was the community and

how well they worked with the children. Melinda indicated that she wanted a preschool

where the teachers worked well with the children and they were engaged. Melinda also

felt that location was vital because they needed something close to their house. Then, she

added cost as a factor as well. Melinda stated what especially attracted her to this

preschool was the fact that they did not advertise, but had a lot of business. She said

that she trusted her friend and was confident that the school would meet her criteria.

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Although Ron conveyed that location and cost were important factors to him, he

stated that he would be willing to travel and pay a little more for a school that he really

liked. Then, he proceeded to say how teachers were also an important factor in his

decision. Ron said, Um teachers who are willing to go the mileteachers who felt

that education was at the forefront of any progress for any child.

The three factors that were most influential in Lenas decision were location,

hours, and adult/child interaction, although she admitted I probably wouldve traveled

10-15 miles if need be to get my child to a place where I thought she could grow.

Stefan said, I would have to say that definitely the staff plays a very important

role; education is always above and beyond an important role. He chuckled and then

said I guess further down the list would be cost and distance.

Shelby stressed that the location was just as important as the hours of operation,

and that the cost had to be reasonable. Then she stated that teachers were an important

factor as well. She said, I feel that the teachers need to know how to work with kids.

Jaleeza felt that cleanliness and teachers engaging the children were important. She

stated, having a clean facility is importantthe second thing I look for is you know,

how the teachers engage with the students. Then, she spoke about how a good

curriculum was also an important factor.

Miriams choice for preschool was influenced by class size and location. I look

at class size...location, of course depending on where I live as well as where I work.

Mostly relative to where I work because Im a single parent. Then Miriam expressed

that cost was a factor too. The price ranges from low to high, so the cost was a big issue

too.

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Cost was an important factor for James. However, he stated he would be willing

to travel. Locationno more than an hour away as long as they get what they need. He

leaned forward in his chair, nodded his head and said, Its more about performance. At

this point, it was obvious that performance was very important to him. He sat back and

concluded by saying that it also had to be full day because he works 8 hours.

The most important things that Bethany was looking for were a small class size

and security measures. Bethany stated, I wanted the student/teacher ratio to be very

small, that was something that was important to me. She also discussed her concern

regarding the security precautions that were in place if she or her husband were not

able to pick her children up and someone else had to pick them up. Bethany said that she

and her husband had also considered the location and cost.

Larissa said that it was important for her to know who was teaching her child and

that the program had to have structure. She also expressed that cost was important, and

that she had to be able to afford it because Im by myself.

How did you decide to put your child in a preschool, or to keep your child at home?

Six out of 10 participants stated the reason for putting their child in preschool

rather than keeping them home was because they had to work. However, most of them

had additional reasons as well. Three participants said that they enrolled their children

specifically for social experiences and one participant expressed that her child was

beginning to need new experiences than he was getting at home.

Melinda was grateful that her mom was able to watch her son every day while she

and her husband went to work. However, she, her husband, and her mother felt that it was

time for him to go to school. According to Melinda, everyone started encouraging her to

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send him to school because they could see he was so bright and outgrowing being

around the house with his grandmother. She said her mother stated that hell be good to

handle the rigors of preschool.

Ron said that he decided that he wanted his child to have certain social skills

that he said he couldnt give his child at home. As a parent, who needs to do business

things, you need that timeand as a child who was getting education from home, being

homeschooled, they still really needed the social aspects that you just cant give them.

He appeared to become very serious as he spoke about the reason that social skills were

so important to him. He shared:

Well it wasn't much of a predetermined notion, but it was more or less like okay

three years old; I mean you take your kids to the park and at that point they

weren't really used to interacting with other kids and you just thought as a parent

like wow Im doing them a disservice. They need to interact with other kids

really on a daily basis so they can really be fully developed. So, that was really

the ah ha moment of it all.

Like Ron, Shelby was interested in her child having social experiences. Shelbys

grandmother and recently retired mother watched her son while she was at work. She said

that they he had learned a lot from them, so she had never considered daycare, or

preschool as an option. Shelby explained that she became concerned about how he would

perform socially around his kindergarten peers, so she decided to put him in preschool.

Although Lena and Miriam both had to work, they also wanted their children to

have social experiences that could be achieved in a preschool. Miriam said mostly

because my biggest desire for my kids was to have social experiences with other kids.

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Lena felt that her child needed social exposure as well. She said that her child stayed

home with her until the age of three, so when she was asked about how she decided to

enroll her child to preschool rather than keep her child home she replied, more for the

social aspect than anything else. When theyre at home with you, theyre just home

with you and I feel they need to branch out a little bit so, therefore, I put her in

preschool.

Stefan and James both expressed that their main reason for not keeping their

children at home was because they had to work and their wives had to work. Stefan

explained that he and his wife worked and there was limited availability of

grandparents, so he and his wife thought preschool would be beneficial for their son.

James said that he and his wife worked, so they didnt have a choice. Then, he stated that

he would like for his children to be competitive and have social skills, which he feels that

they are getting from their current preschool. Then after giving a little more thought

about his choice in preschool, he added yeah social skills were very important.

Like some other participants Bethany and Jaleeza said that they had to work, but

also expressed additional reasons. Bethany put her children in preschool instead of

keeping them at home because she and her husband worked and they did not have friends

or family members that they felt comfortable enough to leave them with. Jaleeza chose to

put her child in preschool rather than keep him at home because she had to work and she

felt more comfortable with her child being around more people. She stated:

With all of the abuse thats going on out here I really didnt feel comfortable with

leaving my child at home someone. Also I have to work. My child has to go

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somewhere. So, I felt that hed be better in an environment where there were a lot

of people around so he could be watched.

Like several of the other participants, Larissas said that one of the main reasons

for placing her daughter in preschool was that she had to work. She expressed that she

appreciated the structure of the preschool as well. Then, she laughed and said,

I think theyre like from nine to three; I know me, I wouldnt have the patience

for that all day, so Im glad that somebody else does that can teach her and I can

see the results. Im so amazed by the progress shes making.

What guided your choice of a public, private or home preschool?

Most of the participants expressed that home preschool was not an option for

them for various reasons, including safety issues and the lack of professionalism.

Whereas, other participants just did not have an interest. Some participants stated that

public preschools had hours that conflicted with their work schedule. There were also

several responses as reasons for selecting a private preschool. Some of the responses

included convenience and personal preference. Other participants spoke specifically

about why they chose the current preschool, which included safety and cost effectiveness

compared to well-known private preschools. Some participants shared that they did not

do a lot of research and just followed recommendations.

Making some comparisons, Melinda obtained information about various options.

She spoke about different considerations such as some of the private, but excellent

schools, were too pricey and most of the home facilities were daycares instead of

preschools. Melindas response as she spoke of preschools located near her home:

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I have Montessori not so far from me. The marquee you know, name brand; it

really wasnt impressing me, so to speak. It doesnt have to be designer daycare

with designer daycare prices, I guess I should say. I was really looking for

something that was like reasonably priced, quality, in the sense that they really do

work well and engage the children, and again close to my home.

After considering some public schools, Melinda found that the hours did not work

for her, and she preferred to go with her friends suggestion. She ultimately narrowed it

down to a freestanding private preschool that she was thoroughly impressed with

because they obtained their business through word-of-mouth rather than advertisement.

Also, Melinda said that she and her husband were satisfied with the price and the hours.

Ron also made his choice based on word-of -mouth from friends. He said the

preschool ended up being a good fit for him and his child. He acknowledged that he did

not do a lot of research for different programs, but he knew that he wanted his child in an

environment where the social skills could be developed. Ron mentioned his opinion

about private and public preschools by stating that his first choice would be a public

school. However, if he was not satisfied with the public preschool he would pay for a

private preschool as long as it works for him and his child.

Lena said that she had tried public preschools in the past, but private was more of

a personal preference. She stated that her other children are in private schools, so she

decided to put her daughter in a private school as well. Stefan confessed that he and his

wife went with word of mouth and did not really explore other options. He felt that with

education they would have to pay in some way. In his opinion, we figured that if were

going to pay we might as well get him to learn while were paying. Shelby conveyed

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that she really didnt have a preference between public and private, but preferred her son

not to be in someone elses home. She said I think that you have to pay for most private

preschools, but I would if it was good and I could afford it, like where he is now.

Jaleeza considered different options and discovered that she liked Montessori, but

it cost too much. She said Montessoris good, very good. Then, she pulled her closed

fingers away from her lips after kissing as if to say Montessori was the best. Next, Jaleeza

stated but, I cant afford the tuition Ill just be honest, and public schools, the hours that

they have for daycare didnt suit me for my job. I needed a place from six to six.

James found that the private preschool was convenient for him and his wife at the

time. Larissa said that she had only done a little research and realized that most private

preschools costs more and could become very expensive. She stated that she did not

know other things such as the difference in the curriculum. Larissa stressed that mostly

she needed to be able to afford it and it was important to her that the program was

structured. Miriam communicated that she has had experiences with public, private and

home preschool facilities, but said that private preschool was her top choice.

