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PHILOSOPHIES OF EDUCATION OF ADMINISTRATORS
IN DEMOGRAPHICALLY MATCHED CHARTER AND
PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF ONE FLORIDA COUNTY
MONA T. HEGARTY
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
This study could not have been conducted without the cooperation of the
twelve principals and two directors who unselfishly gave their time to participate.
My heartfelt thanks go to this group of educators.
My appreciation goes to my committee chairpersons, Dr. Paul George and
Dr. David Honeyman for their encouragement, enthusiasm, and willingness to
work with me although an ocean separated us. Thanks also go to my wonderful
committee members Dr. James Doud, Dr. Francis Vandiver, and Dr. Walter
Busby for their accessibility and sound advice.
My gratitude extends to a dream team support group in this thesis
endeavor: my brother, Dr. Alan Teck; Dr. Beree Darby; Angela Rowe; Dr. Karen
Castor-Dentel; Miriam Pacheco; Dr. Katherine Gratto; Eileen and Melissa
Swearingen; and the Atlantic Design and Construction family. Without them this
work could not have been completed.
The love of my family, Eugene, Erinna, Galen, and Evan Hegarty and Dr.
Lisa Tichenor, makes it possible for me to follow my dreams wherever they may
Finally, thanks to my mother Sue Teck and my late father, Jack Teck, for
providing loving guidance and a firm foundation in my life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................... ............ ............. ii
ABSTRACT.................. ...... ........ .... ...... v
1 INTRODUCTION........................ ................. 1
Statement of the Problem........................ ..... 2
Purpose of the Study................... ..... ........ 4
Delimitation......................... ...................... 6
Lim itations......................................... 6
Significance of the Study......................... ..... 7
Definition of Terms............................. ............ 8
2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE............................ 10
Philosophy, Education, and the Philosophy of
Education............................... ........... ......... 10
Educational Philosophies............................ ......... 13
The Need for Educators to Clarify Their Own
Educational Philosophies................... ...... 24
Uncovering Philosophies in Schools...................... 27
Philosophical Debates of the Twentieth Century........ 29
Other Research on Educational Philosophy Related
to School Choice............................... ......... 33
Situating Charter Schools in the Historical, Political,
and Philosophical Context of Education in the
United States................... ............. 34
Charter School Defintions............................. 40
The Growth of Charter Schools.............................. 42
Federal Charter Schools Legislation....................... 44
Florida Charter Schools Legislation......................... 45
Florida's Academic Accountability........................... 46
The Public's Attitude Toward Schools: Public and
Charter............................. .................. ............. 47
Some Charter School Issues and Debates................ 48
3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY................................. 76
Introduction............... ..... ... ............. 76
Purpose and Hypothesis..................... ........ 76
Research Participants........................ ............ 77
Instrumentation....................... ................... 77
Statistical Methods................................ 81
Qualitative Data Collection............................. ....... 82
The Interview Process.................. ...... ...... 83
Qualitative Data Analysis...................................... 87
4 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION............................... 89
Introduction.......................... ...................... 89
Descriptive Information........................... ........ 90
Quantitative Results.............................. ........ 90
Qualitative Findings................... ....... ...... ........ 97
Summary of Findings......................... ............ 111
5 DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS............... 113
Introduction....................................... .............. 113
Additional Limitations Found in this Study.................. 113
Discussion of Implications...................... ............ 115
Recommendations................... ...... .. ...... 120
A INFORMED CONSENT.................. ...... ............. 122
B DEMOGRAPHIC MATCHING CHARTER AND PUBLIC
SCHOOLS............................ .. .......... 124
C PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION INVENTORY........... 125
D ADMINISTRATOR INTERVIEW GUIDES................. 155
E INTERVIEW CATEGORIES.................. ............. 164
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH................................ ............... 179
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements of Doctor of Philosophy
PHILOSOPHIES OF EDUCATION OF ADMINISTRATORS
IN DEMOGRAPHICALLY MATCHED CHARTER AND
PUBLIC SCHOOLS OF ONE FLORIDA COUNTY
Mona T. Hegarty
Chairmen: Dr. Paul S. George and David S. Honeyman
Major Department: Educational Leadership, Policy, and Foundations
The purpose of this study was to examine differences among philosophies
of education of leaders in charter schools compared to leaders in
demographically matched public schools in one medium-sized school district in
north central Florida. Based on the Philosophy of Education Inventory (PEI)
(Zinn, 1997) the following null hypothesis was tested:
There are no significant differences in the average scores of public and
charter school principals on the five philosophical scales measured by the
Six charter schools were operating in this school district. These six were
matched with six public schools for a total sample size of twelve participants.
Demographic matching considered the percentage of students eligible to receive
free- or reduced-price lunch and the percentage of Hispanic and African-
To investigate this question, both quantitative and qualitative methods
were used. The quantitative component consisted of applying criteria in the PEI
to all administrators included in the study. A repeated measures analysis of
variance was performed to test significance of differences among means on the
two groups: charter and public. Repeated measures on each of the five
philosophies were applied to determine whether or not there were interactions.
Specific contrasts were also planned for instances when main effects were
The qualitative component was comprised of collecting data from multiple
sources: informal observations at selected school sites, structured interviews with
all participants, structured interviews with a board member and the director of
charter schools for the school district, and document reviews.
The findings indicated no significant difference in the philosophies of
charter and public school administrators. Furthermore, both groups preferred the
behavioral education and progressive education philosophies. Observations,
interviews, and document reviews indicated differences in administrators' abilities
to align school operations with their philosophies of education. Most charter
school administrators believed they were able to put their philosophy of
education into action more easily due to the size of the operation, hiring
practices, ability to supervise directly financial decisions, and closer proximity to
staff and constituents.
The launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the report of the National Commission
on Excellence in Education (1983) sharply increased interest in alternatives to
traditional public school education. Since those early concerns about the quality
of our education system, educational critics, reformers, and the public at large
have suggested that our public schools have failed to meet the needs of at least
some of the students they serve (Futrell, 1989; Granowsky, 2000; National
Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Ravitch, 1983; Stevenson &
Stigler, 1992). In the final years of the 20th century, alternative visions of
education continued to proliferate (Cline & Witte, 1990; Fuller & Elmore, 1996;
Rawson, 1992; Steel & Levin, 1994). One such vision, the charter school
movement was tentatively outlined in the1970s by Budde (Liu, 1999). It was later
proposed in 1988 by the late president of the American Federation of Teachers,
Albert Shanker. By 1996, it had grown to an estimated 226 schools nationwide,
serving approximately 28,000 students (American Federation of Teachers, 1996).
By 1998, more than 800 charter schools existed (Nathan, 1998). At the turn of
the century, 2000 charter schools were serving more than 430,000 children
(Center for Educational Reform, 2000). These schools presumably reflected a
variety of beliefs that represented the values, beliefs, and attitudes of their
founders (Liu, 1999; Matwick, 1996; Othus, 1998).
In both the public school and charter school setting, educational leaders
must make a variety of decisions. Beliefs about the purpose of education provide
a basis for selecting instructional content, establishing teaching and learning
objectives, selecting and developing instructional materials, interacting with
learners, and assessing educational outcomes. The view that theory cannot be
separated from practice was widely supported in the literature (Cuffaro, 1995;
Nespor & Garrison, 1992). An educator's belief system, whether well formulated
or only vaguely recognized, whether understood explicitly or implicitly, served as
an interpretive filter that directed that person's actions (Barth, 1990; Bolman &
Deal, 1997; Drake & Row, 1999; Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 1996). Even
though a person's life philosophy was ever-changing, accommodating new
experiences and needs, those philosophical beliefs provided a framework by
which to live and act.
There are historically recognized positive correlations between beliefs and
actions in the literature of psychological theory, values clarification, and
educational theory. Thus, it was believed that there might be value in comparing
the philosophy of educational leaders in charter schools with the philosophies of
educational leaders in demographically matched public schools.
Statement of the Problem
Proliferation of charter schools nationwide has resulted in numerous
concerns. Critics decried the diverting of public school dollars to charter schools,
and cited gaps in financial, academic, and equity accountability (Dygraff & Lewis,
1998; Furtwengler, 1998; Hawley, 1996; McKinney, 1996; Medler &
Nathan,1995; Molnar,1996a; Tyack,1992). Supporters cited school choice and a
match between stakeholders' educational philosophies and the philosophy of the
charter school of choice as an optimum condition for achieving desired academic
outcomes (Nathan, 1996; Page & Levine, 1996). Philosophical arguments
appeared on both sides in educational journals and in the mainstream media.
The increasing incidence of school choice rather than compulsory assignment
indicated the need for more research into differences in those two public
The increase in the number of charter schools prompted researchers to
study potential improvements that charter schools might contribute. Schools at
the start of the 21st century faced new demands and new kinds of students
(Morris, 1992). Inquiring into educational leaders' values, goals, beliefs, and
vision as expressed in their educational philosophies for their schools seemed a
viable starting point to increase understanding.
Hoyle, English, and Steffy (1998) expressed the need for every school
leader to have a well-defined educational philosophy in order to make decisions
that might not be handled through skill and knowledge alone. Comparing the
philosophies of charter school educational leaders to demographically similar
public school educational leaders in the same area was expected to extend the
knowledge base concerning what philosophies were operating in charter and
public schools. It was also expected to define, interpret, and further elucidate the
diversity within the charter school movement and between charter and traditional
public schools. Stereotypes of schools may have prevented public school parents
from making informed decisions. Research was needed so that the public would
be better educated about the diversity that existed within the public schools.
Central problems to understanding the nature of charter schools included
understanding the concept of charters and how their goals, curricula, and
methodologies reflected philosophies that might differ from traditional schools.
There was also a need for traditional public schools to identify more specifically
the educational practices at work in their schools, so that they too might more
clearly formulate a coherent philosophy that could be communicated to the public
Charter schools were public schools mainly founded by what Adler (1997)
termed "intrapreneurial" citizens. These were people who valued innovation and
had a passion for quality education and new ways of thinking. Originally, charter
schools were conceived as a way of bringing families into the process of learning
(Becker, Nakagawa, & Corwin, 1995). Another view (Budde, 1988) was that
groups of teachers within schools, who held a similar philosophy, would negotiate
a contract with their school board to create and implement educational
innovations in a school-within-a-school setting.
Amsler (1992) claimed that Budde had originated the school-within-a-
school model, one of the major educational innovations at the close of the 20th
century that continued into the 21st century. Charter schools could be viewed as
an extension of that movement as they prompted individuals, teachers, parents,
a group of individuals, a municipality, or a legal entity organized under the laws of
a state to propose a charter school (Florida's Charter School Legislation-1999
Version). In each of the 37 states with charter legislation, pre-existing public
schools could convert to charter status (RPP International, 2000).
