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Charter school policy

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Title:
Charter school policy an implememtation of the principles of American democracy
Creator:
Carlson-Prok, Lois "Cat."
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xvii, 413 leaves : illustrations ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Charter schools -- United States ( lcsh )
Education -- United States ( lcsh )
Democracy -- United States ( lcsh )
Charter schools ( fast )
Democracy ( fast )
Education ( fast )
United States ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 396-413).
Thesis:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Leadership and Innovation
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Lois "Cat" Carlson-Prok.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
39694066 ( OCLC )
ocm39694066
Classification:
LD1190.E3 1997d .C37 ( lcc )

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Full Text
CHARTER SCHOOL POLICY: AN IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
by
Lois Car Carlson-Prok
B.S., University of Minnesota, 1966
M.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1981
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
1997


1997 by Lois Cat" Carlson-Prok
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Lois "Cat Carlson-Prok
has been approved
by
Laura 'Goodwin
/HJojr Berrenberg-Mactin
Ronald Cabrera
1-11-97
Date


Carison-Prok, Lois Cat (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Charter School Policy: An Implementation of the Principles of American
Democracy
Thesis directed by Associate Professor W. Michael Martin
ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to determine how the implementation of
charter school policy could function to further the principles of American
democracy. In this study the implementation of charter school policy and the
involvement of key players in the process was examined, drawing upon the
concepts of democracy in the American republic and its relation to public
education. Specifically, one charter school in the Rocky Mountain region
was studied to determine how the creation and operation of a charter school
could serve to promote: (a) choice, (b) inclusion, (c) justice, fairness, and
equity, (d) responsibility, and (e) voice.
Qualitative methods (participant observation, interviews with key
informants, and review of documentary evidence) were used to collect data
for the examination and analysis of one study case during the inaugural year
of policy implementation. Results showed that the implementation of charter
school policy functioned to further American democratic principles.
IV


Among the findings were:
1. The implementation of a state policy through the creation of
Charter School 132 provided a vehicle for parental choice, parental
involvement, school-based management of daily operations, governance,
educational plan, and accountability.
2. Parents, implementing charter school policy at CS-132, developed
and implemented an elementary school model that included: (a) small
school size, (b) a specific curricular focus, (c) daily Spanish instruction, (d)
uniforms for students, (e) the promise of results, and (f) the requirement of
parental commitment to volunteer at the school in site governance,
management, or daily operations and activities.
3. Parents, as key players in the development, implementation, and
evaluation of a policy plan for CS-132, were actively engaged in public
education reform; demonstrating intensive, broad-based participation,
legitimate opportunities for volunteerism in public education, and a
substantive change in the relationship between parent volunteers and the
public school staff.
4. Parents and school personnel demonstrated the principles of
democratic practice through the choice of a school, the assumption of
responsibilities in daily operations at the school site, and the involvement
and participation in school decision making and organizational processes.
v


Elitism, selection, turnover, and governance were identified as competing
factors that influenced democratic practice.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I
recommend its publication. / /
Signed

Vy/Michael Martin
VI


DEDICATION
To my seven children, Lisa, Dean, Daniel,
David II, Sara, Joshua, and Matthew.
To my husband, Dave.
To my parents, who nurtured my passion for learning.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
My gratitude to the School of Education faculty, staff, and community
for support and encouragement during my studies and research at the
University of Colorado at Denver; especially to my dissertation committee
members, for their influence, instruction, and guidance.
To the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for the Graduate
Student Fellowship, that was awarded by the Administration, Supervision,
and Curriculum Development faculty in 1993, enabling my educational
pursuit.
To members of the Charter School 132 school community, the local
district board of education and district-level administrators, and state policy
makers who provided the environment for school reform policy
implementation.
To the parents, teachers, and school staff members who established
and developed Charter School 132 as an alternative model for educational
experiences for elementary-age students.
To my husband, David S. Prok, for his patience, commitment,
fortitude, and assistance throughout the research study.
VIII


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION.............................1
Overview of the Study................................2
Context of the Research Problem......................5
Purpose of the Study............................9
Contribution of the Study to Education.........10
Democracy and Schools in America....................10
Public School Change/Reform Policy..................13
Parent/Community Involvement........................15
School Choice in Contemporary America...............16
Parental School Choice.........................17
Public School Choice...........................20
Charter Schools: A Public School Choice Option.21
Charter Schools as a Manifestation of Democracy.....23
Calabrese and Barton Model..........................25
Democracy as a Living Concept................26
ix


Statement of the Problem
.27
Research Questions................................28
Study Limitations.......................................29
Overview of the Dissertation............................30
Study Design and Methods..........................32
Data Collection and Analysis Plan.................34
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE...................................36
Overview of the Chapter.................................36
Problem Statement.......................................37
Reform Policy in Education, Competing Interests
in Educational Reform, and Educational Debate...........38
Reform Policy in Education........................39
Competing Interests in Educational Reform.........45
Educational Debate................................48
Parent/Community Involvement............................54
School Choice in Contemporary America...................57
Parental School Choice Options....................60
Vouchers..........................................61
Public School Choice..............................65
Charter Schools: A Public School
Choice Option.....................................69
x


Definition of Charter.
70
Definition of Charter Schools..................71
National Movement..............................72
Colorado Movement..............................75
Colorado Senate Bill 93*183, The
Charter Schools Act of 1993....................77
Charter Schools Research Base..................80
Democracy and Schools in America.....................94
Public Schools.................................95
Democracy......................................99
Calabrese and Barton Model of Democracy
as a Living Concept...............................101
Summary.............................................105
Overview of Chapter Three...........................106
3. METHODS................................................108
The Study Problem...................................109
The Contexts and Environments for
the Research Study..................................112
The State Environment for Choice
and School Reform.............................112
The Local School District Environment
for Choice and School Reform..................115
The Research Approach...............................116
XI
l


Conducting Case Studies to Identify a Framework
for Dissertation Research Study...................118
Research Question.......................................126
Description of the Research Study Case..................128
Description of CS-132 School-Site..................129
Demographic Data for the Study Case................130
Description of the Student Sample..................132
Description of the Parent Sample...................133
Description of the Staff-Teacher Sample............136
Description of the Administrator Sample............137
Researcher Roles.........................................138
Initial Role.......................................138
Next Stage.........................................140
Entry to the Research Site.........................140
Role of the Research at the Research Site..........142
Data Collection Methods and Sources......................146
Framework Themes and Definitions...................146
Documentary Evidence...............................151
Interviews with Key Informants.....................153
Participant Observation............................157
Data Reduction and Analysis..............................159
XII


Delimitations
163
Limitations..........................................164
Summary of the Study Methodology.....................164
Study Procedures...............................165
Data Collection................................166
Summary of the Chapter...............................173
4. FINDINGS................................................174
Overview.............................................174
Research Questions...................................175
Explication of Themes in Research
Questions and Study Framework..................176
Findings by Research Question..................181
Research Question One................................182
Research Finding 1.1...........................182
Research Finding 1.2...........................190
Research Finding 1.3...........................197
Research Finding 1.4...........................201
Research Finding 1.5...........................204
Research Finding 1.6...........................208
Research Finding 1.7...........................210
Research Finding 1.8...........................219


Summary of Research Question One Findings..........223
Research Question One Findings................224
Research Question Two..............................226
Research Finding 2.1..........................226
Research Finding 2.2..........................233
Research Finding 2.3..........................238
Research Finding 2.4..........................245
Research Finding 2.5..........................246
Summary of Research Question Two Findings..........248
Research Question Two Findings................249
Research Question Three............................250
Research Finding 3.1..........................252
Research Finding 3.2..........................254
Research Finding 3.3..........................257
Research Finding 3.4..........................260
Research Finding 3.5..........................265
Summary of Research Question Three Findings........266
Research Question Three Findings..............267
Research Question Four.............................268
Research Finding 4.1.........................269


Research Finding 4.2.........................271
Research Finding 4.3.........................278
Summary of Research Question Four Findings.........281
Research Question Four Findings..............283
Research Question Five.............................283
Research Finding 5.1.........................284
Research Finding 5.2.........................290
Summary of Research Question Five Findings.........294
Research Question Five Findings..............296
Summary of Study Findings..........................296
5. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND
RECOMMENDATIONS......................................304
Overview of the Study..............................304
Purpose of the Study.........................305
Statement of the Problem.....................308
Research Questions...........................308
Data Collection and Analysis Plan............309
Summary of Findings for Research Questions.........310
Choice.......................................310
Inclusion....................................312
Justice, Fairness, and Equity................313


Responsibility...................................314
Voice............................................315
Charter School 132: An Implementation of
Democratic Principles..................................316
Choice...........................................317
Inclusion........................................320
Justice, Fairness, and Equity....................322
Responsibility...................................324
Voice............................................326
Study Conclusions......................................329
Choice...........................................335
Inclusion........................................341
Justice, Fairness, and Equity....................348
Responsibility...................................352
Voice............................................356
Recommendations for Further Study......................360
EPILOGUE......................................................373
Year One...............................................373
Year Two...............................................374
Year Three.............................................375
APPENDIX,
378


A. CONTINUUM OF PARENTAL
EDUCATIONAL CHOICE.........................378
B. PARENT INVOLVEMENT LEVELS.................379
C. OVERVIEW OF NATIONAL
SCHOOL CHOICE OPTIONS......................380
D. CLASSROOM DIAGRAM CS-132..................381
E. HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL FOR STUDY.........382
F. INTERVIEW PROTOCOL........................383
G. VIGNETTE: FACILITATES DISCOURSE/DEBATE....386
H. 1994-1995 CELEBRATIONS AND CRISES.........387
I. EXCERPTS FROM CHARTER AGREEMENT (1994)....388
J. SCHOOL-SITE SURVEY DATA SUMMARY...........389
K. STUDENT SATISFACTION SURVEY, 1995.........390
L. CHARTER SCHOOL 132 AS VIEWED THROUGH THE
DEMOCRACY AS A LIVING CONCEPT LENS.......391
M. CARLSON-PROK DEMOCRATIC
SCHOOLS SURVEY.............................393
BIBLIOGRAPHY
396


CHAPTER ONE
BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
This is a study of how the creation and operation a charter school in a
public school district can serve to promote the principles of American
democracy. The school, Charter School 132 (pseudonym), is examined as
a phenomenon of charter school policy implementation within the context of
a local school district, as well as within its state and national public
educational reform environments (contexts). Understanding the context of
public education reform policy is informed through an examination of the
role of public education in the American democracy, the educational reform
debate that began with the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983 and
continues into the late 1990s, school choice as a school reform strategy
within the context of public school reform policy, and chartering a school as
a specific choice within public school choice. All of these contextual issues
can have an effect on the implementation of charter school policy as a
strategy to reform American public education.