Bethany had some strong view points on what she preferred and what she

disliked. She articulated her opinion:

I would say that as far as public or private, or even a home facility I didn't really

care for the idea of a home facility because for me like I said it's a security thing. I

just feel like the idea that you dont really know with a home daycare the type

of people that are coming in and out that person's house, whether it be family or

friends, and so I didn't really like that. I feel like there's more of professionalism if

it's actually housed in a building. As far as public or private...in that case I didn't

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really have a preference. Like I said it was just the particular things that we were

looking for on our checklist...the best one that worked for us.

What characteristics do you believe makes a preschool high quality?

When this question was posed to the participants the answers revolved around the

curriculum, social development, collaboration/interaction, an organized environment that

is structured and clean, as well as teachers attitudes. Several of the participants provided

more than one response of what they considered to be high quality.

Academic skills are not the only thing Melinda thought made a preschool high

quality. She also felt that the way the teachers and staff cared for the children was

important. Melinda stated:

Are the children really being cared for in such a way where they are getting all the

instruction they could ever hope for, but they're also learning you know more

about life and how to make those types of connections? And, how good, I guess

we would say in the working world, soft skills as opposed to just knowing how to

recite you know and rote memorization, you know. So, that is to me you know uh

really indicative of a quality daycare.

Ron thought that a quality preschool is made up of a collaborative effort between

the parents, the administration, and the teachers. He explained that these collaborations

were necessary to make things better for all the kids involved. Stefan thought that the

curriculum is part of what makes a preschool high quality. Shelby stated, I think that a

program that is clean, organized, and structured, has good interactions with the children

and has the children participating in a lot of engaging activities is considered high

quality. Similar to other participants, Bethany said, The efficiency of the staff, the

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quality of the staffquality of the establishment itselfand also, the quality of the

curriculum that the children are learning. Similarly, Jaleeza felt that high quality

preschools engage with the parents, great curriculumum smell fresh, nice attitudes

and cleanliness.

Lena shared some of the same beliefs of the other participants when she

mentioned that interaction between the teachers and students were important. She said the

following:

I guess in my opinion it would be how well you see the students interacting with

the adults in the school, in the program. No child should be sitting by themselves

never being assisted in any way...how readily they are to help their students. You

know that lets you know they're concerned with your child, or children in their

facility.

Miriam expressed that she thought that administration needed to be organized.

Furthermore, she stated that parental and community involvement was helpful with

making sure the school is properly funded. She felt that sometimes, they don't have

those resources and so the kids don't get resources; it becomes kind of a basic minimal

running preschool, or daycare. Miriam concluded her response by expressing that she

felt these things contribute to a successful program.

James described many things that he believed was indicative of a high quality

preschool. Like several of the other participants, he thought that what the children were

learning was what you would see in a high quality program as well as cleanliness,

structure and discipline.

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Larrisa expressed what she thought a high quality preschool in terms of what she

expected from the teachers and staff. She stated that she wanted teachers and staff to be

respectful by not using profanity when a child is present. In addition she said, I want

them to be able to show that even though it's a professional relationship; I still see the

warmth in the adult that's teaching, or that's with my child throughout the day.

Please describe any experiences that you have with preschools including interactions

with staff, enrollment procedures and environment.

All of the participants expressed that their experiences with the staff members at

the preschool has been pleasant. Two out of the 10 participants discussed past negative

experiences that they have had with other programs. Most of the participants expressed

that they would consider speaking with the teacher or sitting in the classroom if there was

something that they were not happy with. None of the participants mentioned

immediately removing their child without finding out what was going on first.

Every participant mentioned that it was important for the teacher to communicate

with them, but for various reasons. Some participants said that they would like to hear

from the teacher on a daily basis, while other participants said that they would like the

teacher to report things such as behaviors, emergencies, and academic performance.

When the participants spoke about the enrollment process, each one described it as a

simple task with a few documents to submit and sign, which was expected.

Ron said that so far he has had great experiences with the teachers. The teachers

greet him with a smile every morning, and that he really appreciates being greeted with

good morning, and if it is a Monday, How was your weekend? However, he did say

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that for him to decide to send his child somewhere else, it would have to be a bad

environment. He further elaborated by saying:

It would have to be a bad environment. It would have to be an environment that's

not necessarily so bad, but an environment that my child, or me would say that

my child is not as productive as they can bemy child is not flourishing as much

as they could because the environment is destructive, or not conducive to our

belief system in terms of progress academically.

Then, he spoke about the enrollment process that he described as fairly simple

just you knowidentification, resident information. Then, he gave a little laugh and

smirked as he added and, are you the parent of this child?

When asked the question, Lena initially responded by discussing what she expects

rather than her experience. When asked if the preschool met her expectations, she

responded oh, yesdefinitely. Her response was:

Well you know I just expect for teachers to be concerned with the child and their

environment that they live in at home, so that they know how to take care of them

in school. I'm expecting a loving, caring, warm person to be there for my child as

if they were the parent because when theyre with them, that is their parent

basically. So, I need to know that this is a caring, loving, environment.

Then Lena began laughing and added Oh ho! They should have a big smile on

their face and saying, Good morning! "How are you today? And, an environment with

lots of color, bright colors in the room, so that it stimulates growth and development.

During the interview Lena said that the she had an idea about the enrollment process and

it was simple with just a few documents to sign and return.

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Stefan also spoke of having positive interactions with the preschool staff. He

stated that the appearance of the staff and being able to view a session was beneficial

because it helped in the decision process. His response:

Well usually when I go to drop off my son it's actually a very nice environment.

Everyone is very upbeat and social and definitely you can immediately see the

tone that is set for the kids as far as structure and discipline. So, that's always a

good thing.

Stefan revealed that the enrollment process included providing various documents

and filling out an application as he expected the enrollment process would include. He

said actually I think that it was a pretty normal process.

Shelby indicated Ive had nothing but good experiences with the staff. Whenever

we arrive they always greet us with a smile make us feel so welcomed. Umand the

facility is always clean and smells good. She said that a dirty or chaotic

environment could have influenced her decision not to send her child there. Her

experiences with enrollment were similar to most of the other participants. She said it

was simple and like enrolling anywhere I had to fill out an application and give them a

few thingsnothing big, nothing like with the screening.

Jaleeza spoke about a past experience where her child did not do so well at

another preschool, but she felt as though the current preschool cared about her and her

childs wellbeing. She stated that she felt as if the other preschool was looking for high

excelling children, which she said her son was not. He's moving very slowly on some

things, and he was getting left behind. Her belief about the previous preschool was that

her youngest child was accepted because her other child that had gone there did well.

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Jaleeza said that she feels like the current preschool really works with children at their

level rather than expecting them all to be on the same level as his peers like with her

previous experience. In addition, she said she likes the environment. When I come to the

daycare it's always a great fragrance. (Laughs) I love it. The staff is very friendly, very

friendly. I come in, they're always smiling, and saying hello. So, that helps a lot. While

discussing the enrollment process, Jaleeza recalled that at the previous school when she

enrolled her older child, the school asked for shot records, birth certificate, medical

information and a general list of questions about the child and the childs attitude at

home. She also recalled paying a registration fee each time. However, she mentioned

that during the enrollment process at the current preschool she presented identification,

proof of residency and a birth certificate, but did not pay a registration fee.

Miriam spoke of an experience at another preschool where her daughter was very

sick and she was upset that the school did not inform her or her daughters father. She

stated that when she arrived Miriam said they seemed as if it was not a big deal instead of

treating it like an emergency that she felt it was. She expressed:

It was really insensitive. So, I think of that in terms of a not so good experience

that kind of opened my eyes to the fact that maybe all teachers, or administrators

don't have the same goal in mind as it relates to the kids or even the parents.

Speaking about the current preschool, Miriam had only pleasant comments such

as theyve been friendly and opened. She also shared that the current preschool has

activities throughout the year for the children and activities that allow the parents to get

involved. Miriam feels that there is just a comfort level knowing that theyre trying to

create a relationship, you know with me as a parent. As for enrollment, she said it was

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pretty simple, you know fill out the applications just a bunch of tedious paperwork

and needing certain forms to come back, but other than that the process hasnt been hard

at all.

James seemed satisfied with the preschool. He expressed that he has not had any

problems with the staff and that they have good interactions with his children, so, it's a

good spot. He said the enrollment process only involved pretty much sign a few papers,

make sure their shot records are in.

Bethany said that the preschool meets her expectations. Then, she explained what

she expected:

Well, my expectations is that there is a greeter and that the child as well as the

parent...myself and my children feel welcomed when we're coming in. If it's kinda

cold and unwelcoming and if it makes me feel uncomfortable, I feel like my child

will be uncomfortable.

She found that the enrollment process was very easy. Bethany said that she filled

out documents and submitted vaccination documents for her children. She also mentioned

submitting allergy documents for one of her daughters with allergies.