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine differences among philosophies
of education of leaders in charter schools compared to leaders in
demographically matched public schools. Based on the Philosophy of Education
Inventory (PEI) (Zinn, 1997) the following null hypothesis was tested:
There are no significant differences in the average scores of public and
charter school principals on the five philosophical scales measured by the
One medium-size school district in north central Florida was selected, and
schools were demographically matched using two criteria: (a) the percentage of
students eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches, a standard measure
used to determine socio-economic status (SES); and (b) ethnicity-the
percentage of African-American and Hispanic students (see Appendix B for
demographic matching of participants' school populations used in this study).
The selection of the educational leader focused on the principal of the public
school matched with an educator of similar standing in the charter school,
presumably the director.
Statistical analysis was employed to identify philosophical preferences of
educational leaders in each type of school: public and charter. Descriptive
statistics were generated. Differences were analyzed among educational leaders'
philosophies within the traditional and charter school settings and between the
settings. The percentage of educational leaders expressing no clear
philosophical preference, or expressing conflicting philosophical preferences,
was calculated. Follow-up interviews were conducted to deepen the
understanding of philosophies revealed by the PEI.
The following delimitation existed in this study:
The sample was restricted to educational leaders of public and charter
schools in one school district. The findings and conclusions of this study are
generalizable only to this population.
The following limitations existed in this study:
1. The primary support for a positive correlation between beliefs, values,
and attitudes as expressed in an educational philosophy to actions is
theoretical rather than empirical.
2. Identification of one's personal philosophy of education did not
represent a definitive statement that would hold true for all time
because belief systems and philosophies are often eclectic and
3. The sample under study included only those who agreed to participate
in completing both the PEI and the follow up interview.
4. No statistical testing of external validity on the PEI existed.
5. The small sample size for this study diluted the power of the
statistical analysis. With only 12 participants, detection of
hypothesized differences between group means on the five
subscale scores of the PEI was unlikely.
Significance of the Study
The major thesis of the study was that examining the philosophies of
educational leaders in the traditional public school and charter school sectors, as
measured by the PEI would lead to a greater understanding of the purposes and
processes of those leading these educational institutions and would illuminate
the diversity that existed. Revealing whether differences in philosophy actually
existed and what those differences were would provide a deeper understanding
of the importance of the charter school institution.
Clarifying and describing various educational philosophies held by
leaders in the two settings of a Florida school district had not been done
previously and would expand the available knowledge about what diversity in
philosophies existed in public schools. Follow-up interviews with educational
leaders completing the PEI questionnaire in both public and charter schools
provided further definition and clarification of similarities and differences among
those educators' philosophies. The study increased awareness among Florida's
consumers of public education for the need to question their assumptions about
the types of public schools available in their area and the need to request precise
information concerning the philosophies and educational practices employed at
Definition of Terms
Charter schools are defined by The State of Charter Schools 2000:
Fourth-Year Report (RPP International, 2000) as
public schools that come into existence through a contract with either a
state agency or a local school board. The charter--or contract-
establishes the framework within which the school operates and provides
public support for the school for a specified period of time. The school's
charter gives the school autonomy over its operation and frees the school
from regulations that other public schools must follow. In exchange for the
flexibility afforded by the charter, the schools are held accountable for
achieving the goals set out in the charter including student performance.
In this report the use of the word public school will refer to non-charter
public schools. These schools will also be referred to as regular or traditional
public schools to further clarify the comparison of public charter schools with
regular or traditional public schools.
Comprehensive education refers to a philosophy of education also known
as perennialism. All students take the same subject-centered curriculum which
promotes high academic standards in broad areas of practical value: the three
R's and problem solving at the elementary level. At the secondary level,
language, literature, fine arts, mathematics, natural sciences, history, and
geography. This striving for excellence in education eliminated elective course
Behavioral education refers to an educational philosophy that is subject-
centered but that allows for adjustment of quantity and rate of content
presentation based on the learner's capacity. Ability grouping to facilitate mastery
of essential skills is permitted, as is partial credit for a limited number of elective
courses. There is an emphasis on routine evaluation of program effectiveness
and on setting goals and assessing progress toward goals.
Progressive education refers to an educational philosophy that is student-
centered. This approach encourages cooperation among students for the
purpose of developing responsible citizens in a democratic society. Rather than
concentrating on a fixed body of knowledge, the emphasis is on how to think.
Teachers act as guides in this active-learning process. Community service
projects, multicultural education, drug-abuse awareness, and sex education are
part of the curriculum.
Humanistic education refers to an educational philosophy that is student-
centered. The goal of this approach is the self-actualization of each student. The
emphasis is on the psychological needs of students and requires teachers to be
facilitators and helpers, mutual participants in the teaching-learning exchange.
The curriculum includes independent study; personalized, self-directed learning;
and self-assessment, with existential education representing the liberal end of
the humanistic education continuum.
Social change education refers to an educational philosophy that
emphasizes a partnership between students and teachers for the purpose of
transforming society. The emphasis is on knowledge as power. It is a society-
centered philosophy which seeks to raise consciousness about social, economic,
environmental, and political injustice and to promote student autonomy and
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
This chapter reviews literature relating to two areas. The first section
presents literature pertaining to philosophy as applied to the practice of
education, an overview of the main philosophies, and the need of educational
leaders to clarify their own educational philosophies.
The second section presents a historical overview of the development of
charter schools and accompanying legislation. Definitions, characteristics, facts,
research, and issues and debates follow.
Philosophy, Education, and the Philosophy of Education
Students of philosophy have long grappled with issues of fundamental
significance. Indeed, the role of philosophy was, and continues to be, to raise
questions in the continual search for wisdom and meaning (Langer, 1959).
Philosophy encouraged reflection and attempted to make sense of universal
issues. Any research study had key elements that required philosophical thought.