Overview of the Study
In public policy arenas across the United States, education reform is
being implemented in public schools (Cuban, 1990; Fullan, 1993; Goodlad,
1992; Spring, 1994; Tyack, 1991). This public education reform has
provided subjects for educational debate as public school personnel, policy
makers, the public, and those who theorize and write about public
educational reform posture about the condition of school change, school
reform, and school policy in America. Some theorists argue that with a
diverse population of students, public schools are an American success
story (Berliner, 1993a; Bracey, 1994, 1996). Other theorists call for radical
change in a public education system that prevents improvement, fosters
incrementalism, and effectively provides disincentives for accountability and
student performance (Finn, 1995; Finn & Ravitch, 1995). Advocates of
radical change suggest that it is time to reinvent public education practice
(Finn, 1995, 1996a, 1996b; Sarason, 1995a, 1995b).
Within this arena of discourse and debate, the public (served by
public schools) is distancing itself from school reform strategies and policies.
A 1995 Public Agenda report, that included the results of focus groups and a
telephone survey of 1200 Americans, calls public support for public schools
fragile (Bradley, 1995a). The 1996 Kettering Foundation study, based on
ten years of research, finds that the ties binding the American people and
2


public schools are unraveling (Bradley, 1996). Writing about this public
disengagement, Mathews (1996) takes the position that fundamental
change has to start with the public and within the community if it is to be
effective against the structural impediments in school systems that tend to
block change (p. 5). In addition, Public Agenda (as cited in Dykstra & Fege,
1997) reports that the rift between the goals of education practitioners and
the public perceptions of school change continues to grow. According to the
foundation document,
attempts by leaders to sell their viewpoint to a public that has
not experienced the same information, discussion, or debate
are unlikely to succeed. Todays public will not blindly follow
what experts propose; they need to experience the opinion-
formation for themselves, (cited in Dykstra & Fege, 1997,
paragraph 5)
Public schools must serve school children well to benefit both the
individual and the collective good of society. A well-educated populace is a
prerequisite in the American republic because well-educated citizens are
essential to iniormed democratic participation in government and everyday
life. Educating our changing population is a challenge that will not go
away. And everyone has a stake in meeting that challenge-because
today's neglected students are tomorrow's unskilled workers and lost
citizens (Krafft, 1993, p. 17). Further, children in an age of information
cannot be educated using the strategies and organizational structures
3


appropriate for either an agrarian or industrial society (Oarling-Hammond,
1993). Senring a school population with disparate backgrounds, abilities,
and needs requires that the implementation of educational reform policy
occur in a manner that benefits public school children-improvement in
student school experiences and performance should be evidenced.
Public schools in our democracy are intended to provide one clear
pathway to a better society (Barber, 1995; Apple & Beane, 1995; Calabrese
& Barton, 1994; Dayton & Glickman, 1994; Glickman, 1993). When parents
and school people perceive that they do not, what alternatives are
available? Chartering a school is one of these alternatives, enabling
parents and school personnel to create a public school with public funds
within a public school district.
Such schools may improve public education practice in several ways.
First, charter schools may provide a model for public schooling that merges
an entrepreneurial focus with empowerment of members of the local school
community and may serve as an impetus for systemic reform in public
education (Kolderie, 1995; Nathan, 1996b). Second, charter school reform
policy also has the potential to change public education through substantive
parental involvement and parental educational choice because of the
opportunity for redefining relationships between parents and school
personnel which is enabled through the implementation of charter school
4


policy. In addition, chartering a school, with a groundswell of local support
for the school within a school community, may also provide an environment
in which the principles of a democratic society can be practiced. Chartering
a school may be a means to re-engage or bring back public support for
public education. Evidence collected during this study suggests that
implementing charter school policy may enable members of the school
community (parents, staff-teachers, administrators, and others) to promote
and preserve the purpose of public education in the American republic and,
in the process, rekindle the passion for democracy-an ideal that unites
Americans as a people (Barber, 1995; Calabrese & Barton, 1994; Dayton &
Glickman, 1994; Giroux, 1992).
Context of the Research Problem
Schools in America are the foundation of democracy. Thomas
Jefferson presented this argument for an informed citizenry in a democratic
society,
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society
but the people themselves; and if we think them not
enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome
discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform
their discretion by education. (Jefferson, 1820, communication
with William C. Jarvis)
5


Public school-common school-education is the embodiment of this concept
in action because the cultural values of American democratic society are
inculcated through education of the public. However, in a society in which
knowledge is recognized as power, public policy implementation reflects
competing and conflicting interests and values as different groups (political,
economic, social) compete for control and influence in public schools
(Spring, 1994). According to Calabrese and Barton (1994)
Educating young people to live in a democracy is more than
teaching about American heroes, saluting the flag, or singing
the national anthem. It is the serious process of engaging in
the renewal of a commitment to how we want to live as a
people, (p. 3)
Public schools in America are as disparate as the fifty states that
comprise our nation and the school populations they serve. Public schools
are complicated places-they are arenas of conflict over values. They are
cultures for growing minds (Eisner, 1991, p. 11), where teachers work and
students learn. They are centers of moral activity that [imply] thoughts about
ends, means and their consequences (Zueli & Buchanan, 1987, in
Glickman, 1990, p. 338). They also display the worst of societal illsdrug
abuse, child abuse and neglect, poverty, crime, unemployment, weapons,
violence, and chaos can all be found in public school settings. It is in these
public schools, these disparate settings, that the serious business of
education takes place. Students in public schools bring varying amounts of
6


social capital; differences in family background, income, educational level,
and social class are glaring. Public schools alone cannot level the playing
field and may be continuing the hegemony for haves over have nots.
Some argue that what happens in public schools cannot easily overcome
what is lacking in family background, income, education, and values
(Coleman et al., 1966), and others call for parents to take control in
America's schools (Bennett, 1992; Cookson & Schneider, 1995). Giroux
(1983) writes that
schools will not change society, but we can create in them
pockets of resistance that provide pedagogical models for new
forms of learning and social relations-forms which can be
used in other spheres more directly involved in the struggles
for a new morality and view of social justice, (p. 293)
In the school community arena, the concerns of parents, teachers,
legislators, community members and other stakeholders about public
education are reflected in their demands for more appropriate educational
experiences for school children. The 25th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup
Poll indicates that 66 percent of the respondents favor public school choice
(Elam, Rose & Gallup, 1993) and the 26th annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup
Poll (Elam, Rose, & Gallup, 1994) shows support for charter schools (54
percent of respondents). According to the 27th annual Phi Delta
Kappa/Gallup Poll (Elam, Rose, & Gallup, 1995), 69 percent of the
respondents favor public school choice options. The 28th annual Phi Delta
7


Kappa/Gallup Poll (Elam, Rose, & Gallup, 1996) states that a majority of
respondents oppose public funds for private school tuition while the Center
for Education Reform poll results show that a majority of Americans surveyed
support school choice (Center for Education Reform, 1996; Olson, 1996).
An emerging belief in America is that parents, when given the
opportunity for choice, select schools for their children on the basis of values
(Chubb & Moe, 1990; Malone, Nathan, & Sedio, 1993; Nathan, 1989;
Raywid, 1992). Cookson and Schneider (1995) present two theories to
explain the escalation in the demand for school choice: (a) the garbage-can
theory of organizational decision-making, and (b) the state-relative-
autonomy theory. The former theory views people choosing policies
because options are available, while the latter theory sees the state as an
arbiter, weighing and directing pressure for school choice from interest
groups.
Public school education should provide an equality of opportunity for
the individual to develop and the good of the democratic society to be
advanced. The structure and culture of a school, in a participatory
democracy, should embody the democratic value of liberty (manifested in
participation, empowerment, and choice) as one component of the living
concept of democracy (Calabrese & Barton, 1994). This means that all the
important stakeholders-parents, educators, legislators, and community
8


members-must be included in the educational reform implementation
process. The chartering of a public school in Colorado requires local
community support, enables parent educational choice, and allows for
negotiation of site governance and management procedures. At issue in
charter school policy implementation is the potential conflict between the
expression of liberty and the democratic values of equity and efficiency.
Guthrie and Reed (1986) view this value conflict as inherent in a democracy.
Purpose of the Study
This study proposed to examine the implementation of charter school
policy, and the involvement of key players in the process, to investigate the
claims about charter schools in reforming public education, drawing upon
the concepts of public education in a democracy. Literature on the role of
public education in a democracy, the role of educational choice, and the
cycle of public educational reform in America is summarized. Pertinent
information on charter schools, Colorado Senate Bill 93-183, and Colorado
Department of Education guidelines for chartering schools is detailed.
Charter School 132 (CS-132), located in the Rocky Mountain region, is
described and analyzed, within the context of educational reform, in relation
to the values and principles of a living democracy. Policy enabling the
9


establishment of these schools is new, and the implementation of a charter
school warrants study to evaluate this educational reform strategy.
Contribution of the Study to Education
Reforming public education through chartered schools is a new
approach to educational experimentation. Following the establishment of a
chartered school, in a public school system, afforded an opportunity to
develop insight into the meaning of school for the key players-parents (and
their children) and school personnel. This study provides information to
advance knowledge about the charter school reform policy, and to inform
policy makers, parents, and school personnel about issues associated with
the implementation of public school reform legislation.
Democracy and Schools in America
Democracy in the American republic is both a matter of governance
and a way of life. Participation in governance, whether through
representation or active personal involvement, is implicit in American
democratic society. This citizen participation (involvement, empowerment,
inclusion) is the essence of Lincolns government of the people, by the
people, for the people (Glickman, 1993). According to Calabrese and
Barton (1994), democracy is a living concept.... open to change, open to
10


growth, and open to all people (p. 3). Public education is important to this
citizen empowerment and the continuance of American governance and
way of life as the only institution designated and funded as the agent of the
larger society in protecting the core value of its citizens: democracy
(Glickman, 1993, p. 8). As such, public schools should be places where
students leam, understand, and value that they have a responsibility to
build a democracy that is more inclusive, more just, more fair, more
equitable, more responsible, and more open than that of their parents
(Calabrese & Barton, 1994, p. 3).
Public schools are bureaucratic institutions which are organized for
the dissemination of the culture of American democracy (Calabrese &
Barton, 1994; Glickman, 1994; Spring, 1994). This culture embodies the
values of efficiency, equity, fraternity, and liberty (Swanson & King, 1991).
The democratic culture American citizens enjoy, with freedoms delineated in
the Bill of Rights, is often taken for granted, neither fully appreciated nor
practiced. Public schools must do more than indoctrinate. They must be
workshops of our democracy (Barber, 1995, p. 34). They must also be
organizations that mirror democratic values, organizations in which the
principles of democratic society are both practiced and valued. Without
schools, there can be no citizens. Not just the future, but the future of
democracy rests on how well we educate the young (Barber, 1995, p. 34).
11


In American democratic society, public schools and public education
are government educational business: government employees work in
government-built facilities, interpreting, implementing, and evaluating
government policy throughout the nation. It is also the business of
govemment~the responsibility of govemment-to provide for the education
of children in public schools. Public education organizations exist for the
public; they are schools in publicness: institutions where we learn what it
means to be a public (Barber, 1995, p. 34). Further, Wilson and Davis
(1994) describe school in this way:
A school traditionally has been an uneasy federation of small,
independent sovereignties, each wielding a measure of
political power over educational structures and process.
Government regulators and local school boards have the
power to lay down rules that school districts must obey. District
administrators set policies that tell local schools how those
rules are to be accommodated. Principals may choose to aide,
resist, or disregard those directives-often in addition to making
their own for teachers within their own schools to adhere to.
Parents press demands of their own, form detailed ideological
agendas to special privileges for individual children. Teachers,
frequently granted tenure by law and unobserved behind the
closed doors of their classrooms, can promote, resist, alter, or
ignore virtually any change they choose as long as they dont
actually violate laws. This long and unrelenting channel of
political and cultural cross-currents awaits any innovation
entering a traditional U.S. school, (pp. 134-135)
The American system of public education is comprised of collections
of school districts within the states. Traditionally, state legislators make laws
(design or develop policy) that determine the financing of public schools and
12


the efficacy and equity of school experiences for children, while decisions
about school administration, curriculum implementation, and assessment
(interpretation and implementation of policy) are made by local school
boards of education. Within this system, parents and school personnel can
make choices about educational experiences for children in public schools--
choices about educational programs, choices about school attendance,
choices about parent involvement, and choices about creating or
chartering schools.
Public School Change/Reform Policy
Public education is a matter of policy design, interpretation,
implementation, evaluation, and redesign. Anderson (1984) describes a
policy process cycle that includes three parts: policy formation and
adoption, policy implementation, and policy evaluation and change. In
addition, Nakamura and Smallwood (1980) discuss a policy model in terms
of three environments which include different processes and may involve
different players. These three environments include policy formation
(environment one), policy implementation (environment two), and policy
evaluation (environment three). In the first environment, policy makers
develop or prescribe policy which they expect the implementors (in
environment two) to carry out. In contrast, environment three processes
13


focus on policy evaluation which may be conducted by policy makers, policy
implementors, and/or detached professional evaluators (p. 67).
With public educational policy, there is a constant conflict between the
interests of parents and their children, school personnel, and policy makers.
Bolman and Deal (1991) suggest that within any political system, a constant
interaction among players is coupled with a continual negotiation for power
in an environment of scarce resources. Coalition formation among
interested players, jockeying for power and resources, and conflict are on-
going. According to Swanson and King (1991),
it appears that some decisions about education may best be
made by central authorities ... but others are best left to those
with professional expertise at the school level or to those
having a personal stake in the happiness and welfare of a
specific child, the family, (p. 25)
Sayre (1958, as cited in Tyack, 1981) asserts that
Education is a unique governmental function .... Educators
are the only proper guardian of the educational function; their
autonomy in this guardianship is essential to the public interest
.... The community, when it confronts educational questions,
should be an unstructured audience of citizens. These citizens
should not be influenced in their responses to educational
questions by their associations in organizations; not as
members of interest groups of any kind (save perhaps in
parents groups) or as members of a political party. The
unstructured community will be wisest in its responses to
educational questions when it listens to the educators, to the
experts in education___(p. 20)
14