Melinda believes that some preschools employ teachers and staff that are very

professional and cool, yet unfeeling, but she did not feel that way about her sons

preschool. Instead she feels the staff and the teachers there are very good. Not being

just professional, but they generally like children. She also spoke about the different

activities that her son participates in such as science experiments, and how the school

engages him. Melinda was extremely excited as she recalled her son participing in

National Reading Day. She shared how he came home with his book and said,

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Mommy we have to read this. She sat with him and read it and described the

experience as awesome. Next, she said I felt like for whatever monies that I pay you

know, it's definitely worth more. It's not enough basically. I would pay more

if necessary for him to have this type of experience.

When Melinda spoke about the enrollment process she said it was informal and

straightforward. Melinda stated that after her mom visited the facility and agreed that it

was a great place, she spoke with the director whom emailed the enrollment packet to

her. Melinda explained that it was a printable attached document that was easy to

understand. After returning the packet, she said that the director asked her when she

wanted her son to start and that they could speak more about payment arrangements in

person.

Larissa said, I've had nothing but good things with them. As far as when I come

and ask about my daughter, they're forthcoming. They say what's going on, and I like the

fact that they are really detailed about what goes on.

Can you tell me what activities you expect your child to do in preschool? Why?

All of the participants mentioned that they expected some type of academic

activity to be taking place in a preschool classroom. In addition, to academics, some

participants mentioned that they expected social activities to exist either peer/peer or

adult/child. Many of the participants expressed that they expected the children to be

having fun.

Melinda said I expect for there to be instruction. You know different outings and

field trips and just various developmental things. Personal development and not just, you

know academic development. She also stated: Personally, the emphasis that I want to

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put on my own son is not so much intelligence in I.Q., or recall and retention for material.

What I'm hoping for is a child that is, first and foremost, very grounded.

Ron expressed that he expected Just their interaction with the teacher and the

kids, one-on-one and group...just a variety of things so that every child get the chance to

connect with each other, the teacher, and collectively. Upon further elaboration of what

he expected to see in his childs classroom, Ron said, Definitely the social aspectthat's

just as important as numbers, letters, colors, shapes. All those things in terms of

recognition, but the social part, you know that's what you want to look for at that age.

He expressed that he wouldnt want to make that move too soon if he saw something

that he did not like. Ron said that he would first determine what he needs to do and act

accordingly. If the issue was not resolved, then he would consider other options.

Lena stated I would just like it to be fun and happy. She also said that she

would love seeing children doing a lot of hands-on activities, puzzles and I would like to

see them maybe working on the letters and numbers and things like that with the teacher

as well. Lena began talking about what she expected the most. She stated that she

thought having books were important because it promotes reading. Lena explained that if

she did not like what she saw going on in the classroom she would speak to the teacher

first to provide them with the opportunity to explain what is going on. Only if things

remained the same, did Lena say she would consider moving her child somewhere that

she believed would be better for her child.

Miriam spoke of several things that she would like to see in a preschool

classroom. She shared that she would like to see mostly play-based activities for the

three and four year olds, but more intentional teaching for the four and five year olds to

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prepare them for kindergarten. When there are kids that are older and getting ready for

kindergarten, I think they should have some math and literacy that is a little bit more

intended just for them. She said that mostly she expects to hear the sound of kids

playing and having a good experiencenot a lot of yelling, or you know, punitive

discipline. She said that if she did not like what was going on in her childs classroom

and had concern about her child being a part of that school she would sit, visit or talk

to the teacher to find out what was going on first.

Shelby said that she expected her son to be interacting with other children,

learning to write, learning about numbers, and alphabet as well as having fun listening

stories, singing, and dancing. She shared her thoughts on a chaotic classroom by stating:

If I entered a chaotic, dirty classroom it would upset me. I would like to see a

classroom that is nice and clean with the childrens work displayed as well as

children engaged in activities. Now, I guess it depends on the circumstances. For

instance, if I was like visiting a school and when I entered I saw that it was not

clean or chaotic I wouldnt even consider sending my son there, but if he was

already at the school and it was out of the ordinary for it to be chaotic I will

probably have to either observe, or talk with the teacher to find out what was

going on. Um I dont think I would immediately remove my child if I have

been happy with them in the past. I would definitely give them a second chance.

Bethany shared many things that she expected for children to be doing in a

preschool classroom. She expressed that children should be learning the alphabet as well

as some handwriting to learn how to write their names. Like other participants, Bethany

said that she thinks the kids should be having fun. She stated that she would like them to

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be singing songs such as Old McDonald something that you know, it's stimulating for

them. She then spoke about how she would handle a situation if she entered the room

and the environment was not what she expected. Similar to the responses of the other

participants, Bethany mentioned that she would speak to the teacher to find out what was

going on. She commented:

I would have a conversation with the staff to allow the line of communication to

be clear so that they know what my expectations are and that they can explain to

me what the structure of their classroom is like as well.

Stefan said, Well I expect to see some of the basic fundamentals as far as

learning the alphabet and learning numbers. Jaleeza stated that she expects the preschool

to use a good curriculum. James said children should be doing ABC's, 123s. Um,

pretty much getting ready for the next level. He also stated I want some structure. I

want them to play. Yeah, play is important, they're little kids.

Larissa said that she felt that the teachers should be stern. She stated I want the

kids to know that they're not a push over. She elaborated further by saying that even

though she understood that children have their days and that they may sometimes get

away with things, she wants teachers that have the characteristic of whatever I say

goes. Larissa also shared that she would like to see the childrens work on the wall. She

said she likes that there are sections for the children to do different things.

Can you tell me what you know about preschool teachers? In other words, what

qualifications and knowledge do you think teachers should have?

Some of the participants thought that preschool teachers should have some type of

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training so that they understand how to work with children. Then, some participants

believe that participants should have some type of degree. Other participants

communicated that if the teacher did not have a degree they might be accepting if the

teacher had experience. A few participants felt that teachers with experience, in some

instances, teach better than teachers with a degree. Additionally, some participants said

that they are okay with the teacher whether the teacher has a degree or not as long as their

child is learning.

Melinda voiced her point of view regarding preschool teachers by saying, I

believe they should be educated, I believe they should havedefinitely theoretical

knowledge and also a lot of practical knowledge as well.

Bethany feels that education is important and that preschool teachers should have

at least a bachelors degree. She stated:

I would prefer for my child's teacher to have a bachelor's degree, but if I

know that the instructor is on track to doing class work, you know at least they

have the credit hours and the experience. As far as primary education, that's

important. I don't want someone that's just like off the street, Oh I just want to

work with kids type of thing. I want someone who is familiar with education and

teaching small children.

Additionally, Bethany says that communication is very important. She said that

on a scale from one to 10 its definitely a 10 for me. In sharing her expectations

regarding communication, Bethany stated that she expects for teachers to tell her about

behavior issues, injuries, if her child is paying attention or distracted, and how her child is

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doing academically. She said Im honestly one of the parents that want to know

everything.

Speaking not so much of qualifications or knowledge, Ron shared his thoughts on

what kind of characteristics he would like a preschool teacher to possess. His thoughts

were:

I expect them to be, well it sounds kind of funny actuallyI expect them to be

very immature because dealing with that demographic of children, you have to be

goofy. You have to go down to their level and at the same time, you have to pull

them back up to a level of growth...cause you want to go down to a level of

goofiness, play and everything else. Um, you know infantile so to speak, and you

know pull them up so that as they learn and you teach them. You know, you can

recognize their line of growth, and those things to me would be the most

important. You know as goofy as possible with the kids because they're not

thinking of learning, they're thinking of play and fun. If it's not fun, you can't

connect with them.

He also explained that he would like the teacher to have constant

communication with him. Ron said that it was important for that reception to be there

so that he will know everything is okay when he is dropping his child off or picking his

child up that everything will be okay.

With similar thoughts to Ron, James said that preschool teachers should be Fun,

outgoing, um... be able to motivate without being rigid. He expressed I want to see the

kids happy when I walk in. He did however, hold a different opinion than several of the

other participants regarding the topic on credentials. He believes that as long as the

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children are learning, then credentials are not that important. He said, I don't really care

about credentials. I prefer performance; there are teachers that don't have credentials that

are better teachers than teachers with credentials. Furthermore, he said that he would not

have a problem as long as the teachers were teaching his children and they were learning.

As for communication, James said that he just wants the teacher to let him know how his

children are doing. He concluded with I dont need to hear it on a daily basis because I

know theyre kids.

Similar to James, Stefan felt that teachers could do well without having the

required credentials and that experience was just as important as having credentials. He

shared that he did not realize what qualifications a preschool teacher had to have until a

teacher was dismissed because she lacked the appropriate credentials. He said that he

believes that she was a good teacher. Stephan said I strongly believe that if a person

does have the experience, then that can serve just as well as education. He also believes

that there has to be an open line of communication between parents, teachers and the

director. Stefan said that he would like to know about things that happen daily as well

as behavior and things that may occur sporadically.