The term philosophy was itself an evolving concept. In antiquity, any
systematic study was known as philosophy. Later philosophical discussions
revolved around questions of what was real (metaphysics), and what was
knowable (epistemology) (O'Neill, 1981). Overtime, definitions of philosophy
were broadened to include questions of truth and value. Values, ideas, and
opinions of individuals or groups became the more common definition.
Philosophy became associated with the idea of a personal orientation to the
world: the meanings a person assigned to events, the values to which he
aspired, and the standards that guided his choices (Kaplan, 1961). Philosophy
was inseparable from living experience, as people tried to express their beliefs
about their lives and their relationship to the rest of life (Brameld, 1955; Langer,
1959; Kaplan, 1961). The manner in which people organized their thoughts and
their facts in an effort to see life in its fullest perspective expressed each person's
personal philosophy (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998).
Educational scholars such as John Dewey (1916) argued against the
tendency to separate thought and emotion, the cognitive from the affective.
Adhering to earlier definitions of philosophy, which included emotion, Dewey
supported the position that internalized philosophies represented a formulation of
views that acted as a guide to an individual's approach to the difficulties of
Some philosophers believed that discussions of philosophy could not be
separated from discussions of education (Goodlad, 1984). They categorized
philosophy of education as a branch of philosophy, which dealt with the practice
of education. Society was made up of individuals, and education was seen as
taking one's place in society (McClellan, 1976). Education was sometimes self-
guided, institutionally guided, and even unguided (Dewey, 1916). That western
society had long been conducting philosophical debates concerning the duality of
society versus the individual was acknowledged by both Goodlad (1984) and
Dewey (1916) with Dewey stating, "we not only wish to make [good] citizens and
workers, but also we want to make human beings who will live life to the fullest"
All members of society were to some extent associated with education as
learners, teachers, parents, and citizens. Thus, all were at some time engaged in
philosophizing about education. A philosophy of education was viewed as a set
of beliefs about education (Apps, 1973; Brameld, 1955). Education simply meant
"growth," and the meaning that growth had for the individual and society
(Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998). For others, the application of philosophical method
and outlook to the educational experience included the search for concepts that
would coordinate various aspects of education into a comprehensive scheme. A
philosophy of education sought to clarify meanings in educational terminology
and to illuminate basic premises underlying statements about education (Phenix,
Although some educational theorists, such as McClellan (1976), rejected
as synonymous the words "schooling" and "education," the inextricable
association of the concepts of teaching and learning could not be overlooked.
Education did imply the intentional guiding (teaching) of the development of
people (learning) by themselves or others. In the latter half of the 20th century,
personal becoming added concepts of direction and intention to discussions of
development and group process in education, (Phenix, 1958).
This study made use of existing categories of educational philosophies in
order to study how educational leaders assessed their own frameworks, with the
possibility of delineating their preferences for themselves and others. Although
there were many possible classifications, the organization of educational
philosophies presented here began with the work of Elias and Merriam from their
book Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education (1980). The instrument used
in this study, the Philosophy of Education Inventory (PEI) (Zinn,1997), reprinted
with permission of the publisher, was based on their work.
Behaviorism was more often presented in discussions of psychology than
in philosophy. Psychology provided explanations of the teaching and learning
process. Behaviorism as a psychology underlying learning theory encompassed
aspects of stimulus-response and reinforcement. The behavioral scientist, B. F
Skinner, attempted to apply those theories to the classroom, emphasizing
reinforcement and rewards, frequent feedback, practice and drill, modeling,
praise, diagnosis of competency, and reteaching.
Philosophical discussions of appropriate instructional content were absent
in most discussions of behaviorism. However, Elias and Merriam (1980) and Zinn
(1997) alluded to the aim of the behavioral educational system as the survival of
individuals and of society. A back-to-basics curriculum most often characterized
behavioral educational programs (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998). The role of the
teacher in this process was central. According to Skinner (1968), the teacher
arranged contingencies of reinforcement in a sequenced, procedural manner, in
order to arrive at specific terminal behaviors. The teacher was to design an
environment which elicited desired behavior toward meeting goals and aimed at
extinguishing undesirable behavior, mainly through systematic rewards.
Curriculum literature spoke of behavioral objectives with measurable
outcomes in terms of observable behavior expected of students after instruction
(Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998).Vocational education, job skills, programmed
learning, mastery learning, ability grouping, and competency-based instruction
stressed evaluation and accountability. Various methods of individualizing
instruction were included in discussions of behavioral education. Behavioral
education was subject centered and teacher directed.
The Sputnik era precipitated the most conservative approaches to a
behavioral curriculum. Proponents of behavioral education included William
Bagley, Arthur Bestor, and Admiral Hyman Rickover. Rickover (1958) wrote, "For
all children, the educational process must be one of collecting factual knowledge
to the limit of their absorptive capacity" (p. 61). Rickover suggested that only
students' hard work and discipline would result in attainment of high standards.
He did not believe there was any way to make such work more palatable. Bestor
(1955) decried the increasing tendency of schools to focus on adolescents'
problems and societal concerns, thus redirecting attention away from intellectual
development of students.
Recognizing and rewarding academic excellence reflected the behaviorist
component of the excellence movement begun in the 1980's. This was
evidenced in several policy reports, the two best known being the A Nation at
Risk report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) and
the America 2000: An Educational Strateqy Report (U. S. Department of
Education, 1991), both of which again directed Americans' attention to what was
known as a "back to basics" curriculum. Additionally, Theodore Sizer in Horace's
Compromise (1984) emphasized the need for high schools to eliminate social
promotion, and to demand mastery of "solid" subjects like English, history,
science, and mathematics. Finally, E. D. Hirsch's (1987) book Cultural Literacy
focused on specific information and the knowledge of culturally relevant facts,
instead of on processes or teaching students how to think. The basis of Hirsch's
argument lay in the need to enculturate America's young, to transmit shared
knowledge and values in order to shape our emerging society.
