Date of Award


Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Mary K. McCullough

Second Advisor

James M. Frabutt

Third Advisor

Kyo Yamashiro


This mixed methods study shed light on the issue of attrition within Catholic education and points to opportunities for leaders to improve the effectiveness of elementary and secondary schools as well as identify barriers impacting access to poor and vulnerable populations. The purpose was to: describe factors eighth-grade Catholic school students and their parents consider in choosing a high school; determine correlations between degree of satisfaction with Catholic elementary schools and perceptions of programs in Catholic high schools; and understand the extent students’ and parents’ identified attributes corresponded to their high school selection.

Quantitative data was generated from surveys of a proportionally stratified sample of 610 eighth-grade students and parents from 25 Catholic elementary schools in Los Angeles County. Qualitative data was yielded from follow up interviews of nine parents whose graduating children were not matriculating to a Catholic high school.

Statistically significant differences in the importance of factors were found between parent and student, among participant ethnicity, and among family income level. While expense was the primary reason for not attending a Catholic high school, it was most often in combination with at least one of several other reasons. Strong correlation between satisfaction of elementary school and perceptions of high school was prevalent among participants, particularly parents and those matriculating to private and public high schools. With attrition found to be highest among students of color, lower middle-income families, and girls, recommendations for school improvement practices and collaboration with diocesan, higher education, and foundation leaders are presented.