Lena thought that preschool teachers should have at least an associates degree

though she admitted that she was not quite sure. She said it would be nice if they all

could have a bachelors degree because there's so much to learn about children and how

they grow and how they think and you need that to help the child. Furthermore, Lena

stated that if a teacher did not hold some type of degree that she would be okay if that

teacher had many years of experience. She expressed I might take into consideration if

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they've raised their own children. She laughed and said you see then I would want

information on how successful their children are.

Shelby believes that preschool teachers should have some form of educational

training so that they understand how to work well with children. However, during the

interview she did convey that she would be accepting of a teacher that had experience

and a track record for children going on to be successful. Shelby mentioned that she

thought communication was highly important. She said that she appreciated the

teachers giving her daily reports on her child and that they always share things with her

when something significant happens.

Jaleeza discovered that the current preschool provided information regarding each

teachers credentials, which were included in a packet. She said, They let you know that

the teachers are certified with which type of degree, and they can be furnished upon

request. In addition, Jaleeza said that she usually asked about credentials but was

pleased to find that this information was readily provided by the current preschool.

Miriam was more familiar with specific credentials that the preschool teachers

were required to have. She explained that she would like a teacher to have a

combination of experience and education, and even if you have little experience, but the

education...just an opened mind to learn and the desire, commitment to actually teach

children and be a caregiver and a teacher. Miriam expressed earlier in the interview that

she appreciates the relationship that she has with the preschool because she knows that

they will communicate with her regularly. She said that she is grateful for the school

informing her on the type of day her daughter has had, especially with the experiences at

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a past school. She said that she has comfort knowing that the preschool will contact her if

there is an emergency.

Larissa liked that the teachers are certified. She liked the idea that the teachers at

the preschool had some type of schooling and that they knew how to teach the children

with some structure. She ended with when they hit kindergarten and first grade it wont

be new to them; the structure. Her opinion about communication was that a weekly

report would suffice, or if something extra came up." In other words, Larissa seemed to

be okay with receiving weekly reports from the teacher but also wanted to hear from the

teacher if something happened that was out of the ordinary.

What are your experiences with the screening process for preschool?

Only two out of 10 participants spoke about experiences with screenings that they

had with other preschools. Both participants expressed that it was a lengthy process that

was not expected. Three participants also described what they considered close to a

screening. One of those participants described it as a pre-screening. Another

participant talked about being interviewed by the director and how the staff examined

parent/child interactions. The third participant expressed the experience of visiting the

school and meeting with the director.

When Lena spoke of her past experience with the screening process she recalled

having to complete a lot of paperwork containing questions about her family and her

child that would be attending the preschool. She explained that as she completed

paperwork her child was doing different activities with teachers. This is how she

described her experience:

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Actually, I didnt think it would be as lengthy as it was. You know it did look like

the children were just playing a lot, but I know they were going from station to

station to station doing different things. I cant say exactly what they were doing

because I was being screened at the same time basically, but, it looked like a lot of

different things. I know it was lengthy. I know it took a while.

Overall, Lena said that she was okay with all the background information they

asked. You know it made me feel like they were concerned with our family and about

what was taking place in our family I was comfortable with that. She shared that each

of her enrollment experiences were the same and she already knew what to expect.

Shelby said that the school that her child currently attends did not screen her son.

She laughed and shook her head as she reflected on a screening that her son participated

in at another location. Similar to Lena, Shelby stated:

I realized how serious, or should I say, how structured preschool could be when I

took my son to a screening to go to preschool. I thought we both were being

screened for college. (Laughs) It was a very long process. I filled out paperwork,

and I could see him playing or doing something in the background. After it was

all said and done, he wasnt even accepted. It was only half day, so it wouldnt

have worked anyway because I needed longer hours. It wouldve been free, but it

was too hard to get in anyway.

Jaleeza said that her son was not screened at the previous school possibly because

his older sibling had gone there, so he was automatically accepted. However, he was

screened at the current preschool to determine if there were any delays and if further

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testing was needed. Jaleeza was grateful because it did lead to her child receiving further

assessments and she is pleased with the preschool for initiating that.

Larissa spoke openly about how she visited various facilities and had different

experiences with what she described as screenings. She said that she did a walk-through

at one place that she described as very nice. She explained that they told her about the

curriculum and what her child would be learning. At a different facility, Larissa could not

recall everything that they asked for, although she did remember providing income

information that she figured was to determine if she could afford it. Then, she said that

she met with the director and was also interviewed. Larissa said the whole process was

extensive:

They have to spend time with you and your child to see if you are good match for

the school. And then, after all that is said and done, you have I think two to three

days and then theyll send you a letter saying whether, or not she is approved to

go to the school. I was like wow thats a lot, but I guess theyre trying to see if

you have rowdy kids, or not. I thought that it was a lot.

Though Larissas child was accepted, she said that it was too expensive and that

she would not have gone through all of that had she known the price up front.

Ron revealed how he felt about his past experience during a screening. He said

that it was fairly easy and he felt that they want to know how your child acts in social

situations and is it a good fit for your child. He said it was not a surprise, but you

wanted to make sure that your child met those criteria hopefully, and that was the main

thing with that screening process make sure that your child could meet those

requirements.

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Stefan described his screening process as meeting with the director. He said that

he and his wife did not know what to expect. He shared what the director discussed with

him:

Um, pretty much what was to be expected, what they expected from the child and

where they expected the child to be within a certain point yeah, and what they

expected from the parents as well, as far as interaction with the program and

activities and so on and so forth.

Melinda shared an experience that was comparable to Stefan by meeting with the

director. However, she also spoke about visiting the facility, which she described as a

prescreening, rather than a screening. Melindas stated:

It wasn't so much a screening process per se, or anything structured, I should say,

or formal. They did ask that I come in and tour the facility. I think that was a

really good approach. It's kind of like testing a car before you really decide to buy

it. So I guess, like I said, that was informal but if anything, I think that was close

to the process, or I guess you could say to the pre-screening process for the

school.

James, Bethany and Miriam did not speak of past screening experiences, nor did

any of them describe their experiences at the current preschool as a screening. Instead,

each participant shared information regarding what they perceived as the enrollment

process. Miriam further elaborated on her answer by stating:

If theres some kind of selection or anything involved Ive never had much of a

waiting list, or nothing highly competitive because she is so young. I dont think

that she should be like competing for a spot in preschool.

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Summary of Findings

Ninety percent of the parents identified themselves as African American, while

10 % was identified as White. Though most of the participants were of the same race,

there were variations in gender, age, relationship status, salary, employment, education,

and experience with decision making about preschool. Regardless of the differences in

demographical information, the findings revealed that every parent in the study desired

the best education for their children. The parents in this study compared two or more

factors as they made choices about preschool.

Furthermore, parents expected preschool to provide their children with nurturing

as well as positive educational experiences that would help their children to be successful

throughout their lives. While some parents have researched options to ensure that their

child can go to what they perceive as high quality preschools, other parents made choices

solely based on suggestions from trusted friends and families. Then, there were some

parents that had enough past experiences with a variety of programs to make current

decisions they felt were the best choices.

One thing that the parents all seem to agree with is that all early childhood

settings are not equal, and that even preschools can differ. During the interviews, the

parents expressed beliefs about different programs as well as shared their experiences

with various programs. The parents all spoke about what was important to them and they

also explained how certain factors influenced their decisions.

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Chapter 4 Summary

This was a basic qualitative study that was conducted by utilizing one-on-one

interviews. The interviews were transcribed and then coded. Fifty percent of the

interviews were conducted at a library local to the preschool of the participants and the

other 50 % were conducted in the directors office at the preschool. Based on the

participants responses to the interview questions four themes and 10 sub-themes

emerged, which is as follows:

Perceptions of Early Childhood Programs

Comparing Programs

Preschool Benefits

Making Decisions about Preschool

Influencing Factors

Research

Word-of-Mouth

Parents Expectations of Preschool Programs

Teachers/Staff

Environment

Communication/Collaboration

Perceptions of Enrollment

Paperwork

Screening

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These themes were essential for answering the research questions. The central

question was: What are parents experiences with the decision-making process regarding

preschools? The 5 sub-questions were:

1. How important do parents perceive preschool to be?

2. What do parents believe are the characteristics of a high quality preschool?

3. How do parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in selecting a

preschool?

4. How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling their child in a

preschool?

5. What factors influence parents decision to enroll, or not enroll their child in

preschool?

Chapter 5 will provide further details regarding the findings in the study. First the

findings will be summarized followed by a discussion to interpret the findings. The next

section will include how the findings are related to literature. Finally, a discussion about

the limitations of the study, implication of findings for practice, as well as

recommendations for further research will be addressed.

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CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSIONS AND DISCUSSION

Introduction

The purpose of this qualitative study was to learn about the perceptions that

parents hold regarding the process of searching for and then selecting a preschool. To do

so, individual interviews were utilized to investigate what factors parents perceived as

important and how it was influential in the decision making process. Quantitative

methods are commonly used to determine the importance of preschool. However, it was

determined that it was necessary to use qualitative methods because it presented an

opportunity for parents to share their thoughts regarding preschool, including what is

important to them. Furthermore, there was an interest in how parents made decisions

about early childhood programs, particularly preschools.