Incentives for increasing student achievement, as well as for rewarding
high quality teachers, were an important part of the emphasis on higher
standards. U. S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, in his "Sixth Annual
State of American Education Speech" (1999), spoke of the new academic
standards being put in place in 48 states. Specifically, Secretary Riley mentioned
several states that had seen "test scores rise because of their commitment to
high standards, vigorous assessments, and increased accountability" (p. 2). As
the main focus of his address, Secretary Riley stated that the task of getting
those standards into the classrooms was the job of the nation's teaching force.
Comprehensive education was considered a traditional and conservative
philosophy. It was rooted in realism and was historically the oldest and most
conservative of the educational philosophies. Proponents of comprehensive
education based their educational goals on their belief that human nature was
constant. By careful training of the intellect, the rational person would be
developed and would be able to uncover universal truths, which comprehensive
educationalists believed existed as universal knowledge and cherished values of
society. They believed in knowledge that had stood the test of time and relied on
certain studies that comprised our intellectual heritage and that developed
intellectual power (Adler, 1982; Wiles & Bondi, 1993). Efforts were directed
toward developing a "Renaissance person," one who sought knowledge for its
own sake. The great books of the Western world, ones that covered the
foundations of Western thought and its scientific and cultural knowledge, would
be read and discussed. In turn, the mind and intellect of the student would be
cultivated. At the elementary level, the three Rs, listening, speaking, observing,
measuring, estimating, and problem solving would form the basis of a liberal arts
and science curriculum. At the secondary level, language, literature, fine arts,
mathematics, natural sciences, history, and geography would comprise the core,
and only, curriculum. There would be no credit given for vocational subjects or
any of the traditional electives that comprehensive educationalists believed had
diluted education and deprived youth of engagement with the great ideas of the
past (Adler, 1982; Wiles & Bondi, 1993; Zinn,1997).
Advocates of comprehensive education, Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler,
and Allan Bloom, decried cultural relativism (Adler, 1982; Bloom, 1987; Hutchins,
1953). They sought the re-establishment of a curriculum with high academic
standards and a subject-centered curriculum that included broad areas of
practical value in developing intellectual skills for the purpose of promoting
educational depth. Excellence in education would require that all students take
the same curriculum and that quality teaching be provided for all students.
Fundamental subjects and intellectual skills would lead to a higher level of
learning, reflection, and awareness. Adler in The Paideia Proposal: An
Educational Manifesto (1982) urged schools to spend more time teaching about
concepts and their meaning for students and about the processes by which
scientific truths had been discovered. In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan
Bloom (1987) contended that American society was heading for educational
nihilism on a national level. Bloom believed that by emphasizing equity and
equality in education, excellence was sacrificed.
Progressivism described the reform movement that was advanced at the
turn of the 20th century. The roots of educational progressivism were reflected in
the writings of Horace Mann and Henry Barnard in the 19th century, and of John
Dewey (1916) in Democracy and Education. In that book, Dewey expressed his
belief that democracy and education were inextricably joined. He viewed school
as a democratic society, participatory and emergent. According to Dewey, the
purpose of school was to develop practical knowledge and problem-solving skills
for participation in society. Progressivism's focus was learner, rather than
subject-centered. Given that reality was constantly changing, Dewey dismissed
the need to concentrate on a fixed body of knowledge, preferring instead to
emphasize how to think, not what to think.
Progressivists' believed that students should be active learners. Dewey
(1916) decried traditional education's, "method of imposition from the side of the
teacher and reception, [and] absorption from the side of the pupil" (p. 36).
Students were often involved in collaboration, active inquiry, and experience-
based learning. Teachers were organizers and providers of real-life learning
experiences. Rather than being lecturers and repositors of knowledge,
progressivist teachers acted as guides in the learning process, arranging
simulations, group investigations, integrated curriculums, projects, community
service, practical experiences and field trips, all designed to promote transfer of
learning (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998; Wiles & Bondi, 1993).
The Progressive Education Association initiated a study in the 1930s
comparing almost 3,000 graduates of progressive and of traditional schools as
they made their way through college. The Eight Year Study (Sadker & Sadker,
2000) was intended to determine which type of education had been more
effective. Results favored students educated by progressive methods. Through
college those students tended to earn slightly higher grade point averages,
slightly higher grades in most fields, and slightly more academic honors. They
also were judged to be more objective and precise thinkers and to exhibit greater
intellectual curiosity and greater drive.
In the 1960s, a resurgence of interest in progressivism came from both
students and educators desiring a more relevant curriculum. Multicultural
education, sex education for social responsibility, anti-drug abuse education,
race relations, and urban problems were some of the topics to appear in the
curriculum. Individualization of education, special projects, work-study programs,
and independent studies were permitted as educational alternatives. The middle
school movement began to take root, as educators addressed developmental
differences in this population. An entirely new educational institution arose,
tailoring cognitive and affective educational experiences with a distinctly
progressive design to engage the pre- and early- adolescent student.
Progressivists united in their distaste for teacher-centered and subject-
centered learning, texts as the main source of information, memorization and drill
of facts, punitive methods of discipline, and the isolation of school from individual
and societal reality. Theodore Sizer, (1984) placed emphasis on more active
learning, while still supporting the need for students to meet fundamental
standards of literacy. Sizer believed that subject matter should be useful and
interesting to students, and at the same time should support the acquisition of
basic academic and communication skills.
