Factors Affecting the Outcomes of Charter School Renewal Decisions in Arizona
AuthorThompson, Hugh Currie IV
AdvisorBennett, Jeffrey V.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractBackground: A great deal of research on charter schools has examined the neoliberal origins of charter schools, the academic performance of charter school students, charter school governance, and the balance between autonomy and accountability. However, there is a lack of research that has investigated the formal processes by which the accountability side of the equation is carried out, particularly in the area of charter renewal. No study has yet analyzed the weight given to factors used by charter authorizers in making high-stakes accountability decisions, and to whether modifying variables related to the population served impact the outcomes of these decisions. Also, while some studies have looked at charter school operations through the lens of institutional theory, no study has yet looked at changes made by charter operators in the face of high-stakes authorizer scrutiny, and whether those changes may impact the outcomes of the decisions. Purpose: To examine the factors explicitly considered by the board of the largest charter authorizer in the U.S., and determine whether the outcomes have been consistent with the established criteria, whether the outcomes show evidence of being affected by the nature of the population served by the charter school, and to look for evidence that changes suggested by institutional theory have an predictive value in understanding the outcomes of high-stakes authorizer decisions. Setting: Charters in Arizona authorized and considered for renewal by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools (ASBCS, the Board) during the period from June 2010 to November 2012. Participants: 117 Arizona charters granted by the ASBCS which were considered by for renewal during the study period. Research Design: Quantitative study. Data Collection and Analysis: Data were collected from the public records provided to the Board during the period of operation leading up to renewal, and provided to the Board during the renewal consideration. Analysis was conducted using multinomial logistic regression analysis with the IBM SPSS 22 statistical software package. Findings: Academic performance over the years immediately preceding the renewal consideration and the number of compliance actions taken over that same period significantly predicted whether the outcome of the renewal decision would be renewal without conditions, renewal with conditions, or denial. Several factors which had been suggested by the literature as having predictive value, including improvement in academic performance and financial viability, did not prove to have significant predictive value. Certain factors related to the population served by the charter, including socioeconomic status, grades served, and size of the school population, had predictive value in ways that generally supported the literature. Mimetic isomorphic changes as identified in this study did not prove to have significant predictive value regarding the outcome of the renewal decision. Findings regarding consistently low performing schools and the overturning of denial decisions on appeal lead to questions regarding the market efficacy assumptions made by neoliberal charter proponents. Conclusions: This study reinforces the importance of charter authorizers having clear, measureable criteria for high-stakes decisions, and for charter operators to understand those criteria and how they affect the operations of the schools.
Degree ProgramGraduate College