Summary of the Findings

The following section is organized according to the four themes. It discusses the

themes that emerged from the participants responses to the interview questions.

Perceptions of Early Childhood Programs

The theme: Perceptions of Early Childhood Programs emerged as parents

presented their viewpoints about early childhood programs. This included their thoughts

on similarities and differences of programs as well as the options that were available to

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them. Furthermore, parents discussed what they believed to be the purpose of different

early childhood programs and whether or not the programs were beneficial for their child.

Making Decisions about Preschool

This theme emerged as parents discussed what influenced their decision to place

their child in preschool. The parents also mentioned the factors that they considered.

Included were discussions about how they learned about preschool, as well as the steps

they took to find one.

Parents Expectations of Preschool Programs

The theme: Parents Expectations of Preschool Programs emerged as parents

talked about their perceptions of quality in preschools. The parents spoke about the type

of teachers that they felt should be teaching preschool aged children. In addition, parents

spoke about their expectations regarding what experiences that they would like for their

children to have and the type of environment that they would like for their child to be in.

Perceptions of Enrollment

The theme: Perceptions of Enrollment emerged as parents shared the experiences

that they encountered during screening, registration, and enrollment. The parents talked

about their feelings toward the entire process of enrolling a child in a preschool.

Discussion of the Findings

This section is organized according to the research questions and a brief

connection to the theme(s) that emerged. However, the themes will be narrowed down

and discussed according to subthemes.

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Research Question 1

How important do parents perceive preschool to be? The two themes that emerged

from this answer were Perceptions of Early Childhood Programs and Expectations of

Preschool, which are broken down according to the following two subthemes: Comparing

Programs and Benefits of Preschool.

Comparing programs. Several parents were familiar with some of the other

options for preschools including Preschool for All, Head Start, Montessori, Catholic, and

Christian preschools. Parents also spoke about various options for preschools, such as a

private home preschool, public preschool, and private preschools in facilities outside of

the home. However, most parents were not sure about the differences of private and

preschool programs in regards to curriculum and teacher qualifications, though most of

them believed that the biggest difference was the cost. One participant expressed that she

did not know if all types of preschools used the same curriculum, but she was sure that

private preschools could become very expensive.

Private preschools. Parents want their child enrolled in preschool because they

believe that it is important for children to be exposed to education early. However, it was

frequently indicated that the cost was an issue because it varied between preschools.

Many parents said that they were willing to pay for a private preschool, but emphasized

that the price has to be reasonable. Several of the parents seemed to assume that all

private preschools were high quality, though this is not always the case.

According to Barnett and Hustedt (2011), public and private preschools are

eligible to receive funding, but the amount varies from state to state with private

programs often receiving less affecting resources, lower teacher salaries, lower teacher

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qualifications, and lower teacher requirements, which may cause a lack of quality in

some private programs.

Though most parents associated private with quality, they also expressed that the

same quality could be achieved without paying the high cost of some of the well-known

private preschools. One participant compared the preschools that her daughter had

attended by stating, I know two others that shes been to where the cost is favorable I

also feel like some of them are so pricey, but that doesnt necessarily mean that theyre

any better than the ones that have a lower cost and tuition. Another participant referred

to the popular private preschools or well-known preschools as designer daycares.

Public preschools. Public preschools were also considered, but in several

instances did not meet the families needs for reasons such as waiting lists, short hours of

operation, or rigorous screenings that did not guarantee a spot for their child. In most

cases, parents needed immediate placement and did not have time to wait on the process

of screening, waiting for a response from a public preschool and enrolling their child.

Furthermore, several parents expressed that public schools did not offer the hours that

they needed but were prepared to pay what they needed to as long as their child received

what they believe to be a quality preschool education. Barnett and Yarosz (2007) stated,

many preschool education programs operate only a half-day and high quality

preschool classrooms operate for a full day are more expensive than some other childcare

arrangements (p. 9), which some parents found to be an issue.

Home-based preschools. Some parents perceive child care facilities or preschools

located in the home as lacking professionalism as well as not being a safe

environment. Some parents just do not consider home preschool as an option for their

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child because they feel more comfortable, with preschools housed in a public facility

per one participant. Another participant said, I never was really interested in home

school, but I just had to do it at one point until a slot opened up for her at the other

preschool. In a preschool policy brief prepared by Barnett and Yarosz (2007), child care

in the home was not included because it was not considered to be educationally

effective (p.5).

Preschools versus daycares. Another topic discussed was preschools versus

daycares. Kanter (2013) described childcare centers as an option for working parents

who need their children to be taken care of during the day (p. 2). There was a

consensus that both programs offered some level of care by watching the children, but the

two were not the same. The parents in this study perceive daycares as a babysitting

service that often lacks program structure, academics, and social components. Preschool,

on the other hand, was perceived as not only someone watching your child but also

offering structure, stimulating academic activities, and promoting social development.

According to Magnuson, Meyers, Ruhm, and Waldfogel (2004), the primary purpose of

traditional preschools and nursery schools is to provide early education experiences to 3-

and 4-four year olds (p. 120). Overall, the perceptions of preschool often guided parents

to select preschools over daycare when they have the ability to choose between options.

Benefits of Preschool. This study found that parents value what preschools have

to offer. Parents believe that preschool provides a strong foundation for young children

that will help them to do well later academically and socially. Furthermore, they

expressed that it will help their children to develop math skills, language arts skills, and

social skills. Quite often, parents spoke about how preschool teaches children to interact

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with one another, which will promote social development and help children to learn how

to socially function in society. One participant felt that preschool helps children to be

competitive, while another participant said it helps children develop structure. When

speaking about the importance of preschool, parents used words such as important and

very important. Some of the other words and phrases used by parents to express

importance of preschool were very fundamental, precursor to full blown education,

good start for school, and good base. Overall, parents in the study expressed that they

believe preschool can be a very important part of the childs life. According to Espinosa

(2002), high quality programs impact social and cognitive development that last

throughout the elementary years. Some parents said that they would be willing to travel

further for their child to have a good preschool experience.

Research Question 2

What do parents believe are the characteristics of a high quality preschool? The

answer to this question produced one theme: Expectations of Preschool, which was

broken down into the following three subthemes: Teachers/Staff, Environment, and

Communication/ Collaboration. These interpretations of these subthemes are based on

what parents expect from preschools and perceive as high quality.

Teachers/Staff. A very important characteristic of high quality preschools, as

indicated by the parents, were the teachers and staff. Parents believe that a high quality

preschool employs teachers and staff that genuinely care for children and can relate to

them. One participant stated the way the staff interacts with you and your child is

important. It was also reported that parents want teachers who are capable of being firm

with the children while at the same time allowing the children to have fun. Parents also

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indicated that it is important for a teacher to understand how to work with children on

their level when necessary. One participant stated, I like to know whose teaching my

child because for me, I want her to learn as much is possible. Another characteristic that

parents associated with a high quality preschools were teachers/staff that knew how to

manage and provide structure in the classroom so that it is not chaotic.

Some parents prefer teachers to have some type of training so that they

understand how to work with young children, while other parents are more concerned

with the performance of teachers. A few of the parents said that they would like the

teacher to have a bachelors degree or higher. Then, there are some parents that prefer

teachers to have obtained some type of degree. In addition, some parents are willing to

accept a teacher that does not have any type of certification if the teacher has experience

and there is proof that their past students have been successful. However, according to

Barnett (2003), a preschool teacher with a college education is more effectivestudies

have found teacher education to be related to the quality of preschool education and the

development of children in preschool classrooms (p.4). Additionally, Espinosa (2002)

suggests that preschool teachers have specific training in early childhood education as

well as earn a four-year degree.

Environment. Parents expect their children to participate in engaging activities in

a clean and organized environment. Parents also would like the preschool to use a good

curriculum, have structure in the classroom, and have a small class size. This subtheme

has been narrowed down to the Learning Environment and the Physical Environment.

Learning environment. Parents believe that high quality preschools engage

students with stimulating activities so that they are excited to learn and share information

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with their parents about what they did at school. Parents also felt that children in high

quality preschools learn how to play together and learn how to behave in various

situations due to the promotion of positive social skills.

One topic that came up several times was the curriculum. Parents believe that

high quality programs are aware of what and how children are taught. Thus, a good

curriculum is vital. One participant associated the quality of a program to the quality of

the curriculum that the children are learning. Another participant said I believe its

really the curriculum that they provide that makes a preschool high quality. In addition

to the curriculum, some parents felt that it was important for there to be small class sizes.

Magnuson et al., (2004) stated that the Carolina Abecedarian Project, a high-quality

program, had great success with the educational outcomes of children possibly because

the child-to-staff ratio was very low and the curriculum focused on the language

development of children.

