Date of Award

Fall 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, PhD

Program

School of Educational Studies

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

DeLacy Ganley

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Thomas Luschei

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

June Hilton

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2018 Aimee S. Leukert

Abstract

Over the last several decades, school choice – in the context of educational systems that are available to choose from as well as the reasons why parents choose what they do for their child – has become a topic of interest to both educational researchers and the public at large. The Seventh-day Adventist school system, like other faith-based institutions, is uniquely positioned in this subject, as it is an educational organization framed by a religious denomination. In addition to the typical factors such as academic standards, curricular offerings and peer influence, the issue of school choice within this context also involves complex layers of culture and religiosity and spirituality.

Are parents able to disengage themselves from the trappings of those expectations and beliefs and objectively choose a school system for their child? Or are religious background and experience simply too embedded into one’s psyche – and, as an extension – one’s choices to ever fully disentangle that subtext from the decision-making process?

This mixed-methods study sought to better understand the relationship between parental religiosity and school choice, specifically within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. In order to assess the influence of Adventist culture, doctrinal commitment and general religiosity, a cultural domain had to first be established. Following the methodology as laid out in cultural consensus theory, free-listing and rank-ordering tasks were given to two separate, geographically representative samples from across the continental United States.

Derived from those conversations, statements were then developed that captured characteristics and behavior of a member who adhered to traditional Seventh-day Adventist culture. Those statements were written into the survey instrument, alongside validated scales for general religiosity and Adventist doctrinal commitment.

The population for this study targeted any Seventh-day Adventist member in America who had K-12 school-aged children. The survey was developed in SurveyMonkey and distributed through church communiqué (websites, bulletins, announcements, etc.), official administrative channels such as ministerial department newsletters and video announcements, and social media. Over 1,000 responses came in and the data was analyzed through SPSS, specifically examining patterns of school choice among those with high or low general religiosity, doctrinal commitment and Adventist culture.

The results of the data analysis demonstrated clear and significant associations between several key variables and the dependent variable of school choice. Several variables, such as Adventist culture, doctrinal commitment and a parent’s own educational background, emerged as predictors for school choice when binary logistic regressions were conducted. Adventist culture proved to be a multi-factorial construct, interacting with other variables in different ways.

The conclusions from this study point to several implications for K-12 Adventist education, particularly in the area of marketing to Adventist families and further research could certainly explore that more fully.

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