Further, Bardach (1977) takes the position that neither an ultimate model for
policy implementation nor an ultimate goal exists. He discusses
gamesmanship related to policy implementation and identifies control and
resources as important factors which influence the implementation of policy
after a bill becomes law.
Change in public educational business is made through this
laborious but democratic process. Educational practice in public schools
may or may not reflect legislative intent, new policies may be implemented
before evaluation of existing policies is completed, and what happens
behind the closed classroom door may or may not influence legislative
mandates (Taylor &Teddlie, 1992, in Fullan, 1994). Darling-Hammond
(1990) cautions that policies do not land in a vacuum; they land on top of
other policies. Policy-makers must come to understand and start to take
responsibility for the cumulative effects of their actions (p. 240).
Parent/Communitv Involvement
The active involvement of the parent/family in the childs education is
an important factor in the childs success in school (Schneider, 1993). The
United States Department of Education (1996a, 1996b, 1996c) is focusing
on partnership for family involvement in education. The 1994 U.S.
15


Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES),
report defines parent involvement as follows:
Parents may be able to improve the academic performance of
their children by becoming more involved in their school life.
Teachers often request more parent involvement in the form of
discussing school life with students, helping students with
homework, visiting the classroom, and meeting with teachers.
From Head Start to efforts to create effective high schools,
parent involvement is regarded as an integral system
component, (paragraph 1)
For the purpose of this study, parent involvement in education (Balli,
1995) includes both verbal and non-verbal parent communication with the
child/children concerning school, school work, and teachers; as well as
more active participation (providing assistance with homework and
attending school functions and activities) in the school experience.
School Choice in Contemporary America
School choice includes several options: home schooling, private or
parochial education at the parents expense, vouchers for public and/or
private education, public school alternative programs and options for
enrollment, and public school charter schools. Proponents of school choice
argue that greater parental involvement is promoted by allowing parents to
choose their childs school. In addition, they posit that educational choice
(with parents selecting schools and programs) will force schools to compete
16


for students and, thereby, force schools to improve in order to attract and
retain students. Opponents take that stand that if parents are allowed to
make choices about schools, those schools which lack resources and
programming to attract students, will neither retain students nor improve. In
addition, students who are unable to leave such schools, will have
educational opportunities that become even more deficient (NCES, 1995).
Parental School Choice
Parental school choice is a process for choosing the childs school
and/or educational experiences to meet the needs of the child and the
family. The process differs from school or program assignment for the child
which is determined by the childs/familys residence area within a public
school district. Within parental school choice, the options for home
schooling children and selecting private, self-pay, education exist. In a few
states, vouchers may be available for parents to use in acquiring education
services for their children. These educational options for parents are
described in the sections which follow.
Home Schooling. Home schooling is an educational option that may
be chosen by parents for religious, academic, or other reasons. This choice
may also be made on the basis of personal and/or family beliefs that the
family is superior to the public school as a social organization (Jeub, 1994).
17


Home schooling is an educational option across the United States and a
national home school network has been established (National Homeschool
Association, 1996). In 1993, more than 350,000 children were being home
schooled in the United States, which represents a growth of 335,000
children since 1983 (U.S. Department of Education, in Jeub, 1994).
Children who are home schooled may, in some cases, have the
option to participate in public school activities. For example, under Colorado
home schooling provisions, children may participate in music, physical
education, and art activities at the local school. They may also choose to
participate in school and/or school district sports programs (Colorado
Department of Education, 1994). In Iowa, a unique program, under state
provisions, allows students to be simultaneously home and public schooled
(Terpstra, 1994).
Private School Option. The right of a parent to educational options for
the child was protected by the 1925 Supreme Court decision in Pierce v.
Society of Sisters. The decision upheld the parental right to choose non-
public rather than public education for the child. For the purpose of this
study, parent educational choice in Colorado is described on a continuum of
options from home schooling to public school assignment by the school
district in which the school child resides. With home schooling, the parent
has the most opportunity for educational choice. With assignment of school
18


or program directed by the school district, the parent has the least
opportunity for educational choice. (See Appendix A, Continuum of Parental
Educational Choice in Colorado.)
Vouchers. Vouchers are government payments or tax credits to
parents to be used to purchase school/education services in public and/or
private schools. Wisconsin has had a tuition voucher program in operation
since 1990. In the Milwaukee Program, monies have been made available
to low-income parents. These parents can then use the vouchers for tuition
for the child to attend the private schools which choose to participate in the
voucher program. The payment system enables parents to chose programs
that have evidenced success in providing for student performance and
achievement. The constitutionality of this voucher program has been
challenged repeatedly. In the March 29,1996 decision, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower court (Walsh, 1996). In
Minnesota, tax credits to parents of children attending parochial and/or
private schools have been allowed for tuition, transportation, and textbooks.
These provisions, under Minnesota statute, have been upheld in court
decisions because the tax credit applies to both private and public
schooling. The 1983 United States Supreme Court ruling (Mueller v. Alien)
allowed these payments because the parent, rather than the school district,
19


receives the money. Sectarian issues were, thus, not violated (Kemerer &
King, 1995, pp. 307-311).
Public School Choice
Public educational choice (public school choice) options include
magnet and/or alternative schools, inter- and intra-district open enrollment,
and charter schools. These are educational choices which are sanctioned
and developed within the public school district. The alternative and magnet
schools or programs and the open enrollment choices are developed within
the school district by school personnel. In Colorado, charter schools may be
developed by parents and community members, with or without the
leadership of school personnel. Chartered schools, however, are
established through a contractual agreement between a chartering group
(parents, school personnel, and/or community members) and a sponsoring
group (the local school district board of education).
Alternatives to traditional school programs were developed as part of
a rebellion movement against the bureaucratic public education
establishment. The programs were alternative in the goals they tried to
accomplish, the settings for the programs, and the student populations they
sought to serve. Raywid (1994) identifies three types of alternatives: last-
chance programs, remedial focus programs, and popular innovation
20


programs (pp. 26-27). The last-chance programs were developed for
students who are not meeting success in traditional school programs; the
remedial focus programs provide options for students requiring academic
and/or social/emotional rehabilitation or remediation; the popular
innovation programs are similar to magnet schools, utilizing themes,
curricular content focus, innovative instructional strategies or all three
(Raywid, 1994, pp. 26-31).
Charter Schools: A Public School Choice Option
Charter schools, public schools created with public funds within
public school districts, are emerging as an important public school choice
option for parents, community members, and school personnel. Such
schools may be important in school reform because education for
democracy requires ... access to social knowledge and understanding,
forged by participation in a democratic community" (Darling-Hammond &
Ancess, 1996). In the following sections, I will briefly describe the charter
school movement in terms of (a) development and growth nationally and (b)
Colorado charter schools and their status since the passage of charter
school legislation in 1993.
National. A national movement enabling agencies other than school
boards of education to create schools began with the passage of charter
21


school legislation in Minnesota in 1991. During the 1992-1993 school year,
one charter school (City Academy for at-risk students) was established in
St. Paul, Minnesota. By 1996, charter school legislation had been passed in
twenty-five states and the District of Columbia. Schools have been
chartered by parents, teachers, community members, and other agencies
(universities in Michigan, for example) from Massachusetts to California and
from Texas to Minnesota. It was predicted that during the 1996-1997 school
year, at least 412 chartered schools would be up and running in 13 states
(Allen & Center for Education Reform, 1996a, p. 4). In reality, 480 chartered
schools were operating across the nation in the fall of 1996. Contrasting
charter schools with traditional schools within public school districts, Allen
and CER (1996b) write that charter schools
are more accountable, by being compelled to lay down their
own goals and standards and by being held to them by a
performance contract-and by the reality that if they dont
succeed, parents wont choose them any more. (p. 4)
The charter school movement means more than the creation of hundreds or
thousands of new schools-the goal is to encourage widespread
improvements in public education (Nathan, 1996a, p. 19).
Colorado. A former Colorado State Commissioner of Education offers
this definition: a charter school is a public school operated by a group of
parents, teachers and other community members as a semi-autonomous
22


school of choice within a school district (Randall, 1993, p. 9). Since the
1993-1994 school year, charter schools have been established in school
districts in Colorado. During the inaugural year of policy implementation,
there were two chartered schools in the state. In the fall of 1996, charters
were approved for 32 schools, one school was reapproved (re-chartered),
and several more schools were being planned. By 1997, as many as 60
charter school may be established, with 16 of such schools designated for
at-risk student populations (Colorado Charter School Information Packet
and Handbook. September 1996). During the 1996-1997 school year, there
was additional reapproval for schools chartered within several Colorado
schools districts and charters had been approved for 17 schools to be
established in 1997-1998 or later (J. Griffin, personal communication, April
1997).
Charter Schools as a Manifestation of Democracy
Public schools in American democratic society are social
organizations (Barber, 1992, 1995; Barth, 1990; Calabrese & Barton, 1994;
Dayton & Glickman, 1994; Glickman, 1993). According to Barber (1995),
public schools are institutions where we learn what it means to be a public
(p. 34). Sergiovanni (1992) applies two metaphors to schools, organization
and community. As formal organizations, schools are defined by
23


instrumental purposes (p. 41). Rules and regulations and evaluation
processes, including supervision and monitoring of programs and
personnel, provide structure. In contrast, schools as communities are
viewed as repositories of values, sentiments, and beliefs that provide the
needed cement for uniting people in a common cause (p. 41). Lee and
Smith (1994, cited in Klonsky, 1995) differentiate between bureaucratically
and communally organized schools. For the purpose of this study, the
implementation of charter school policy at one school site, this description of
community applies, in a community there is a voluntary agreement among
those who join to accept its rules, its constraints, its culture (Glazer, 1993, p.
650).
Policy makers' decisions should be informed by research about the
effects of proposed reforms; they should be consonant with philosophies
and ideals that will enable school personnel to work effectively with
students. Recent legislation in Colorado, the Charter Schools Act of 1993,
provides an opportunity for educational reform, school choice, and
participation in the implementation process. Parents, school personnel, and
community members can take responsible risks and create new, innovative,
and more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school
system (Senate Bill 93-183). Chartering a school affords an opportunity for
the implementation of American democratic principles-choice, inclusion,
24


justice, fairness, and equity, responsibility, and voice (Calabrese & Barton,
1994). As such, charter schools may be a manifestation of democracy.
Calabrese and Barton Model
One of the most important functions of education is furthering values
for the continuance of American democratic society (Barber, 1992, 1995;
Calabrese & Barton, 1994; Dewey in Darling-Hammond, 1993; Giroux,
1992; Glickman, 1993). Our nations public schools should function as the
foundation for democratic education and inculcation of common American
values, kindling a revitalization of the civic spirit to permeate society
(Dayton & Glickman, 1994, p.78).
Common American values are reflected in five themes identified by
Calabrese and Barton (1994). These themes focus on democracy as a living
concept and envision democracy as:
1. a group of free people who choose their own destiny,
2. an inclusive community,
3. concerned with the promotion of the fundamental human values of
justice, fairness, and equity,
4. a society in which each person feels a responsibility to self and to others,
5. concerned with the promotion of discourse and debate in a civil
environment.
25