Progressivists did not agree among themselves about the role of adult
authority and social controls. Boyd Bode (1938), in a book entitled Progressive
Education at the Crossroads, cautioned against a "one-sided devotion to the
child," which would deprive the child of appropriate subject matter and which
"nurtured the pathetic hope that it could find out how to educate by relying on
such notions as interests, needs, growth and freedom" (p. 128).
Humanistic education had its roots in humanistic psychology. The works
of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers helped shape what some educational
philosophers considered a separate and distinct approach to schooling.
Similarities between progressivism and humanism existed, the principle one
being that both were child-centered and promoted affective rather than cognitive
outcomes. However, as Maslow (1962) advocated, schooling should have as its
goal the production of self-actualized people. Rogers (1961) used the words total
human beings. This represented a different focus than the progressivists'
purpose of developing students who would become responsible participants in
society. Charles Silberman, in his 1971 book Crisis in the Classroom, went so far
as to charge schools with promoting docility and conformity. Instead,
independence, self-determination, freedom, autonomy, self-directedness,
openness, and authenticity were terms used to describe the goals of humanistic
In considering the needs and interests of learners, humanistic education
moved beyond the philosophy of progressive education. In humanistic education,
the psychological needs and problems of students would consume more of the
teacher's focus. In the humanistic classroom, the teacher acted as facilitator and
helper, as well as a mutual participant in the teaching-learning exchange.
Humanistic philosophy assumed highly motivated students who would be able to
take responsibility for their own learning and participate in planning their
program. A high degree of interpersonal communication and emotional
intelligence was also required of students in the humanistic learning environment
With regard to curriculum and instructional delivery systems, humanistic
and progressivist philosophy once again shared some common ground.
Independent study and collaborative learning were components of both systems.
In addition, humanistic education also included experiential learning, discovery
learning, open discussions, and open classrooms. Self-assessment was not
shared between the two philosophies, but lay solely in humanistic philosophy
In both the humanistic and the progressivist philosophies, emphasis on
affective education dominated. Teachers and educational leaders were
encouraged to personalize learning and to relate personal needs and interests to
academic experiences. Students' self-understanding and self-awareness were
primary. Rather than a passive classroom, more common to behavioral or
comprehensive education, progressive and humanistic classrooms were
expected to be active, encourage cooperation rather than competition, and avoid
overuse of textbooks or teacher-dominated instruction (Ornstein & Hunkins,
At the liberal end of the humanistic education continuum is existential
education. In this variation of humanistic education, students rely entirely on
"self-directed learning, setting their own learning objectives, and choosing their
own methods, materials, teachers, and forms of assessment" (Zinn, 1997, p. 29).
The aforementioned activities would be based on the philosophy that "learning is
natural and that children will learn on their own when they are ready" (p. 29). This
description of the child "becoming" and concomitant trust in the process were
inherent in existential philosophy.
Social Change Education
The unifying purpose of educators ascribing to this philosophy was "to
bring about through education, fundamental social, cultural, political, and
economic changes in society" (Zinn, 1997, p. 25). Radical educationalists,
reconstructionists, internationalists, and reconceptualists took different
approaches to producing changes in society. They agreed, however, that the
current compulsory education system was oppressive and that, for various
reasons, equality of opportunity through education was not achievable by all
(Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998).
Radical education and reconstructionism
Radical educationalists including John Holt, Edgar Friedenberg, Paul
Goodman, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Henry Giroux, and Peter McLauren all
expressed disdain for an authoritarian school system and with teachers who
acted as indoctrination agents for a corrupt capitalist system (Elias & Merriam,
1980; Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998). Although this interpretation may have seemed
harsh, it was important to remember that the roots of radical education lay in the
economic depression. Impatient for reform, those educationalists felt the need for
a society-centered educational philosophy. Reconstructionists such as Mario
Fantini (1986), Harold Shane (1981), and Alvin Toffler (1983) desired a
curriculum that emphasized equality, cultural pluralism, and futurism for the
purpose of promoting activism in the restructuring of society.
Internationalists and reconceptualists
Yet another subgroup of social change educators was the
internationalists. They sought an international component to the curriculum
focused on change and discussions of the world as a "global village"
characterized by common concerns. They saw the need to enhance mutual
understanding in the world community in order to promote cooperation and to
work toward world peace (Ornstein & Hunkins, 1998).
Finally, the reconceptualists represented the most recent branch of social
change educational philosophy. Those ascribing to this philosophical stance
advocated many of the progressive and humanistic approaches to education,
including learner-centered classes. However, they added a holistic dimension to
the curriculum that included linguistic, artistic, spiritual, and moral activities.
Existential concerns with expanding consciousness also found a place in this
educational philosophy. Whereas Maxine Greene and William Pinar expressed
the aspects that included psychological, philosophical, spiritual, and existential
attitudes and behavior, Michael Apple highlighted the more disturbing political,
economic, and cultural inequities that our public schools promoted. Both were
viewpoints expressing the diverse concerns of reconceptualists (Ornstein &
Given the breadth of concerns expressed by social change educational
philosophies, it was important to note areas of commonality. All expressed
agreement that the teacher should be part of an equal partnership with students,
supporting the autonomy of students, and thereby empowering them.
Consciousness-raising and social transformation were goals common to all
subgroups, with critical discussion, interaction, problem posing, and sensitivity
training proposed as methods to promote social justice education (Zinn, 1997).
