Project Abstract (2017)

Public schools have struggled for decades to adequately educate their students. Despite the passage of legislation to increase student proficiencies, most states only have a reading proficiency between 20-30%. In response to shortcomings of the public education system, during the 1990s, many states passed legislation creating charter schools as a means of experimenting with teaching methods to improve student education. In order to facilitate the experimentation of new pedagogy, charter schools were given greater autonomy than public schools; however, said autonomy has resulted in large variation among the quality of charter schools. While some charter schools are significantly outperforming their local public schools, others fall short of the standards established by the state. In fact, little is known about what techniques culminate in a high-achieving charter school. However, the entire purpose of charter schools was to test new educational practices to identify the techniques that facilitate improved student learning. Thus, this research aims to determine what school-controlled characteristics determine the success of a charter school so that charter schools can fulfill their creationary purpose of identifying the most effective teaching methods. By using a high achieving charter school as a case study, an ethnography comprised of surveys, interviews, and classroom observations provided a comprehensive understanding of the school atmosphere and operations. By identifying the qualities that result in high achievement, this will allow other charter schools to examine their school model and determine what improvements can be made to foster greater achievement among their students.

Whats So Great about Them? An Ethnographic Analysis of High-Achieving Charter Schools