Democracy as a Living Concept
In the Calabrese and Barton (1994) conceptualization, democracy is
an ideal which is not static. Public schools and public education are
important to the continuance of a democratic way of life in the American
republic because democratic principles must be learned, practiced, and
valued. Calabrese and Barton (1994) describe democracy in terms of
choice, inclusion, justice, fairness, and equity, responsibility, and voice.
Choice. UA democracy is a group of free people who choose their
own destiny (Calabrese and Barton, 1994, p. 4). This means that people in
a democracy are capable of governing themselves and making wise
choices-they can come together to discover a better way in which to live.
Inclusion. A democracy is an inclusive community (Calabrese &
Barton, 1994, p. 5). This means that people in a community are encouraged
to express their voice, to feel that they can make a difference, to be a part of
the process, and to feel that the community cares about them and they about
the community. Persons are not excluded on the basis of gender,
socioeconomic status, belief, or race.
Justice. Fairness, and Equity. A democracy reflects and promotes the
fundamental human values of justice, fairness, and equity (Calabrese &
Barton, 1994, p. 6). This means that a democratic society exists to serve the
26


needs of its members. Within this context, basic human values-justice,
fairness, and equity-must be promoted.
Responsibility. A democracy is a society in which each person feels
a responsibility to self and to others (Calabrese & Barton, 1994, p. 7). This
means that the delicate balance between the rights of the individual and the
good of society is respected. People in a democracy come together to work
for a common purpose that is in the best interest of everyone.
Voice. A democracy promotes discourse and debate in a civil
environment (Calabrese & Barton, 1994, p. 9). This means that a
constructive arena for discussion and debate is provided, so that people, as
a community, can discover ways to improve our society.
The Calabrese and Barton (1994) themes provide a framework for
educating Americas students for citizenship, culture, and governance.
These five themes which focus on democracy as a living concept-choice,
inclusion, justice, fairness, and equity, responsibility, and voice-were used
as a frame to examine one case of charter school policy as an
implementation of the principles of American democracy.
Statement of the Problem
In an arena of conflicting interests, needs, and values, public school
education is under attack from many groups that are calling for reform,
27


restructuring, and renewal-challenging the existing model of school
organization and governance. In Colorado, the Charter School Act of 1993
enables parents and school personnel to charter a public school which will
have school-based governance, management, and specific educational
plans for student achievement and accountability. Because parents,
politicians, and school people want to provide appropriate educational
experiences for public school children, it is important to examine the
implementation of a charter school to determine its functioning within the
framework of democratic principles.
Research Questions
How does the implementation of charter school policy function to
further democratic principles?
1. How is choice promoted or hindered through charter school policy
implementation?
2. How is inclusion promoted or hindered through charter school policy
implementation?
3. How are justice, fairness, and equity promoted or hindered through
charter school policy implementation?
4. How is responsibility promoted or hindered through charter school policy
implementation?
28


5. How is voice promoted or hindered through charter school policy
implementation?
Study Limitations
This was the study of a case of policy implementation which
examined, in detail, the establishment and development of one chartered
school. The unit of analysis was CS-132, a public school chartered by
parents and community members.
As an educator, I am concerned that our democratic society continue
to promote freedom of participation in governance and culture for all
members and I believe that public schools can be important to the
continuance of the development of the educated public that is requisite for
democratic participation. Democratic ideals and values and the practice of
democratic principles are important to me as a citizen in the American
republic. The Calabrese and Barton (1994) views about democracy as a
living concept are consonant with my ideas about democracy and
democratic practices. As a parent of children in public schools, I have been
a consumer of choice in the pursuit of appropriate educational experiences
for my children, I have served in volunteer capacities at school-sites, and I
have assumed leadership positions as a parent-volunteer and/or community
member at the school-district level in several school districts.
29


I followed processual events as CS-132 was established, throughout
the inaugural school year, to discover what happens with the
implementation of a chartered school, in relation to five themes within
democracy as a living concept. Influenced by the ethnographic writing of
Wolcott (1984, 1990, 1994), Corsaro (1987), Good and Brophy (1973), and
Jackson (1968), my study was in-depth and utilized multiple qualitative
methods. Throughout the study, I assumed roles at the school: (a) parent of
a child attending the school, (b) leader of a school committee, and (c)
researcher studying charter school policy implementation. As I lived within
the culture, I used participant observation, interviews with key informants,
and documentary evidence to answer the study questions. Data were
collected in a naturalistic setting and field notes detailed events,
experiences, and observations.
Overview of the Dissertation
This qualitative research study of charter school policy
implementation focused on one school site in the Rocky Mountain region. A
case study design was used (Yin, 1993, 1994); multiple methods included
interviews, participant observation, and examination of relevant documents
and artifacts (Jorgenson, 1989; LeCompte & Preissle, 1993; Marshall &
Rossman, 1989, 1995). The protocol for the study case (Yin, 1994) included:
30


(a) framework with definitions of democracy themes and constructs, (b)
research questions, (c) data collection methods, (d) on-going analysis of
data, and (e) writing of summaries of evidence.
Data for the case study were collected using the Calabrese and
Barton (1994) five-part thematic framework and definitions for five
democracy constructs: (a) choice, (b) inclusion, (c) justice, fairness, and
equity, (d) responsibility, and (e) voice. These constructs provided the key
categories for data collection, data analysis, the first codes for data
reduction, and the reporting of study findings. The database was organized
by method for collection within the five democracy themes. Table 1.1
includes information on the democracy framework themes and constructs
and the operationalization of constructs within the study.
31


Table 1.1
Democracy Constructs and Operationalization
Democracy Constructs and Themes (Calabrese & Barton, 1994) Characteristics from Calabrese and Barton Themes (1994) Operationalization in this Study
Choice A democracy is a group of free people who choose their own destiny. Chooses their own destiny Makes decisions about governance Discovers a better way to organize and manage a school Parent and personnel selection of the school Parent and personnel participation in governance board, school improvement committee, and other school meetings and activities School decision making activities (meetings)
Inclusion A democracy is an inclusive community. Is open to all Cares about members Encourages members to participate Parent and personnel involvement in school activities and events Process for admission and enrollment
Justice, Fairness, and Equity A democracy is concerned with the promotion of the fundamental values of justice, fairness, and equity. Exists to serve its members Respects and values human dignity Values each member as a contributor Implementation of an environment for learning as defined in the school charter document (1994) Implementation of policies and procedures that apply to all students and families
Responsibility A democracy is a society in which each person taels a responsibility to self and to others. Assumes a responsible role Works toward a common purpose Student, parent, and school personnel participation at the school during the school year
Voice A democracy is concerned with the promotion of discourse and debate in a civil environment Facilitates an arena for discourse and debate Seeks on-going improvement Student, parent, and school personnel participation at the school during the school year Survey data and results
Study Design and Methods
Interviews with key informants were an important source of data for
this case study at CS-132 (Jorgenson, 1989; LeCompte & Preissle, 1993;
Marshall & Rossman, 1989,1995; Yin, 1993,1994). Key informants
included parents, school staff members, and school (both site and district)
32


administrators. A standard protocol was used with interviewees, including
questions focusing on the five themes of democracy as a living concept.
Interviews were conducted at the end of the inaugural school year.
Focused, in-depth interviews (informal conversations) were also
conducted with parents of CS-132 children and personnel (teacher,
paraprofessional, administrator, for example) at CS-132. Selection of
interviewees was purposive, based on accessibility and availability to the
researcher. Representation from parents who were involved in leadership
positions at the school, parents who wrote the charter agreement, and
parents with children in lower and upper grades were included in the
interview pool. Informal conversations were conducted throughout the
establishment and development of the school during the inaugural school
year. Data provided the basis for looking at meaning and values of key
players in the charter school policy implementation process.
On-site observations were made beginning with the inaugural year of
charter school policy implementation, and field notes detailed processional
events as the school was established and developed. A variety of activities
were followed: construction of the school within the storefront(s), meetings
of parents and teachers, candidates' night, governance board meetings,
classroom activities in grades kindergarten through six, Back-to-School
Night, parent-teacher conferences, and others.
33


Newspaper articles and school district publications and news
releases reporting school development and progress throughout the school
year were reviewed and pertinent information was integrated in the
database. Documents from the school site-newsletters, meeting agendas
and minutes, brochures, reports of student achievement, and others-were
collected and reviewed. Data from field notes, documentary evidence, and
school-site surveys were used in support of interview findings.
With this qualitative inquiry, the researcher was also an instrument of
the research (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993, pp. 91-92) and care was taken to
accurately and faithfully record the observed phenomena through a
recursive process. According to Agar (1980, cited in Wolcott, 1994),
you learn something (collect some data), then you try to make
sense out of it (analysis), then you go back and see if the
interpretation makes sense in light of new experience (collect
more data), then you refine your interpretation (more
analysis), and so on. The process is dialectic, not linear, (p.
11)
Data Collection and Analysis Plan
Narrative, descriptive data were collected through the interviews,
participant observation at CS-132, and document and artifact review to
answer the research questions and to tell the story of charter school policy
implementation. Data collection methods included interviews with key
34


informants (parents, staff-teachers, administrators), participant observation
(at the research site), and substantiation of findings with data included in
school-site and school district documents (specifically, CS-132 Charter
Agreement). Data analysis included the narrative, descriptive data from the
interviews, relevant documentary evidence, and field notes which were
examined in terms of the five themes of democracy as a living concept.
In chapter two, the literature review includes a picture of public
education in the American republic, on-going educational reform processes,
and the debate concerning education reform strategies which has engaged
educators and educrats while senring to disengage the American public.
The involvement of parents in public education programs and processes is
detailed and school choice in American education is described. The role of
democracy in the schools and schools in a democratic society is discussed,
and the rationale for selecting the Calabrese and Barton (1994) themes of
democracy as a living concept is presented.
35


CHAPTER TWO
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
As long as we have a well-educated citizenry, as long as we
have people who can learn whatever they need to learn
whenever they need to learn it, and who understand that this is
related to the work of citizenship, this country will do just fine.
(President Clinton, speaking in Washington, D.C., at the May
29, 1996 ceremony in honor of Blue Ribbon Schools.)
Overview of the Chapter
President Clintons statement addresses the relationship between an
educated citizenry and the success of the United States as a democratic
society (U.S. Department of Education, 1996b). Public school education is
important to the continuance of an educated and informed citizenry within
the American republic because the basic principles of a democratic society
must be taught, practiced, and valued by the American public.
In this chapter the focus of the literature review is on (a) reform policy
in public education, (b) competing interests in public educational reform, (c)
the educational debate that may have affected public education reform
policy implementation, and (d) the role of parents (as an important group of
political players in American public education) and school choice options for
parents. Charter schools and charter school policy, as an example of public


school reform policy, are defined within (a) the parameters of Colorado
legislation, (b) the national and state charter school movements, and (c) the
context of charter school research. The role of public schools in a
democracy, the role of democracy in public schools, and the need for public
school reform are addressed. The Calabrese and Barton model, democracy
as a living concept, is described.
Problem Statement
American public schools should serve both the individual and the
society at large (Barber, 1992, 1995; Dewey in Darling-Hammond, 1993),
providing opportunities for democratic principles to be learned, practiced,
and valued (Barber, 1992, 1995; Calabrese & Barton, 1994; Dayton &
Glickman, 1994). Educating a school population with varying needs,
interests, abilities, and backgrounds is no easy task and educational
researchers and practitioners have been involved in the process of
reforming public education for decades (Clune, 1990; Cuban, 1990, 1995;
Finn, 1995, 1996a; Fullan, 1993, 1994; Smith & ODay, 1991).
In the view of some researchers, school reform and change efforts
have made much noise, but appear to have done little to make changes that
improve school experiences for public school children with varying interests,
abilities, and backgrounds (Finn, 1995; Finn & Ravitch, 1995). For others,
37


public schools are successful-considering the disparate population in
Americas schools (Berliner, 1993; Biddle, 1995; Bracey, 1993, 1994, 1996).
The study of public school reform efforts can provide information for
policy makers, school practitioners, and the American public. This
dissertation study focuses on the implementation of a new public school
reform policy, designed to allow parents, community members, and school
personnel to provide school opportunities for students. In this dissertation,
the questions about school reform policy that are asked are those for which
there are answers about how one specific school reform policy functions to
further the principles of American democracy-how the democratic themes of
choice, inclusion, justice, fairness, and equity, responsibility, and voice
(Calabrese & Barton, 1994) are furthered through the implementation of
charter school policy within a public school district. Thus, the purpose of the
research study is to examine and analyze one case of charter school policy
implementation, within the Calabrese and Barton framework for democracy
as a living concept (1994).
Reform Policy in Education. Competing Interests in Educational
Reform, and Educational Debate
Public school reform efforts continue to engage educators, parents,
legislators, and other stakeholders in the American public education policy
38