The Need for Educators to Clarify Their Own Educational Philosophies
Support for the need for educators to identify their personal educational
philosophy came from literature, which included educational philosophy, values
clarification, organizational skills, and human resource development and training.
"Philosophical issues had always impacted and still do on schools and society"
(p. 31), said Ornstein and Hunkins (1998). Support for this statement was
reflected in the words of John Dewey (1916), "Philosophy may be defined as the
general theory of education" (p. 186) and "the business of philosophy was to
provide" the framework for the "aim and methods" (p. 186) of schools.
The fact that the beliefs, values and theories of educational leaders were
reflected in schools, underscored the necessity for educators to study their own
perceptions, beliefs, and values so that they might more clearly define for
themselves and others their perceptions of the world around them and explain
how they decided what is important. As Ornstein and Hunkins (1998) said
concerning the study of philosophy, "It helps us to understand who we are, why
we are, and to some extent, where we are going" (p. 31).
Philosophy provides educators, especially curriculum workers, with a
framework or frameworks for organizing schools and classrooms. It
helps them answer what schools are for, what subjects are of value, how
students learn, and what methods and materials to use. It provides them
with a framework for broad issues and tasks, such as determining the
goals of education, the content and its organization, the process of
teaching and learning, and in general what experiences and activities they
wish to stress in schools and classrooms. It also provides them with a
basis for dealing with precise tasks and for making such decisions as
what textbooks to use, how to use them, what cognitive and noncogni-
tive activities to utilize and how to utilize them, what homework to assign
and how much of it, how to test students and how to use the test
results, and what courses or subject matter to emphasize. (p. 32)
The educational leader of a school could be viewed as the head curriculum
worker in much the same way as the President of the United States holds the title
of Chief of the Armed Forces. He makes the final call.
The importance of basing curricular decisions grounded in one's
philosophy was well expressed by Hopkins (1941), "Philosophy has entered into
every important decision that has ever been made about curriculum and teaching
in the past and will continue to be the basis of every important decision in the
future" (p. 198). Philosophy as it interacted with curriculum decisions continued
to be a topic of study at the close of the 20th century. Research on The
Relationship of Educational Philosophy to the Curriculum Preferences of
Preservice Teachers of 264 central and north Florida preservice teachers
identified a significant preference for rationalism over experimentalism (Wise,
The fact that many definitions of curriculum existed prevented more than a
cursory look at the field in this dissertation. However, since philosophy, theory,
and practice were interrelated within the curriculum domain, and because one's
beliefs, values, and philosophy formed the basis for theory and practice, then
philosophy was central to any discussion of curriculum and to principals'
philosophies of education as they impacted on curriculum. The philosophies of
educational leaders would be advocated or reflected in a particular school
through the school principal's influence on goals, aims, and content of the overt
curriculum, and just as importantly, in the domain of the null curriculum described
by Eisner (1994).
The null curriculum referred to the hidden curriculum, inextricably woven
into the fabric of educational institutions, and one which students most certainly
learned. It related to broad areas like punctuality and responsibility, as well as
judgments about how to present the curriculum and what was to be included. It
also included what was inferred to be valued, as opposed to what was left out,
which students might have inferred was not valued. Students might learn that
their stories and cultures were absent from a school's curriculum, and assume
that they themselves were of lesser value. Those types of discussions once
again highlighted the need for educators to clarify their own educational
philosophies, as their preferences affected the schools they ultimately created.
Koetting (1996) took a broader view of the importance of philosophy in
studying schooling. For Koetting, "Philosophy is the foundation (theory) of
educational research. Philosophical inquiry and analysis can help conceptual
clarification, as well as inform our praxis, and vice versa" (p. 364). Beyond
curriculum concerns, he believed that basic philosophical questions provided a
conceptual framework that provided the possibility for coherence in educational
practice. While the job of taking a theoretical stance toward educators' work did
seem to take those educators away from urgent educational problems
confronting them, philosophical inquiry could provide a framework for posing
questions from multiple perspectives that allowed reflection on educational
practice. Because the means and the ends of education were inseparable, the
philosophical question of determining the ends of education required educators
to be philosophical (Koetting, 1996).
This discussion on the importance of educational leaders' developing and
identifying their philosophies, concludes by citing John Dewey (1916). His view of
philosophy was that it was the all-encompassing aspect of the education
process, necessary for "forming fundamental dispositions, intellectual, and
emotional, toward nature and fellow man" (p. 186).
Uncovering Philosophies in Schools
A study of 336 elementary schools in Ohio described the need for schools
to identify the philosophy of education operating in their institutions (Chandler,
1999). The forward to that study discussed the existing nationwide debate
between educational progressivists, who wanted schools to be learner-centered,
constructivist schools; and traditionalists, who wanted teacher-directed schools
which focused on essential knowledge and skills and used standardized
achievement measures. The general public assumed that public schools were
more likely to be progressive and Catholic schools were more likely to be
traditional, employing a back-to-basics curriculum. Chandler's study revealed that
these assumptions were incorrect.
Principals of three different types of schools public; Catholic; and
independent, a category which included both charter and non-charter schools -
responded to the Schools Practices Survey (Chandler, 1999), which consisted of
a chart with 10 contrasting instructional approaches or practices. The principals
were asked to indicate on a Likert-type scale to what extent one of the two
contrasting practices was more commonly employed in their schools. The
contrasting pairs represented a traditional versus a progressive practice, such as
"teacher-led instruction vs. student-initiated discovery" (p. 17).