When entering a classroom, parents expect children to be engaged in activities

such as learning the alphabet and numbers, arts and crafts, singing songs, listening to

stories, interacting with one another, dancing and playing. Most parents expressed that

they expect children to be having fun at this age. One participant said that she expects

that theyre being able to be children and have fun. Several parents expressed that

along with academic activities, they expect for their child to have experiences that will

shape them into well-rounded individuals, or help them to develop soft skills. A high

quality preschool, as recommended by Espinosa (2002), should provide children with

continuous opportunities to develop knowledge, vital skills, and dispositions.

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Physical environment. Along with safety and security, parents associated a high

quality preschool with a classroom that is organized and clean. A bright and inviting

environment with up-to-date things for the children to play with was also indicative of a

high quality preschool, according to parents. A study conducted by Mashburn (2008)

found that especially for children that have economic and social risks, the quality of the

resources in the physical environment had a positive connection for childrens literacy

and social skills. Some parents believe that high quality preschools have several books

throughout the classroom. One participant said the main thing I look for is books, lots of

books because that promotes reading. In addition, parents believe that the walls should

display what the students have been working on, which can present tangible evidence of

what the children are learning as well as improve the warmth and appeal of a classroom

(Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2002).

Communication/collaboration. Communication is a characteristic that is highly

valued, as parents perceive communication to be found in high quality preschools.

Parents expect teachers to share with them the activities that their children are doing,

behavior, injuries, what activities they can do at home with their child, and the type of

day that their child had. While many parents expect daily reports, a few parents expressed

that occasional reports, even weekly, are acceptable. Moreover, parents want to be sure

that there is an open line of communication. A suggestion made by Dodge, Colker, and

Heroman (2002) is to have at least one daily exchange during which time the teacher

greets the families using their names and then proceeds to share a comment about the

plans for the day or one detail about what the child has done. One participant said that

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communication is very important, on a scale from 1 - 10 it is definitely a 10 for me.

Another participant stated, High quality preschools engage with the parents.

Parents also believe that high quality preschools make certain to establish

collaborations with the school, the community, the teachers, and the parents. One

participant said, I think having a staff that is committed to the vision of both education

and development Also, of the director or principal whoever is the administrator of

school, and I think it helps to have intentional parental involvement and anything that

helps get the community involved just making sure the school is funded properly.

Research Question 3

How do parents perceptions of quality guide their decision in selecting a

preschool? The Parents answers to this question produced two themes: Perceptions of

Early Childhood Programs and Making Decisions about Preschool. The following

subthemes that are used to express the parents responses to this question which are:

Research and Word-of-Mouth.

Research. Many parents began considering preschool as an option between 12 -

24 months before their child became preschool age, but spent an average of six months

actually researching by calling, visiting, or inquiring with other people. By doing

research, parents searched for schools that met their perceptions of quality. One

participant said If I was visiting a school and when I entered I saw that it was not clean

or it was chaotic, I wouldnt even consider sending my son there.

Only a couple of parents had to settle for what they considered as a less quality

program, but only on temporary basis. This was often due to inability to pay at the time,

the hours were not suitable, or a program was full. Overall, some parents were willing to

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do additional research to find a preschool that offers the quality that they expected even if

it was located farther than they anticipated. One participant said, I will be willing to

travel or make arrangements if it was a preschool that I really, really liked. As for the

cost, some parents were willing to pay more for a preschool that met their expectations,

but many of the parents stated that they would have to find one that fit into their budget.

Word-of-mouth. The research process for many parents included getting

information from friends, colleagues, and relatives. Though many parents did individual

research, it appears that they were willing to follow the advice of someone that they

deemed as trustworthy. If a parent gets information from people that they trust regarding

the quality of a preschool, the more likely they are to accept that advice. Most parents

feel more comfortable receiving information from people who has had an experience with

the preschool and can assure the preschools quality, which generally leads to a parent

selecting that particular preschool.

Research Question 4

How do parents perceive the process of finding and enrolling their child in a

preschool? The answers to this question produced the theme of Perceptions of

Enrollment, which is expressed through the following two subthemes: Paperwork and

Screening.

Parents that have been through the enrollment process stated that it was not

complicated and that it was what they expected. Many parents had not experienced their

child participating in an actual screening. Parents that had their child screened felt that it

took longer than they expected for completing paperwork. Parents were also surprised at

the length of time their child spent doing various activities. However, the parents felt that

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the process reflected that school had an interest in their child. Other parents described

their experience with the screening process a pre-screening, in which they visited the

school and met with the director.

Paperwork. Parents perceived the enrollment process for preschool as

straightforward and simple. One participant stated, Its usually just a bunch of

tedious paperwork and needing certain forms to come back but other than that, the

process hasnt been hard at all. Important information can be obtained from parents

during the enrollment process by asking open-ended questions (Dodge, Colker, &

Heroman, 2002). Parents view the enrollment process for preschool as any other

enrollment process. Parents usually expect to complete forms, provide general

information and documents such as medical history, birth certificate, social security

information, drivers license, emergency contact, information about their child, and living

arrangements.

Screenings. The parents that experienced a screening also completed a lot of

paperwork and expressed answering information about their background, academic level,

child likes, and dislikes as well as information about their families. Most parents did not

expect their child to participate in so many activities and said the process took a little

while, or was lengthy. One participant stated that it looked like the children were just

playing a lot. Another participant said, I saw him jumping around, but I was filling out

a lot of paperwork during this time so I was not able to see everything that was going

on.

Many parents stated that their child had not been screened. Instead, the process

included the family being invited to visit the program at which time they were told what

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to expect from the preschool as well as what the preschool expected from them. A few

parents went through what they considered a screening process that involved the parents

being interviewed as well as the parent being observed as they interacted with their child.

Overall, parents seem to have a better understanding about what to expect during the

enrollment process but were a little surprised about what the screening process entailed.

Research Question 5

What factors influence parents decision to enroll, or not enroll their child in

preschool? The one theme that emerged from parents as they talked about why they

placed their child in preschool was: Making Decisions about Preschool. It has been

reduced to two subthemes: Influencing Factors and Word-of-Mouth.

Influencing factors. The main reason that parents chose to enroll their child in

preschool and not keep them at home was because they had to work. According to one

parent, she and her spouse had to work and stated, We didnt really have family or

friends who stay at home that we felt comfortable enough to leave them with. A few

parents chose to enroll their child specifically for the social and academic experiences

that preschool has to offer. Most parents had the option of choosing a daycare or a

preschool but seemed to pick preschool because they believe that it has an academic

component. One participant said, We also felt that it was better for them to begin their

education so we felt like putting them in preschool was a better decision for us. More

specifically, parents enrolled their child in a preschool that supported their needs as well

as met their expectations.

Word-of-mouth. Influences of friends and relatives were also a reason for a

couple of parents to enroll their child. Like other parents, these parents were seeking for

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their child to have social and academic exposure, but the actual decision to enroll their

child was based on the encouragement of family and friends that felt preschool would be

beneficial for their child. In both instances, parents had the option of allowing their child

to remain at home with family members but instead made the decision to enroll them in

preschool based on word-of-mouth.

Discussion of the Findings in Relation to the Literature

The following two sections will discuss the findings from this study and how it

relates to the literature. The first section will discuss the findings in relationship to the

theoretical framework that it is rooted in, which is rational choice theory. This section is

organized according to the four themes.

The second section will discuss the finding in relations to the reviewed literature.

This section is also organized according to theme. However, some sections may also

include subthemes to show a deeper relationship between the findings and the literature

that was reviewed.

Relationship between the Findings and the Theoretical Framework

The following section is organized by themes to demonstrate the relationship

between the findings and the theoretical framework of rational choice theory from the

perspectives of James Coleman.

Perceptions of early childhood programs. One of the features that Coleman

based rational choice theory on is that behavior is oriented by a system of values, aims,

or goals (Ritzer, 2005, p.3). Most parents have value systems that may have been

influenced by generations of family members, the community, or even the culture.

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Whatever the case, the decisions that were made regarding preschool were most likely

based on what is perceived as valuable or important. After comparing programs, parents

made conscious decisions about what they believed was the best placement for their

child.

Making decisions about preschool. Most parents actively compared preschools

to determine the one that best suits their needs. Other parents relied on trustworthy

individuals to provide information on the quality of a preschool. However, the actions to

find a preschool are purposive, which according to Ritzer (2005), is another feature of

rational choice (p. 3). Parents know exactly what they want and then use rationality to

decide. For example, parents compare many options before making a decision including

cost, location, hours of operation, and the quality of the preschool. It is a well thought out

process that does not happen overnight. In making comparisons parents often determine

what is most important. In other words, what do parents value the most? Most of the

parents value quality more than anything else and were willing to pay more or even travel

further to meet that goal. Every now and then a parent had to decide on a preschool that

did not fit their standard, but even in that scenario parents still made a rational decision

based on what they had to work with.

Parents expectations of preschool programs. When parents search for

preschools they have specific expectations in mind, which usually coincide with their

values. Parents have expectations about what they expect for their children in relation to

teachers/staff, the classroom environment, curriculum, and the facility as a whole. Parents

make conscious decisions to find preschools that meet these expectations. However, once

a preschool is found that a parent approves of, they are not quick to remove that child

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from the preschool if something occurs that they did not approve of. Again, parents will

make a rational decision to either visit the school or speak with the teacher before

deciding to pursue finding a new preschool; especially, if the preschool met all of their

expectations in the past.