arena into the 1990s, providing the basis for discussion and debate. Is
public educational reform a continual cycle that really makes much noise
and little progress (Cuban, 1990,1995; Finn, 1995, 1996a; Finn & Ravitch,
1995)? Should educational reform follow federal and/or state mandates
(lop-down) or grassroots, local level (bottom-up) strategies or a
combination of the two (Fullan, 1993, 1994; Goodlad, 1992; Sizer in ONeil,
1995)? How do competing interests influence policy implementation in a
democratic society? These questions will be addressed in the sections that
follow.
Reform Policy in Education
Cuban (1990) discusses the perpetual American education reforming
that seems to go nowhere, describing recurring reform in curriculum,
pedagogy, and school governance from rational, political, and institutional
perspectives, explaining that few reforms aimed at the classroom make it
past the door permanently (p. 11). In a more recent discussion, Cuban
(1995) uses a clock metaphor to describe the reforming process in
education, differentiating between incremental and fundamental changes,
and asserting that historians who document changes over centuries have
learned that many school reforms unfold at different paces (p. 56). He cites
changes in the school day and better textbooks as examples of incremental
39


changes; while fundamental changes are described as student-centered
instruction or teacher-run schools (Cuban, 1995).
Cuban describes five types of time: (a) media, (b) policy maker, (c)
bureaucratic, (4) practitioner, and (e) student-learning. Media time, ticking
daily, tends to shape and legitimatize what policy makers put on their
agendas for school reform. Policy maker time is represented by a clock that
moves on a two or four year cycle that parallels national and state elections
and campaigning. Examples within policy maker time are campaign
slogans in the 1980s and 1990s which seem to imitate business practices,
have identified schools as vital to national economy recovery, and have
focused on higher standards for academics in public school education, as
well as advocacy for school vouchers. Bureaucratic time moves according
to the implementation of policy maker decisions. The time lag between
policy maker time and bureaucratic time is due to the natural complexity of
translating a policy made under the pressure of electoral time into feasible,
clear procedures for those principals and teachers who do the daily work of
schooling" (p. 56). Cuban views practitioner time in terms of a clock that
moves in slow motion. He cites computer technology as an example of
reform that the media represented as an imminent revolution in the 1980s.
However, technological changes are still making only incremental impact in
the practices in many classrooms across the nation (p. 41). Student-
40


learning time, according to Cuban, is represented on a clock that is difficult
to read because school-based learning and home-based learning cannot
easily be separated, student learning styles and rates vary, and many
behaviors that are learned at school are not formally documented (for
example, dealing with bullying on the playground, learning to take turns, and
others). Further, the effects of formal learning may only show up over time.
Cuban posits that attending to this many-clock metaphor (the fast-paced
media clock in contrast with the election-driven policy maker clock, in
contrast with the slow-motion clocks for both students and their teachers)
may provide a more appropriate record of school improvement over time-
and a better understanding of school reform efforts.
Tyack (1991) categorizes reforms as those that stuck, flickered, or
ebbed and flowed. Basically, those that stuck were proposed by school
personnel to make their work more efficient or easier, and did not require
change in the operating procedures of the school; those dealing with
pedagogical reform tended to flicker; while reforms that ebbed and flowed
involved different societal values and group interests that are constantly
renegotiated at different levels of the system in our federated plan of school
governance (Tyack, 1991, p. 16).
Fullan (1993) identifies an evolutionary practice of change in
education which includes the adoption of reforms in the 1960s, problems
41


with implementation in the 1970s, a movement to multiple innovations in the
1980s, and concern with comprehensive change, focusing on systemic
reform in the 1990s. Darling-Hammond (1993) calls for a reform agenda
that focuses on capacity building, one that deals with change in the
professional development of educators, centering on empowerment rather
than control. Barth (1990), Glickman (1993), and Sergiovanni (1992) all
emphasize the need for establishing communities of learning if schools are
to be restructured. This restructuring requires a change in focus-schools
should be communities rather than bureaucratic organizations. Smith and
O'Day (1991) defend a systemic reform which couples changes in
governance with curriculum and instruction reforms. With systemic reform,
state mandates dominate and local decision makers are required to comply.
For example, in Colorado standards for curriculum content are mandated;
school districts must comply with the standards approved by the state or
develop their own standards which meet or exceed the state standards
criteria.
Focusing on choice and control, Clune (1990, pp. 1-15) describes six
types of organizational change in American public education which
includes; (a) democratic localism, (b) school-based management, (c)
teacher empowerment, (d) curriculum controls, (e) magnet school choice
systems, and (f) state differential treatment of schools. Democratic localism,
42


similar to decentralization practices, gives parents and community members
more power over local schools. School-based management includes
empowering principals, teachers, and parents at the school-site as well as
giving the school-site more control over budget, curriculum, and personnel.
Teacher empowerment measures are designed to give teachers more
decision making power. Curriculum controls focus on controls over student
selection of courses, alignment of course content and instructional materials,
and are designed to structure a rigorous academic curriculum. Magnet
school choice systems are characterized by parent choice of schools,
maintaining racial balance within a specific geographic area, and
diversification of education missions. State differential treatment of schools
includes such treatment as state takeover of low-performing schools (or
districts) as well as waivers (for schools or districts) from state standards.
Contrasting education reform movements, the grassroots movement
and the national education movement (Education 2000), Goodlad (1992)
writes
Top-down, politically driven education reform movements are
addressed primarily to restructuring the educational system.
They have little to say about educating. Grassroots reform
efforts, on the other hand, have little to say about restructuring.
They are virtually all about educating our young, (p. 238)
43


Newman (1995) takes the position that both top-down and bottom-up
reform efforts are needed to make changes in educational practice. Top-
down reforms can create the conditions for change, while bottom-up reforms
should be there to enable the decisions for change to be made at the school
sites, by the right people. There must be a movement beyond passing a
policy and never looking back to see if it does its job (Newman, 1995).
According to Sizer (in ONeil, 1995) top-down, state-mandated
reforms (for example, more stringent teacher licensing and student
graduation requirements) have failed to improve schools. The evidence
shows that the poor kids did poorly and the richer kids did better (p. 4). In
contrast, change decisions made at the local school level result in long-term
reform because of subtle but powerful support and collaboration among
teachers, students, and the families of those students in a particular
community (Sizer, in ONeil, 1995, p. 4). He identifies the strength of the
Coalition of Essential Schools as school-by-school-by-school reform. These
Coalition Schools are schools of choice-students and school people
choose to be a part of these schools and this makes a difference. Sizer (in
ONeil, 1995) posits
Education is a very emotional enterprise for parents concerned
about their children. If you remember that, you dont start
reform by appointing a governors commission on school
standards, even though that may be a worthy thing to do. My
experience is that theres a lot of public interest in reform when
44


you get down to local people and local issues. And thats
where reform has got to take place, (p. 9)
Competing Interests in Educational Reform
Reform in public education has been driven by challenges, and
strategies for change have reflected conflicting values and competing
interests, focusing on what is righf or just or "good (efficiency or equality
or liberty, respectively). According to Finn (cited in Wells, 1993, p. 47) the
success of schools, prior to the 1980s pursuit of excellence movement, had
been defined by the liberal consensus in terms of providing educational
opportunity and resources to students rather than in terms of student
academic success. In contrast, the conservative education agenda with
the excellence theme, focused on high test scores and standards in addition
to individual achievement in core subjects, rather than encouraging full
participation of all students in educational systems in the nation.
Policies and practices in public school in American have been
affected by national efforts to make changes in public education. United
States Supreme Court decisions and Federal Acts have influenced public
education reform policy development and implementation. The United
States Supreme Court ruling in 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education) decreed
that public schools must not continue as bastions of segregation, and
45


attempts to provide equality in opportunity forced changes in public school
education throughout the country. The launching of Sputnik, 1957, was the
impetus for passage of the 1958 National Defense Education Act, and
American concern for efficiency in education was addressed (Guthrie &
Reed, 1986).
Beginning with the Great Society legislation in the 1960s, which
focused on extending opportunities to excluded groups (such as children in
poverty), parent and/or community involvement became a requirement for
federally funded programs (for example, Head Start and Title I in 1965). The
rationale for this community or parent participation was that the poor should
have real voice in their institutions (Shields, 1994, p. 156). By requiring
parent/community involvement in the decision making processes, there
would be an assurance that special populations received equal educational
opportunities (Shields, 1994, p. 156). During the 1970s, district-level parent
councils in all agencies receiving funding through Title I were required.
School-level councils were added in 1974 to ensure that parents had the
opportunity to express their opinions concerning program implementation.
In 1978, parent involvement requirements were strengthened when
Congress reauthorized the program legislation. The focus of parent
involvement turned to home support in the 1980s (Shields, 1994, pp. 155-
168). During this time, policy makers evidenced interest in involving
46


parents more directly in their childrens education, especially in support
roles at home (Shields, 1994, p. 157).
Discussing special interest group activity in education, Spring (1994)
posits that the civil rights movement served as an impetus for other interest
groups to demand equality of opportunity in education. As examples, he
cites the womens movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the 1970s
activism of parents of children with handicaps. According to Spring (1994)
the womens movement led to the United States congressional passage of
the Higher Education Act of 1972, while the organized groups seeking
educational opportunities for students with special needs sought redress
through the court system and then through federal acts. The Education for
All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) was passed in 1975.
This act which gives the child or the parents the right to negotiate with the
local school system about the type of services to be delivered (Spring,
1994, p. 337) is important in the collaborative development of the students
individual educational plan.
The report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education in
1983, A Nation at Risk, provided the impetus for constituent groups to seek
school reform focusing on excellence. Continuing concern that Americans
have a competitive edge in the world marketplace spurred Congressional
passage of Goals 2000: Educate America Act (signed into law on March 31,
47


1994 by President Clinton). This comprehensive act authorizes K-12 school
improvement funds, promotes drug-free school environments, encourages
parental involvement, and calls for American students to be first in the world
in mathematics and science by the year 2000. Because of this federal act,
students will be required to demonstrate competencies in several content
areas including English, mathematics, science, social studies and foreign
language (Earley, 1994).
Educational Debate
The United States has been involved in a long, sustained,
educational reform movement since the 1983 publication of the status of
American education in A Nation at Risk. Through school reform attempts
(innovation, restructuring, renewal) during these years, educators have
learned that educational reform is more difficult than anticipated and that
systemic changes must be made to reform educational practice (Newman,
1995). In order to reform the system of education, all the components of
the system and their functions must be addressed and changed; within this
education system, schools are only one part of an enormous public service
bureaucracy which also includes school districts, states, courts, and the
federal government.
48


Newman (1995) suggests that the political community is willing to
move to radical policy change, which requires an integration of developing
content and assessment standards with accountability, a linking of higher
education and K-12 education, and substantive engagement of the
community in the school education experiences for students.
Throughout this sustained reform movement, the public has become
increasingly skeptical about what educators are trying to do-with the
resulting consequence of public mistrust of educational innovations
(Bradley, 1995a, 1995b). Newman (1995) suggests that while the public
does care about education and does believe that schools should be better,
the public does not care about the work force issue or believe in what
educators are trying to do with the change to academic performance
standards. As such, the public has become increasingly less supportive of
public education. Because of this public sentiment, it is important that
educators work with the public, empower, and involve them in reforming
public schools. Mathews (1996) argues for putting the public back into
public education. He writes that
there must be a public before there can be public schools.
Community development has to precede school reform.
Reconstituting public life in our communities, strengthening our
ties as citizens, can pave the way for sustainable school
improvement, can endow schools with the capacity for
continuous adjustment to new challenges, (p. 27)
49


In a contrasting view about the state of American public education,
Berliner (1993a) states,
It is my belief that the American school system, as a whole, has
been and continues to be a remarkable success. The
campaign to discredit it and to blame it for the ills of our nation,
leads inevitably to making the wrong decisions about what to
fix. Greater school improvement will come from providing poor
people with jobs that pay enough to allow them to live with
dignity, than from all the fooling around we can do with
curriculum and instruction, or with standards and tests.
Children who are poor, unhealthy, and from families and
neighborhoods that are dysfunctional do not do well in schools.
Educators cannot work miracles, (p. 37)
Discussing thirteen myths about the system of American education, Berliner
(1993b) asserts that students are smarter than before, contrary to the myth
that students do not seem to be as smart as they used to be (p. 632). He
states that an increasing number of students are taking AP tests which
debunks the myth that todays youth cannot think. Both public schools and
higher education institutions are granting degrees to more students which
provides evidence that university graduates are smarter and think better (p.
634) than students of prior generations, according to Berliner. He states that
money is important to educational quality, that the public school system
bureaucracy is not bloated (p. 637), and that American spending on
education does not out-distance spending in other nations; in fact, when
only the expenditures for preprimary, primary, and secondary education are
50


calculated ... we actually spend much less than the average industrialized
nation (p. 637).
Biddle (1995) takes the position that the attack on public education in
America, including the charges from A Nation at Risk, is not well
documented. While SAT scores did fall during the early 1960s and 1970s,
this fall would be expected because more students were taking the test, the
sample was larger. He maintains that there is no inherent advantage to
private education and that the American international achievement studies
are a fraud. Biddle asserts that because 25 percent of American school
kids live in poverty, low test scores can be expected for such students-with
the affluent experiencing school success at the expense of the less affluent.
To improve the condition in schools, Biddle suggests that breaking schools
and districts into smaller units would facilitate more personal relationships
for students within such communities. He cites Chicago and Los Angeles
schools as cities in which this strategy has been tried.
Centering his discussion of the condition of American schools on
unsatisfactory student achievement, Finn (1995) takes another tack. More
than a decade after the plethora of school reforms which have spring up in
reaction to A Nation at Risk. Finn reports that there is very little to show for
it. He identifies several factors for this lack of student achievement,
including an absence of clear standards and expectations for student
51


performance, limited systematic accountability, a shortage of reliable
information concerning student performance results, a system in which
power rests with the system rather than with the customer, an archaic, out-
moded school design, and a wide gap between what the public perceives is
wrong with educational practice and what educational experts are interested
in pursuing.
To address these problems, Finn (1995, 1996a) suggests a
framework for re-inventing education that includes both external and
internal factors which affect the school. Examples of internal factors are
curriculum, pedagogy, and scheduling; examples of external factors include
governance, finance, power structure, and responsibility to constituents
(Finn, 1996a). He posits that schools must be serious about accountability
and results (specifically, student achievement results).
During the years between 1983 and 1997, the school establishment
has tried a variety of reform strategies including merit pay, state takeovers,
public and private partnerships with schools, year around schooling, and
patented" programs. Finn (1995) says that the results of these reform
efforts, however, show very little-a little minority achievement score
increase. He suggests that a re-inventing paradigm be exchanged for the
systemic paradigm. Finns ideas for public school reform include these
considerations:
52


1. The publics main interest in education is whether and how well children
leam.
2. Schools should be different-should be selected by the American public
in the same way that the public selects homes, doctors, and others.
3. Public schools do not have to be run by government agencies; they must
be open to the public and run by the public and be accountable to the public
for results.
Furthermore, Finn recommends that grassroots methods such as
decentralization, initiatives, and innovations can be used within a framework
of standards for content, assessment, and accountability. Following
grassroots methods would allow public schools to be run by diverse
providers such as charter schools, contract schools, and school choice
programs. The public authority can then monitor school achievement
progress of students in relation to standards and accountability (Finn, 1995).
He identifies these schools as examples of contract management schools
that are serious about accountability and results; Minneapolis Public
Schools (a school district managed by agreement with an outside
contractor); the SABIS school in Springfield, Massachusetts; Edison Project
schools; and the Disney school in Florida (Finn, 1995).
53


Parent/Community involvement
Inclusion of parents and community members in decision making
processes in public education programs began with Head Start and Follow-
Through in the 1960s (Shields, 1994). Parent involvement was identified as
a component of effective schools during the 1970s effective schools
movement, by the mid-1980s, the importance of connection with families
was added to the list of requirements for restructured schools, and in the
1980s, the concept of shared responsibility helped to place some burden
on schools to create programs to inform and involve all families (Epstein,
1996, p. 211). The debate (during the 1960s and 1970s) whether families or
schools are most important has changed to an acknowledgment that
school, families, and communities share responsibilities for children and
influence them simultaneously (p. 210). The role of parent/community
involvement has expanded in the 1970s, 1980s, and in the 1990s parents
and family are considered partners" in the education of public school
children.
According to goal eight of the National Education Goals, Goals 2000:
Educate America Act, every school will promote partnerships that will
increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social,
emotional, and academic growth of children (U.S. Department of Education,
Strong Families. Strong Schools. 1994). The September 1994 report on
54


progress toward this goal states that parental involvement has benefits for
students at preschool, elementary school, and high school levels. According
to the author, there is clear research indicating that when parent involvement
in the students education is positive, the results are: (a) better school
attendance, (b) higher grades and test scores for students, (c) more
homework completion, and (d) higher rates for both high school graduation
and higher education enrollment (U.S. Department of Education, p. 5).
Two examples of federal programs to involve the family in education
are the READ*WRITE*NOW! program and the America Goes Back to School
program. These special nation-wide efforts include tutorial reading and
activities to improve the home/school partnership (U.S. Department of
Education, 1996a, 1996b, 1996c).
Although parent involvement has been touted as an factor important
to the childs school success, a definition for what constitutes effective parent
involvement does not exist. Coulombe (1995, in Jesse, 1995) identifies a
continuum of parent involvement that ranges from the extreme of complete
control of parental involvement by the school site to the opposite extreme of
parents who want to run the school, including control over all expenditures,
hiring and firing of staff, and curriculum selection (paragraph 6). Jesse
(1995) posits that the current picture of parental involvement lies somewhere
in the middle for most schools.
55


Jarvis (1996) discusses parental involvement in terms of the roles
which parents play related to the child in school, the childs school, and
school activities and committees. She identifies these categories of parent
involvement: parent as partner, parent as collaborator, parent as audience,
parent as supporter, parent as advisor. I have added another category-
parent as decision maker-- to this list; the addition fits with the Coulombe
description above. (See also, Appendix B, Parent Involvement Levels. An
explanation of parental involvement in these categories is included.)
Studying parent involvement and student achievement, Epstein
(1996) identifies a model which includes six categories for parent
involvement in schools. Each of these categories has different impacts and
expectations for the development of a teacher and parent relationship which
is centered on assisting the parent to be informed and involved in the childs
education both at home and at school. The categories that the school can
use to work with parents and communities include: (a) parenting and
developing parenting skills; (b) communicating with the parent about the
child, school progress, and activities; (c) recruiting parent volunteers and
audiences for school programs; (d) learning at home and assisting with
homework, (e) making decisions as a participant on school governance and
advocacy committees; and (f) collaborating with agencies and businesses
within the community (Epstein, 1996, pp. 209-246).
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School Choice in Contemporary America
Controversy over the role of public education to meet the needs of the
individual versus the good of society includes the rights of parents to choose
educational experiences for their children. School choice of parochial rather
than public school education was upheld and the precedent to protect
choice was established in a 1925 United States Supreme Court decision in
the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters. Cookson and Schneider (1995)
posit that choice is a form of empowerment that gives a person a sense of
dignity that is hard to achieve when a family feels compelled to send their
child to a particular school (p. 578).
Factors such as education and income level, ability to be informed on
educational issues, and political savvy influence how easily parents can
choose more desirable schools by locating in more desirable residential
areas. Kozol (1990) discusses this choice or lack of it as he describes
disparity and inequity in educational opportunity throughout the country. He
writes that the inequalities in public schools are savage. He describes and
contrasts schools across the nation; from crowded, dilapidated schools
serving children in abject poverty (for example, East St. Louis, Illinois) to
well-equipped, staffed, and maintained schools serving children of privilege
(for example, New Trier High School, outside Chicago, Illinois). An equality
57


of educational opportunity, if determined by area of residence, does not exist
within the public schools serving Americas children.
Coleman (1990) views choice as either within or beyond the public
sector. He describes choice beyond the public sector as schools and
programs which are less encumbered by the legal and administrative
constraints that effect schools within the public sector (p. xvi). His example is
single-sex schools that are not legally permitted in public education. He
reports that girls seem to do better in single-sex schools while boys seem to
do as well or better in coeducational schools. He argues that while a strong
common school was appropriate in the 1890s, the picture of community
has changed in the 1990s, making parental choice of school appropriate.
School choice options include home schooling, private schools,
open-enrollment (both intra- and inter-district), alternate schools,
postsecondary option plans, school-within-a-school programs, magnet
schools, charter schools, and vouchers (North Central Regional Educational
Laboratory, 1993). According to Olson (1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 1993), it is
choice that connects parents and children with the school. This is important
because student performance and accomplishments improve in a chosen
learning environment rather than one that is assigned, diversity in schools
enables the success of each child, and a one best school does not exist for
all children (Raywid, 1992). Nathan (cited in Wells, 1993), a proponent of
58


parent and student choice in public education, describes school choice as a
powerful tool capable of producing helpful or harmful effects, depending on
its use (p. 5). Further, Wells (1993) discusses the role of school choice
policy in terms of meeting the needs of the individual, meeting the needs of
the greater society, educating for profit, and preparing for world economic
competitiveness. Cautioning that policy makers must be clear about the
purpose of choice-individual, society, economics-in making educational
policy decisions, Wells writes
school choice policy is what we and our elected leaders make
of it. As citizens responsible for shaping the educational policy
that will mold future generations, we should take this
responsibility seriously. Before endorsing one form of school
choice over another, however, we must consider the desired
ends of education, (p. 5)
In their examination of school choice, Cookson and Schneider
(1995) conclude that school choice is an idea that is symbolic of an
intrinsic American value. They take the position that
the ideals of individualism, autonomy, and competition run
deep in the American character. We believe that we are in the
midst of a profound cultural transition; the core consensus that
united public opinion since the Great Depression has all but
evaporated. An essential of this consensus is the firm belief
that public schools are the mediators of merit and the cradles of
democracy. With the weakening of the consensus, however,
traditional methods of educational reform appear inadequate
and seemingly serve the self-interests of the public school
establishment, (p. 566)
(Also see Appendix C, Overview of National School Choice.!
59