Based on Colemans work, White (2005) asserted that a component of rational

choice theory is social capital meaning that a person associates a purpose other than for

self (p. 13). In relation to rational choice theory, there were several instances that

parents exhibited selflessness.

For example, parents having expectations for their child and seeking to find a high

quality preschool demonstrates how parents thought about their childs well-being and

not just about themselves. Though most parents main reason for their child going to

preschool was because the parent had to work, the parents did not place their child just

anywhere, they searched for a preschool that would help nurture their childs

development.

Perceptions of enrollment. The parents in this study all agreed that the

enrollment process was a simple task. As such, it did not appear to be a factor that

influenced their decision about preschool. However, there were different perceptions

about the screening process. Some parents chose not to consider public preschool as an

option because they believed that their child should not to be on a waiting list or as one

parent said, compete for a spot, which indirectly kept them from having their child to

participate in the screening process. Other parents thought the whole process took a long

time, but it did not appear to sway their decisions in one direction or another. In this case,

parents made a rational decision to go through the necessary steps to enroll their child in

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a preschool that was in the best interest for their child. Again, the choices made by the

parent to enroll their child in what they perceive as a high quality preschool asserts how

important the child is to the parent. With rational choice theory, the adult and child

relationship is important and for most children, family is the single most important

source of social capital (White, 2005, p. 13). Furthermore, when children have been

provided social capital from the family they have choices in securing human capital,

which changes people by giving them skills, knowledge, and abilities so their actions are

enhanced (White, 2005, p.12).

Relationship between the Findings and Literature Reviewed

In comparing the findings with the literature it was discovered that parents have

some views that are consistent with research and experts but sometimes have a slightly

different view on various topics. The following section is organized according to themes

as well as some subthemes to provide further explanations of the relationships.

Perceptions of early childhood programs. The subtheme, Comparing Programs,

emerged as parents discussed their perceptions about early childhood programs. Parents

perceptions of early child programs are similar to research and literature in some aspects

and different in others.

For example, parents believe that there is a distinction between daycares and

preschools being that daycare is a babysitting service that lacks educational purposes, and

preschool cares for children as well, but is designed to prepare children for kindergarten

and later in life. However, some research shows, just as preschools, daycare quality is

important. A study conducted by Burchinal, Lee, and Ramey (1989) found that quality

community daycare, as well as university intervention daycare programs, may aid in

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preventing the patterns of intellectual underachievement (p.10). Other literature

shares the beliefs of parents by suggesting that childcare settings that are center-based

shows the most cognitive gains for children that are preschool aged because they usually

are more geared toward education, activities that are child-directed, caregivers that are

educated as well as offer stimulating environments (Fram, Kim, & Sinha, 2012).

Furthermore, Teleki and Buck-Gomez (2002) stated:

Center-based early childhood programs can be categorized as childcare or early

education. Childcare centers may be defined as those having a primary purpose of

providing children supervision and safe, healthy physical care. Early education

programs may be defined as those having a stated educational purpose beyond

basic care (e.g., intervention programs, such as Head Start, and programs serving

children who are identified as being delayed or deemed to be at risk, such as

prekindergarten programs in public schools) (p.161).

Parents also felt there was a cost difference between public and private preschools

being that private schools could be very expensive. In many cases this is true; however,

private schools that receive some type of funding may also provide free services. For

example, Rich (2013) found that some research shows that about one- third of students

enrolled in state-financed preschool programs attend classes conducted outside the public

schools (para. 4). Most parents firmly believed that it is not necessary to pay high costs

when equal or better preschools may have a lower cost or no cost at all, in which case

some parents compared the price of going to preschool to the price of going to college.

Another subtheme that emerged was Benefits of Preschool. Parents belief about

how preschool could benefit their child was very similar to most of the research regarding

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the benefits of preschool. Though parents did not mention specific benefits in the

developmental domains of language, cognitive, and physical development, every parent

that participated in the study believed that preschool was important for academic and

social development. Parents also strongly value a preschool education because they

believe that it is significant in developing the foundation for educational success later.

Anderson et al. (2003) stated that early childhood programs that are

developmentally comprehensive are intended to improve the social / emotional and

cognitive functioning of preschool age children, which prepares them for learning in a

school setting. However, Hatcher, Nuner, and Paulsel (2012) stated that teachers as well

as parents believe that the most important things resulting from preschool is improved

social/emotional and academic readiness for kindergarten. Furthermore, Espinosa (2002)

maintained that the social and academic advantages of attending an early childhood

program can surpass the kindergarten level. Though there is an abundance of literature

supporting the importance of preschool, most of research emphasizes that the quality of

the program is vital in order to be beneficial as well as suggests that preschool programs

have higher benefits for disadvantaged children.

Parents expectations of preschool. Subthemes: Teachers/Staff, Environment

and Communication/Collaborations emerged as the parent discussed their expectations.

More specifically, the parents spoke about how teachers and staff communicate and

interact with them and their children, the learning and physical environment, and

collaborations. Much of the literature discusses these characteristics in terms of program

quality, which is often aligned with what parents expect. Several of the expectations of

parents were consistent with the standards that NAEYC developed for early childhood

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programs, which are considered as the characteristics of high quality programs. The

following section includes these standards along with other literature that are related to

parents expectations of preschools.

Teachers/ staff. As parents responded to the questions, one of the subthemes that

emerged was Teachers/ Staff. Most research and literature associates higher quality

preschools with teachers and staff that have received training specifically in early

childhood. It is believed that teachers and staff that are trained to work with young

children have a better understanding of how to be warm and nurturing, provide

stimulating activities that nurture development, maintain classroom management, provide

positive interactions with the students and have frequent communication with parents.

Many parents in this study expressed several of those characteristics that are listed above

as what they would like for their childs preschool teacher/staff to have, which are similar

to the standards required of early childhood teachers in some states and programs. There

were some parents that would be accepting of a teacher who possessed those

characteristics with the exception of formal training as long as the children are

progressing. However, most literature and research strongly support teachers that have

participated in an early childhood program. For instance, NAEYC (2008) state the

rationale for teachers that work in an early childhood program to have formal training is

as follows:

Children benefit most when their teachers have higher levels of formal education

and specialized early childhood professional preparation. Teachers who have

specific preparation knowledge, and skills in child development and early

childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with

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the children, offer richer language experiences, and create more high-quality

learning environments (p. 2).

Learning environment. Several parents said that they would like for their child to

be in a classroom with a small class size because they feel that children would get more

individualized attention and would not overwhelm the teacher. The literature supports

parents expectations of the learning environment. For example, Saluja, Early, and

Clifford (2002) stated that the child-to-staff ratio is an important characteristic of quality,

in which higher quality early childhood programs have more staff for each child than a

lower quality program. Additionally, children that attend higher quality programs are

likely to be given attention that is individualized more so than children who are in

programs with more students and less teachers (2002).

Parents also expressed that the curriculum was of high importance. In agreement

with parents beliefs regarding the curriculum is a standard developed by NAEYC (2008)

that suggests that early childhood programs use a curriculum, which can be used as

guides for teachers and will nurture development and learning in the subsequent areas:

cognitive, language, physical, emotional, and social.

Several parents felt very strongly about the social aspect of preschool, so they

expect to see positive interactions between the teacher and students as well as students

interacting with one another. According to NAEYC (2008), early childhood programs

should encourage relationships that are positive between children and adults as it will

promote a sense of community in which children learn to be responsible participants as

well as develop a sense of self-worth.

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It was also emphasized by parents that they expect for their children to have fun

by having the opportunity to be kids and play, which much literature supports in terms

of the role of play. The role of play is considered an important part of development.

While some people may view the role of play as insignificant, it can actually become a

powerful means for promoting school readiness, which is described as self-regulation,

social skills, language, and early literacy skills such as print awareness and symbolic

representation (Bredekamp, 2005, p.19). Furthermore, Bredekamp (2005) suggested

that high quality classrooms with teachers that understand the role of play will assist

children with developing skills that are essential for being successful as they enter higher

grades in school.

Physical environment. Parental expectations of the physical environment include

cleanliness, organization, security, and up-to-date materials, which is similar to

NAEYCs ninth standard that states: Well organized, equipped, and maintained

environments support program quality of fostering the learning, comfort, health, and

safety of those who use the programprogram quality is enhanced by also creating a

welcoming and accessible setting for children, families, and staff (NAEYC, 2008, p. 3).

Parents also expressed that they would like to see the childrens work displayed on the

walls. A few parents said that they would like to see several books throughout the

classroom because they felt that having books around promoted literacy.

Communication/collaboration. According to Dodge, Colker, and Heroman

(2002), an essential part of creating partnerships is through good communication. In

addition, children feel a sense of connectedness of school and family when they observe

families and teachers interacting (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2002).