Parental School Choice Options
While school choice seems to offer an avenue to school reform, the
choice option in schooling Americas children is not new. The right of
parents to choose non-public education for their children was guaranteed in
the 1925 United States Supreme Court decision in Pierce v. Society of
Sisters. This important ruling, protecting the right of parental choice in the
childs education, however, denied the use of public funds for non-public
education. Parents rights to choose were evidenced in the 1950s and
1960s with the establishment of private schools (academies and military
preparatory schools) in the southern states following the United States
Supreme Court desegregation ruling in 1954 (Haag, 1994). Parents also
have the choice to home school their child/children. According to Weston
(1996) an estimated 500,000 to two million students are being educated at
home. This number represents between one percent and four percent of the
American student population. Parents are choosing home schooling for
reasons that include religious beliefs, safety issues, opposition to reform
efforts, providing programming options not available in public schools,
opposition to large class sizes in public schools, and a distrust of public
education in general (Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, 1995, p. 6). Through this parental school choice option,
parents are
60


deeply involved in their childrens education, instruction is
personalized, schooling is de-bureaucratized, and technology
is a central part of the learning experience. These features are
among those that education reformers are advocating for
public schools as a whole. (Weston, 1996, p. 1)
Some parents choosing home education may also choose to use school
district services and barter for district programming options, that may include:
achievement testing, some classes, textbooks, school libraries, sports
programs, and field trips. In these cases, where the student attends classes
and/or uses school facilities and services, the school district is able to collect
some state support dollars (ASCD, 1995, pp. 1,6, 8).
Vouchers
Vouchers and tax credits for education are ways in which government
funding is provided to parents for the education of their child/children.
Similar to school choice, the idea is not new. In 1776, Adam Smith
recommended that government money be given to parents to purchase
educational services for their children. He took the position that the right of
parents to choose would help make schools responsive to students needs;
competition between schools for the education dollars would increase the
quality of educational services (Haag, 1994). Cookson (1996) argues that
this often cited Smith argument is weak; he posits that choice has not served
to improve education in schools through competition.
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The Alum Rock (government-sponsored, multi-year, intra-school
district) voucher demonstration project in California in the 1970s (1972
through 1977) provided vouchers for parents to use within any public school
within the district. In this program, special mini-schools and alternative
programs were established to attract students. This conversion of all
schools and programs into schools of choice within the school district was
possibly the most positive outcome of the project. According to the 1981
RAND report published following a three-year study (cited in Young &
Clinchy, 1992), differences in choices made by economically advantaged
versus disadvantaged parents were evidenced. While the advantaged
parents tended to choose open classroom experiences for their children, the
disadvantaged parents tended to choose the structured, traditional
classroom settings. In addition, there were initial differences in the
awareness of school and programming choices for the advantaged and
disadvantaged groups. However, as information about choices was
disseminated over time, this difference between the economically
advantaged and disadvantaged families lessened, as parents became
experienced in making school and program choices for their students.
Results at the classroom level (some improvement) versus the school-wide
level (no significant improvement) are mixed. While racial imbalance
improved slightly, advantaged and disadvantaged parents tended to be
62


segregated by their choice of programs and schools. All schools within the
school district, however, did benefit through an improved distribution of
resources throughout the school districtuall district schools and programs
were treated equally and received the same financial support (p. 28).
Quade (1996) posits that school choice, parental educational
freedom, does not exist in Americas schools because an educational
finance monopoly has these negative effects:
1. Public schools which lack incentive to excel.
2. Altemative/independent educational options which are costly for parents.
Quade (1996) argues that the allocation of tax dollars to parents for
educational services (through a voucher system), would
break the monolithic, one-size-fits-ail effort of contemporary
public education, which so harshly deprives millions of parents,
especially less-than-wealthy parents, of the right to select an
educational and ethical environment most appropriate for their
children, (paragraph 38)
Vouchers can be used as payment for school services while tax
credits are monies returned to the parent because of qualifying educational
expenses for the child. Typically, tax credits have been applied for textbooks
and/cr transportation for students rather than tuition payment for students to
attend non-public (private or parochial) schools. However, a key court
decision allowed tax deductions in Minnesota for tuition, textbooks, and
transportation in Mueller v. Allen (1983, cited in Kemerer & King, 1995).
63


Vouchers (payments for tuition to schools) have been used in Wisconsin,
Puerto Rico, and Vermont. While Vermont has a long history of voucher use,
the voucher program in Puerto Rico was declared unconstitutional in 1995,
and the deadlocked Wisconsin Supreme Court remanded the Milwaukee
voucher program case to the lower court on March 29, 1996 (Walsh, 1996).
Regarding vouchers, the National Education Association (NEA) takes the
position that vouchers are (a) one means of funneling public monies to
private and/or parochial schools, (b) plans that are not cost effective, and (c)
not a method that has improved student learning. The NEA cites the
Milwaukee Wisconsin voucher program as a voucher plan with
disappointing results that indicate the academic measures have been
mixed, with some scores rising and others declining among both public
school students and their counterparts using vouchers to attend private
schools (NEA, 1995, paragraph 4).
The connection between vouchers for public education and the
passage of charter school legislation between 1991 and 1996 has been a
matter of educational policy discussion. Nathan and Power (1996) found
that charter school legislation has been adopted to help youngsters who
have not succeeded in existing schools, provide opportunity for educational
entrepreneurs, expand the range of schools available, increase student
achievement and pressure the existing system to improve (p. 1). Their
64


survey of 50 policy leaders and legislators in seven states provided data that
support the idea that charter school legislation was not adopted as a prelude
to vouchers. Rather, the authors posit, the adoption of such legislation
serves as an alternative to vouchers. Interestingly, Arizona which has a
strong charter school law, passed tuition tax credit legislation in April 1997
(Mattem, 1997).
Public School Choice
Nathan defines public school choice as the opportunity for parents to
select among educational programs and options for students (personal
communication, October 14,1996). Within public school choice options,
Nathan argues that the purpose for this choice should be to promote:
1. increased student achievement,
2. increased graduation rates,
3. new opportunities for educators to try innovative programming without
bureaucratic restrictions,
4. change in the systems ability, to take the students as a funding source,
for granted (Nathan, personal communication, October, 1996).
Public school choice includes both alternative schools and program.
Schools such as magnet schools serve to attract students with specific
educational interests. Programs such as school-within-a-school" and
65


vocational education options for students also attract student interests and
were developed to meet student educational needs. Public school choice
programs have enabled school desegregation (magnet schools were used
by school districts as remedies in court-ordered desegregation cases), they
have been used to accommodate individual students needs (as schools of
last resort for students not succeeding in traditional school programs and/or
settings), they have provided opportunity for parents to have greater control
over their childrens educational experiences, and they have helped to
promote more competition within the educational system (Jackson, 1993;
Raywid, 1994; Wells, 1993). With choice in public schools, there are several
options. These choice options for parents include intra-district choice (open
enrollment within the school district), inter-district choice (open enrollment
across school districts), magnet and alternative school choice (intra- and
inter-district choice), and charter schools. (Also see Appendix A, Continuum
of Parental Educational Choice in Colorado and Appendix C, Overview of
NqfiQnal _S.cJlQpJ. ghpige.)
Alternative Schools. Alternative schools, within public school districts,
were established to meet the needs of special groups of students, to provide
choice for parents and their children, and to provide the opportunity for more
parental involvement and control (Wells, 1993). Such schools grew out of a
movement in the 1960s during which educators and parents, often in urban
66


settings, began to establish independent schools for diverse populations of
students, with educational programs designed to empower and liberate
(Wells, 1993, p. 31). Alternative schools, which came of age in the 1970s,
shared several characteristics. These schools were schools of choice, they
were smaller than traditional schools, the educational programs were
distinct (open schools, theme schools, schools without walls, schools within
schools, continuation schools), the schools had comprehensive educational
objectives, the schools sought some degree of autonomy from school
bureaucracy, and the schools encouraged active participation of students
and parents (Raywid, 1994; Wells, 1993). In addition, magnet schools in
public school systems across the United States served two purposes: (a)
they provided an alternative for people who were opposed to forced busing,
and (b) they were based on choice and, as such, provided an appeal for
many community members because they promised an elite, specialized
education (Spring, 1994, p. 356).
Alternative Education Programs. Alternatives to the traditional school
program were developed as part of a rebellion movement against the
bureaucratic establishment. The programs were alternative in the goals they
tried to accomplish, the settings for the programs, and the student
populations they sought to serve. Raywid (1994, pp. 26-27) identifies three
types of alternative programs: remedial focus programs, last-chance
67


programs and popular innovation programs. In states such as Minnesota
and Colorado, these alternatives include Postsecondary Options Programs
for high school-age students.
Minnesota has had postsecondary options programs (second chance
options) for high school students for several years, through which Minnesota
high school students may simultaneously complete high school and college
credits. For example, my seventeen year-old niece was a full-time student at
the University of Minnesota, completing her senior high school year through
the postsecondary option program in 1996-1997; beginning her sophomore
year at the University of Minnesota fall 1997. In addition, City Academy (a
chartered school) is providing a new chance for students in St. Paul,
Minnesota, who have been lost to the public school system, to select
themselves back into public school. According to Nathan (personal
communication, October 1996), students attending the nations first
chartered school (and first re-chartered school) in St. Paul, Minnesota were
at-risk students who personally made the choice to attend the chartered
school and complete high school graduation requirements. Nathan shares
this as an example which contrasts with the Academy Charter School in
Colorado which is comprised of a student population that is self-selected
by the parents.
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An example of postsecondary options in Colorado follows. In the
early 1990s, my son, David, was able to concurrently complete high school
and college credits through the local school district Postsecondary Options
Program (PSOP). While attending a public high school, he began taking
college courses when he was 16 (with the college tuition paid by the local
school district), graduated from high school in January of his senior year,
and entered the University of Colorado at Boulder with several semester
credits. This Colorado PSOP has changed through amendments to the law,
however, and with new district-level restrictions, it has become more difficult
for a student (for example, my daughter, Sara) to be enrolled simultaneously
in high school and college classes.
Charter Schools: A Public School Choice Option
The charter schools movement was preceded by six trends in
educational policy: decentralization, deregulation, restructuring,
accountability, public school choice, and private school vouchers (Buechler,
1996). These movements in the 1990s set the conditions for change in a
public education environment that was perceived by the public as
unresponsive to the public, with no incentive to improve student
performance (p.3). Buechler views charter schools as a compromise which
links public education ideals and market place forces, while Hanushek
1
69


(1994) considers charter schools to be a specialized type of performance
contracting (p. 93). Further, Bierlein (1995) takes the position that charter
schools subscribe to the democratic ideals of the U.S. common school:
They are tuition-free, non-sectarian (non religious), nonselective in student
admissions, and nondiscriminatory on the basis of race, religion, or
disability (pp. 13-14).
Chartered schools have become key in the school reform debate.
Interest in chartering and changing the typical organization of schools and
their governance has been sparked by the writing of Budde (1988) and
Glickman (1993). Since the initial charter school legislation in Minnesota in
1991, twenty-seven additional states including Colorado (plus the District of
Columbia) have passed laws for establishing charter schools which focus on
student performance outcomes and accountability (CER, 1997; Schnaiberg,
1997a, 1997b). What question does "chartering a school" answer?
Definition of Charter
The charter, a written contract between two parties, was first
developed in 1215 as an agreement between an English king and his
barons. More recent conceptualization of a charter includes eight elements:
a grantor, a grantee with a vision, an exploration with risk-taking into
uncharted territory, competition and franchise, resources for the enterprise, a
70


defined time frame for activity to be conducted, rewards for the grantee, and
a method of accountability for results between the grantee and the grantor
(Budde, 1988). Further, Glickman (1993) defines a charter as democratic
governance, a constitution for decision making. He describes a three-part
framework for educational renewal, which includes a charter (document for
decision making), a covenant (principles of teaching/leaming), and a critical
study process (including the collection and evaluation of data concerning
program implementation and school improvement).
Definition of Charter Schools
A former Colorado State Commissioner of Education offers this
definition: a charter school is a public school operated by a group of
parents, teachers and other community members as a semi-autonomous
school of choice within a school district (Randall, 1993, p. 9). According to
the Colorado Department of Education's Charter Schools: Information
Packet, a charter school is a public school with a contract between members
of the charter school community and the school district board of education
describing school operations and governance. Essential characteristics of a
charter school are: (a) the school-centered governance, (b) a clear design
of the hows and whats of student learning, and (c) the school autonomy.
71


Charter schools are a means of expanding choices in Colorado public
schools (Colorado Department of Education, 1993, p. 1).
National Movement
Charter schools are public schools which have been granted
contracts through their sponsoring organization for a defined period of time.
Typically, this is an agreement-period of three or five years (McGree, n.d.)
after which the charter (contract) must be renegotiated. During this
renegotiation process, the success of student performance results is
evaluated. Nationally, seven charter schools had been renewed in three
states that include California, Colorado, and Minnesota by the fall of the
1996-1997 school year. All of the renewed (re-approved) charter schools
have had clear evidence that student achievement is improving (Nathan,
personal communication, October 14, 1996).
Charter schools are examples of public educational reform policy
which is loosening the exclusive franchise of school boards to create and
operate schools. In response to continuing parental desire for educational
choice in public school experiences for their children, charter schools were
first encouraged and authorized by legislation in Minnesota in 1991. The
door was opened to creating different learning communities that would be
free from some government regulations. The City Academy established in
72


Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 1992, for at-risk students, announced its first
graduates in the summer of 1993 (P. Hunter, personal communication, July
1993). Fifteen of these seventeen City Academy graduates went on to post-
high school education programs.
By 1997, twenty-seven additional states (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona,
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,
Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri,
New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) had
passed enabling legislation for charter schools (CER, 1997; Schnaiberg,
1997a, 1997b). Consistently, charter school laws have identified the need
for student performance outcomes (results) in the educational programs and
accountability (Minnesota State Senate, 1993).
State legislation can be ranked on a continuum from strong to weak,
depending on whether the legislation enables (strong) or prohibits (weak)
the creation of charter schools within the state. States with the strongest
legislation have produced the most charter schools (Bierlein & Mulholland,
1994, 1995; Kolderie, 1993,1995). In 1996, twenty-five states and the
District of Columbia had legislation authorizing the establishment of charter
schools (Nathan, 1996b). Between 1991 and 1996, the national charter
school movement progressed from one chartered school in 1992, to 95 such
I
73


schools in 1994, and 480 operating charter schools in 1996. For the 1996-
1997 school year, a reported 105,000-pius students were attending 480
chartered schools (Allen & CER, 1996a, 1996b).
The charter school movement is still young, but student achievement
data is beginning to surface. In Colorado, for example, information on the
noteworthy progress of children in chartered schools with a core
knowledge-based curriculum was reported in the Big City Press (summer
1996). Nationally, little evidence of academic achievement has been
reported and Buechler (1996) claims that on this question the charter
school research is virtually silent (p. 44). However, by fall 1996, seven
charter schools (one in Colorado, three in California, and three in
Minnesota) had their charters reapproved. In all seven cases, all chartered
schools were able to show evidence that student achievement progress had
improved (Nathan, personal communication, October 1996).
Discussing parental investment in chartered schools, McGree (n. d.)
posits that such schools, whether converted or brand-new, require
enormous investment of time, energy, and often money from parents and
teachers (paragraph 37). She states that early findings from a California
study indicate that proposals for charter schools are more likely to be
initiated, written, and implemented in communities in which parental and
community resources and expertise are readily accessible. Because these
74


California chartered schools have required the contribution of time, Hart
(1996) says that what has resulted has been a creative way of saying we
value your involvement to parents.
Colorado Movement
Charter schools in Colorado are a public school choice option which
may combine decentralization and deregulation strategies (school-site
management over budget, personnel, and curriculum and school-site
governance) with parent involvement. The 1993 Colorado Charter School
Act specifically includes parents as one group of constituents who are
enabled to create charter schools. This is in contrast with the 1991
Minnesota charter school legislation which enabled teachers and school
personnel to charter schools in that state, and California legislation which
enables both conversion and start-up charter schools (Hart, 1996).
According to Windier, 75 percent of the charter schools operating in
Colorado during the 1995-1996 school year had been chartered by parents
(personal communication, October 1995).
During the 1993-94 school year, the first two Colorado charter
schools were established, Academy Charter School in Douglas County and
Connect School serving children in rural Pueblo School District 70. During
the 1994-1995 school year, fourteen charter schools were up and running.
75


By the 1995-1996 school year, 24 charter schools had been established in
Colorado. Thirty-two charter schools were operating in the fall of 1996, one
charter school had its charter reapproved, and litigation was pending
between one chartering group and the sponsoring board of education.
During the 1996-1997 school year, additional chartered schools in several
Colorado schooi districts had been rechartered for three- or five-year
periods, and the litigious situation between one school district and the
chartering group had been resolved. Approximately 17 more charter
schools have been approved for future opening, in the fall of 1997 or later (J.
Griffin, personal communication, April 1997). Many of these schools in
Colorado have been chartered by parents and community members, some
of the schools are serving at-risk student populations, and a variety of
curriculum foci are evidenced. Examples of curriculum foci or models
include core knowledge curriculum, High/Scope curriculum, global focus,
and small school (Colorado League of Charter Schools, personal
communication, fall 1995).
According to John Evans (state board of education member), there
was a charter school in Byers, Colorado in 1876 that contracted for
educational services through the Byres superintendent of schools. This was
a local school run by parents; a parent and family-driven charter school.
Evans (1996) contrasts this picture of contracting for services with one
76


modem 1996 charter school in one public school district. The modem
charter school, also a parent-family-driven school, was housed in rented
retail space with a playground area of less than 100 feet of gravel, dirt, rocks,
and glass. Typically, the classrooms at this modem charter school housed
18 children in small, crowded classroom space with inadequate lighting and
old desks. Dr. Evans compared this school setting to the typical school
building in the sponsoring school district, housing 30 students per class, in
well-lighted and equipped facilities. According to Evans, with some
chartered schools in Colorado in 1996, there was a separate and unequal
school system in terms of facilities for the children in the school district.
Colorado Senate Bill 93-183. The Charter Schools Act of 1993
Following the Charter Schools Act of 1993, parents, school
personnel, and community members can unite to identify guiding principles
for their school and methodologies for program implementation and
monitoring. Under the charter, the school site can have total responsibility
for decisions about curriculum, budget, and personnel. Special waivers can
be designated in the agreement between the chartering group and the
school district (sponsor) through the application process. These waivers,
however, apply only to state and local school district policies and
procedures; federal regulations cannot be waived.
77


By 1997, as many as sixty charter schools may be established;
sixteen of these schools must be designed to meet the needs of at-risk
students (Colorado Department of Education, 1996b). Chartered schools
must be nonsectarian and nondiscriminatory institutions, and cannot be
home-based. In addition, public monies for school operation follow the child
from the home school district. For example, if the Per Pupil Operating
Revenue (PPOR) for the district amounts to $4800, at least 80 percent of this
amount must be funneled to the charter school. In some Colorado school
districts, 100 percent of the PPOR follows the child to the charter school; in
other school districts, the PPOR following the child is 80 percent of the
district PPOR or a negotiated percentage.
Under Colorado statute, the charter must delineate the following; (a)
school goals, (b) educational program design, c) standards, and (d) school
governance and operations. The charter applicants and the school district
negotiate the amount of autonomy allowed on issues such as personnel,
curriculum, and facilities. Specific elements must be addressed in the
charter application: statement of need, mission statement, goals and
objectives, evidence of support, educational program and standards, plan
for evaluating student performance, budget and administrative audit, student
and staff displacement, school governance and operation, liability and
78


insurance, transportation, employee relations, admission process for
students, and waivers (Colorado Department of Education, 1993).
In essence, a charter school is a public school within a school district
that has a separate governance board making decisions at the school-site.
According to Bill Porter, former educational aide to Governor Romer,
Colorado parents and school personnel have been set free with this reform
policycreativity has been unleashed. He takes the position that what is
already happening with charters, given all the constraints of the law, makes
it more amazing (personal communication, April 12,1994).
Table 2.1, Colorado Charter Schools, presents a picture of schools
operating in terms of school model or focus, grade or school level, number of
students, parent or community involvement, and student results. This
information was compiled from Colorado League of Charter Schools and
Colorado Department of Education (1996a, 1996b, 1996c) data.
79


Table 2.1
Colorado Charter Schools (1995-1996)
School Educational Focus, llodtl, Thmw or SpscisI Population Grade or School Laval Number ot Students parent or Community mvoiwnavn Student Results
A "school witnout walls 6-8 110
B core Knowledge curriculum K-8 >310 governance stiucturefelected parents nign academic standards
c Paiaeia model K-10 353 university involvement
D "nigh standards ana individual success 6-9 160 couage involvement learning contracts
E student-cantered, self- directed learning 6-8 60 ilp (individualized Learning Plan)
F college-preparatory K-12 42D personalized learning
Q coueoe-preoaraiorv frl 1 125-500
H competency-oased (targets qrfted as at-risk) 1-6 175 personal learning Plan
I Higrvscope cumculumftargets at-risk) P-3 104 parent involvement emphasis
j academic stanaards/smai class size 5*7 84-128 personalized educational plan
K core Knowledge curriculum K*6 1SB
L innovative small scnoor aiamantaiv s
M E.D. Hlrsch model (fork-fe students) X12 3HJ
N core knowledge K-7 206 academic focus
O multi-age, mum-lingual classes elementary parent volunteer requirement
p modified paideia (targets at- risk) yis 120 aty sponsor "comprehensive competencies program
Q "world culture" K-12 72-140 community and university involvement
H uroan learning community aqe610-15 60
s Core Knowledge KS ' TOO parent involvement
t learning laboratory tor mastery of basic skills* K-5 13b iiitp (individually Guided Educational Plan)
u "ngorous academic environment" K-4 17-45
v "personalized schoofinq" K-8 115
w Tnastery of fundamentals/ core curriculum* K-6 900 parent-school contract
X "academic excellence" K-9 36 individual learning plans
Note. Colorado League of Charter Schools document dated 4/26/96; Colorado Department
of Education document on charter schools, 1996a, 1996c. Table includes chartered
schools operating in 1995-1996 school year.
Charter Schools Research Base
Charter school research between 1992 and 1996 focused on state
legislation and the challenges and opportunities for policy implementation
80


impacting the individual state (Arizona, California, Colorado, Minnesota,
Pennsylvania), examination of policy implementation after four years
(Buechler, 1996), legislative analysis of multiple charter school laws in
relation to the issue of autonomy (Wohlstetter, Wennig, & Brigggs, 1995),
legislative analysis with the purpose of identifying a model for charter school
legislation (Millot, 1996) and a charter school model (Biertein & Mulholland,
1994), report on charter school instructional program characteristics,
autonomy, accountability, and challenges (United States General
Accounting Office, 1995), survey of 110 charter schools (Education
Commission of the States & Center for School Change, 1995) and analysis
of start-up issues facing those choosing to charter a school (Finn, Manno, &
Bierlein, 1996).
In an early policy brief, Amsler and Mulholland (1992) discuss charter
schools within the context of (a) the chartering idea, (b) charter school
examples, (c) issues related to policy implementation (teacher concerns,
district level concerns, funding concerns, admission policy concerns), and
(d) state and national activity related to charter school development. The
authors view charter schools as a new vision for school reform that provides
the opportunity for student, parent, and teacher empowerment.
The purpose of the 1993 study of Californias charter schools,
following one year of policy implementation, was to examine the evolution of
81


the charter schools, to identify the innovations adopted by such schools, and
to determine the impact of charter schools on public education in California.
Data for the study were collected through surveys of California charter
schools and their charter sponsors. During the fall of 1993, 44 schools in
California had received charter numbers from the state (Dianda & Corwin,
1993, p. 51). Surveys were mailed to the 44 schools and their 27
sponsoring agencies. Response rates were as follows: 77 percent for the
charter schools and 78 percent for the sponsoring agencies. According to
the authors, the study findings suggest several trends:
1. Sponsoring agencies (school districts) resisted charter schools that were
seeking independence. Dianda and Corwin (1993) found that in 1993 only
a limited number of the charter schools were autonomous.
2. Obstacles for chartering were more difficult for metropolitan schools than
schools in small towns or rural communities.
3. Charter schools chose to remain associated with teachers unions, but
the relationships were strained.
4. Parents were actively involved in charter school policy implementation,
especially in new-start schools (p. 55). Parent roles included developing
charters, volunteering in school activities, signing formal contracts for time
commitment at the school, responsibilities in school governance, and
classroom instruction.
82


5. Students who were identified as low-achievers or at-risk were more likely
to be served in metropolitan schools. The study found that many of the
charter schools did not target this population of students.
Study data also indicate that the charter schools had limited impact on the
school district in terms of the initiation of changes That eventually ripple into
disproportionately broader effects (Dianda & Corwin, 1993, p. 56) for the
school district.
Dianda and Corwin (1994) found that parent involvement in charter
schools was higher than in other schools included in the district survey (74
percent of charter schools). Becker, Nakagawa, and Corwin (1995) also
studied parent involvement in charter schools and their comparison public
schools. Becker et al. (1995) report that the contractual agreement with
parents (student can be expelled if parent does not fulfill obligation of
involvement) can be viewed as a sorting measure-bias against those
parents who (through choice) cannot or will not be involved.
The California study of charter schools and parental involvement
(Becker, Nakagawa, and Corwin, 1995) focused on the issue of parent
involvement (specifically, parent contracts) as potential barriers to
enrollment of the child in charter schools. The authors used document
review (parent contracts used in the charter schools) and survey data (from
23 charter schools and comparison schools in the same communities) for
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