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The parents in this study all believed that communication was very important and

expected for there to be an open line of communication between them and the teacher.

They believed that they should be able to talk to the teacher if there were any concerns as

well as if the teacher had information to share with them. Some parents expressed that

they would be satisfied with weekly reports with occasional updates on things such as

their childs progress or activities that they could do with their child at home. On the

other hand, some parents said they wanted to know everything daily, the good and the

bad. However, every parent expected the teacher to communicate with them if there was

an emergency, or if there were behavioral issues.

In addition to teacher/parent communication, several parents felt that there should

be parental involvement with activities for the family. According to NAEYC (2008), the

program should create and maintain relationships with the family of each child to nurture

development across different settings. Some parents said that they would like to see

collaborations that included the parents, teachers, staff, administration, and the

community. While several parents shared the same belief, only one parent specifically

noted that community involvement can help the school with resources, which is in

accordance with NAEYC. According to NAEYC (2008), the standard for community

relationships states that the program should establish relationships as well as use the

resources in the communities of the children to assist with the success of program and its

goals.

Making decisions about preschool. After parents made the decision that their

child should attend an early childhood program they began to consider factors such as the

type of program, hours of operation, cost, location, and quality. Two subthemes emerged

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as parents answered questions about how they made decisions about preschool, which

were: Influencing Factors and Word-of-Mouth.

Influencing factors. First of all, most of the parents in this study made the initial

decision to place their child in an early childhood program because they had to work. The

hours of operation was a significant factor because parents needed a preschool that was

suitable for their work schedule. Hill-Scott (2005) states that many parents work eight

hours or more a day, so a half-day of preschool is not sufficient. A few parents stated that

they simply wanted their child to begin to develop socially by interacting with other

children. There is a significant amount of literature that supports parents decision to

enroll their child in preschool for social skills. For instance, Dodge, Colker, and Heroman

(2002) assert that the most effective time for children to learn and develop

social/emotional readiness is when they are young and preschool is an ideal setting to

promote social development.

Parents also considered other factors such as the type of facility they wanted their

child in. For example, they had the option of choosing a facility that is only for childcare

or an educational setting. The parents in this study all chose to put the child in preschool

instead of a daycare because of their perceptions that preschool was more academically

focused. Then, parents had to determine if private or public would be best. None of the

parents in this study considered home childcare facilities at this time, though some

parents did express that they had experience with home facilities in the past.

Cost was a significant factor for some parents as they researched preschools.

Parents found that the cost of private schools could vary from a low range to a very high

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range. For other parents cost was not an issue as long as the program offered what they

perceived as quality.

Parents also expressed that they preferred a preschool that was located near their

home or place of employment. Some parents expressed for security purposes they wanted

a facility that was close just in case there was an emergency. Quality was another factor

that parents looked for. As the parents did research, many of them expressed that some

programs did not meet their expectations of quality.

Word-of-mouth .Some parents had other childcare options, but made the decision

to put their child in preschool solely based on the suggestions of other people who felt

that the child needed to begin having educational exposure. As part of the research

process to find a preschool, many parents asked friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. As it

turns out, even after personal research, parents are more likely to select a preschool based

on word-of-mouth from people that they deem as trustworthy and have prior experiences

with a particular preschool that meets the parents needs when it comes to factors.

Perceptions of enrollment. According to the participants in this study, the

enrollment process including screenings and registration was simple. However, some

literature has a different view on the enrollment process. For instance, a study conducted

in by COFI (2009) found that many parents described enrollment as a confusing and

frustrating maze, because of the different program and funding options as well as the

difficulty they faced trying to provide documents (p. 2). All of the parents in this study

perceived the process as straightforward. While the parents in this study perceived the

ease of access to preschool as simple, some of the parents in the study conducted by

COFI (2009) viewed the process as confusing and difficult. This could very well explain

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the reason that every participant in this study enrolled their child in a preschool program

and some of the parents in the other study did not.

Limitations

This study examined parents perception about preschool and how it influenced

the decision-making process from data collected from participants at one preschool in a

large, Midwestern city. Because a small sample of 10 participants was used, it may not be

representative of the entire population. In addition, this study only examined the views of

parents with children enrolled in preschool and not of those that have preschool aged

children, but have not enrolled them. Examining the perceptions of parents of preschool

aged children not enrolled in preschool could have enhanced this study.

Implication of the Results for Practice

The findings from this study can be used as a tool for early childhood educators,

stakeholders, and policy makers to use as a guide to determine what practices would be

most effective in increasing preschool enrollment based on the perceptions of the parents

in this study and what influenced their decision to enroll their child in preschool.

However, it is not suggested that the findings of this study be generalized to the

population as it was qualitative with a small sample.

Recommendations for Further Research

This study included the perceptions of participants that currently had a child

enrolled in a preschool program. Detailed information was collected regarding how these

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perceptions influenced their decisions about preschool. To the researchers surprise, the

parents in this study were knowledgeable about their options for preschool and had strong

perceptions about the quality of preschools. Therefore, it is recommended that further

research be conducted to learn more about the perceptions of parents that have preschool

age children, yet have not enrolled their child in preschool. The researcher believes that

this information would be beneficial in making comparisons of the two groups to

determine whether parents from both groups have similar or different perceptions and

values. Furthermore, it is suggested that future research be conducted using a larger

sample, as it will add validity to the study.

Conclusion

The parents that participated in this study perceive preschool as important because

they believe preschool is an educational foundation as well as a means for promoting

social skills. Most of the parental expectations of preschools were consistent with

literature that discussed the features of a high quality preschool. Furthermore, parents

used rationality when making decisions regarding preschool, which was also related to

rational choice theory.

The main reason that parents enrolled their children in preschool was because of

work. However, parents also wanted their children to develop social skills and have

academic exposure. While most parents did research to find preschools, the majority of

parents made their final decision to select a particular school based on word-of-mouth.

During the process of finding a suitable preschool, parents often considered the hours of

operation, cost, and location, which were all significant in the decision-making process.

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Parents also considered quality as a major factor during decision making which

was expressed through their expectations such as: caring and knowledgeable teachers,

student engagement, good curriculum, organized, secure, stimulating and clean

environment; continuous communication between teachers and parents; and collaboration

between the community, school, parents, and teachers.

Parents seemed to view the enrollment process as a simple task that required

completing and submitting some paperwork as they expected. However, only a few

parents actually experienced their child being screened for preschool. Some of these

parents expressed the activities their child participated in during the screening as a

surprise but necessary. Other parents were not familiar with this screening process, but

noted that they had experienced a prescreening for the entire family during which time

they visited the program and met with the director, teachers, and staff.

Overall, parents apply the theory of rational choice as they consider many factors

when choosing a preschool. Many parents have values that influence how they determine

which factors are most important. Generally, parents do not just select the first preschool

that they find. There is usually a process by which they determine what they want, which

is often based on what they perceive as important. Next, parents develop a goal. Then,

they develop a plan to achieve that goal. This study found that the quest to find a

preschool that parents approve of is done so with rationality and intentionality.

126
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APPENDIX A. STATEMENT OF ORIGINAL WORK

Academic Honesty Policy

Capella Universitys Academic Honesty Policy (3.01.01) holds learners accountable for
the integrity of work they submit, which includes but is not limited to discussion
postings, assignments, comprehensive exams, and the dissertation or capstone project.
Established in the Policy are the expectations for original work, rationale for the policy,
definition of terms that pertain to academic honesty and original work, and disciplinary
consequences of academic dishonesty. Also stated in the Policy is the expectation that
learners will follow APA rules for citing another persons ideas or works.
The following standards for original work and definition of plagiarism are discussed in
the Policy:
Learners are expected to be the sole authors of their work and to acknowledge the
authorship of others work through proper citation and reference. Use of another
persons ideas, including another learners, without proper reference or citation
constitutes plagiarism and academic dishonesty and is prohibited conduct. (p. 1)
Plagiarism is one example of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism is presenting
someone elses ideas or work as your own. Plagiarism also includes copying
verbatim or rephrasing ideas without properly acknowledging the source by author,
date, and publication medium. (p. 2)

Capella Universitys Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06) holds learners accountable for
research integrity. What constitutes research misconduct is discussed in the Policy:
Research misconduct includes but is not limited to falsification, fabrication,
plagiarism, misappropriation, or other practices that seriously deviate from those
that are commonly accepted within the academic community for proposing,
conducting, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. (p. 1)

Learners failing to abide by these policies are subject to consequences, including but not
limited to dismissal or revocation of the degree.

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Statement of Original Work and Signature

I have read, understood, and abided by Capella Universitys Academic Honesty Policy
(3.01.01) and Research Misconduct Policy (3.03.06), including the Policy Statements,
Rationale, and Definitions.
I attest that this dissertation or capstone project is my own work. Where I have used the
ideas or words of others, I have paraphrased, summarized, or used direct quotes following
the guidelines set forth in the APA Publication Manual.

Learner name
and date Andrea Wheeler, October 25, 2015

Mentor name
and school Dr. Behrooz Sabet Capella University

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