Contrary to conventional thinking, the study revealed considerable
educational diversity within each of the three sectors. There was more variation
in educational practices within each school category than across categories.
Catholic schools had the greatest number of schools identified by their principals'
as employing progressive practices. The most traditional schools were the
independent schools. Public schools fell in the middle. The traditional schools
were also the most consistent in their choice of practices, which led the
researcher to conclude that those schools had a more clearly articulated vision of
their educational philosophy.
The random sample of schools adopted practices that favored neither
extreme, with a tendency toward the mean, commonly found in survey research.
Most schools reported a mix of practices, some traditional and some progressive.
All three types of schools tended to be more traditional in their approach to
reading and to assessment. School practices appeared to be influenced by state-
mandated proficiency testing.
The study was an attempt to quantify how much variety existed in schools
in Ohio. Most schools employed a somewhat eclectic mix of instructional
practices. Selected schools, chosen for the consistency of their practices, as well
as schools at either end of the continuum, were interviewed and a review of
published information on their goals and philosophies was conducted for the
purpose of further clarifying the findings. Some principals, upon learning that their
schools tended toward the traditional end of the continuum, commented that they
hoped to move the school toward more progressive practices.
Rather than ask the principals to identify their philosophies, the School
Practices Survey revealed the kinds of approaches used at the schools.
Chandler (1999) concluded that in this era of increasing parental choice in the
schools their children attend, it is important that schools and the administrators
who run them present a clear picture of the operating philosophy of the school. A
neighborhood Catholic school might be more progressive than the local public
school and a charter school might offer a more behaviorist curriculum than either
of the other schools.
Philosophical Debates of the Twentieth Century
Chandler's (1999) survey was timely, mirroring national interest in the
debates about school choice. The debates at the turn of the 21st century
hearkened back to the ideas of progressivist John Dewey, who, in the early
1900s, posited that schools of the future would have curriculums in which the
central element was learning by doing. Dewey hoped for schools where learning
was a part of each student's life, connected to the student's present situation and
his needs (Dewey, 1943). Mid-twentieth century supporters of progressivism
included well-known educators Charles Silberman, Paul Goodman, Johnathan
Kozel, John Holt, and A. S. Neill.
The progressive schools that Dewey described also had new millennium
advocates: Theodore Sizer (1984) from the Coalition of Essential Schools and
Howard Gardner (1983), known for his multiple intelligence theory. Graduation
by exhibition, cooperative projects, habits of mind, portfolio assessments,
multiple entry points into a subject; integrated, collaborative curriculums; critical
thinking; and problem solving were the new descriptors of progressivist
curriculums (Eberstadt, 1999).
At the opposite end of the continuum were the back to basics advocates,
whose most famous champion was E. D. Hirsch, author of Cultural Literacy
(1987) and The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them (1996).
Representing the anti-progressivists, Hirsch espoused a core curriculum, known
as the Core Knowledge Foundation, a grade-by-grade, content-laden K-6
curriculum. Speaking for the least advantaged, Hirsch denounced the new
progressivist rhetoric as essentially old, placing it alongside theories of Dewey,
Romantic progressivist ideas of the 1920s, and the Bureau of Education's (1918)
Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.
Calling progressivism "elite education," Hirsch (1987) claimed that
progressivist practices deprived students of the core facts necessary for
participation in the dominant economic and civic culture of American society.
Attacking progressivist ideas head-on, Hirsch argued that progressivism was
laden with mistaken ideas, ideas that had to be changed before education's
problems could be solved. The movement in many districts, states, and
potentially at the national level, toward mandatory standardized testing, merit pay
for teachers, fact-based fundamental schools, and school vouchers for
disadvantaged families was a turn-of-the-century reflection of
Gardner (1983) and a host of educators across the country claimed that
progressivism had never really been tried in mainstream education. Studies
showed that teacher talking continued to dominate in most classrooms, and
teacher-centered classrooms continued to be the dominant instructional method
(Sadker & Sadker, 2000). At the same time, teacher preparation programs
continued to advocate for progressive approaches to education: authentic
assessment; attention to individualized learning styles; experiential, discovery
learning; non-graded, multi-aged classrooms; and a concern for development of
the whole child (Eberstadt, 1999).
Hirsch (1987) claimed that progressive programs, with a curriculum in flux
and a disdain for testing, eliminated handholds from below for the less
advantaged. Advocates for traditionalism claimed that a lack of emphasis on
academics failed to provide a solid foundation for lifetime learning. Publication of
A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983),
heralded the reintroduction into the public education vernacular of terms such as
standards, achievement, testing, accountability, and sequential, content-laden
curriculums. Hirsch and legislators across the United States at the close of the
20th century demanded accountability through standardized assessments
Another perspective on this debate was offered by Labaree (2000). He
believed that it would be remiss to discuss accountability, also known as the
standards movement, without noting the vastly different philosophies and
attending goals that underlay the movement. Labaree noted three goals, two of
which lay within the domain of the public good and one that rested within the
domain of the private good.
Labaree (2000) situated the curricula of E. D Hirsch, Jr., and the subject
matter oriented standards movement within the goal of democratic equality, a
public good: an effort to reduce differences that existed between the
disadvantaged and advantaged, in order that all might participate in the broader
culture and be effective as citizens in a democracy. While this goal of democratic
equality to raise the cultural competence of American citizen was similar to the
goal of social efficiency, also a public good from which all of society benefited, it
was also vastly different. The goal of social efficiency aimed at producing a
skilled workforce and was most easily observed in the School-to-Work
On May 4,1994, President Bill Clinton signed the School-to-Work
Opportunities Act, committing federal funds toward a national initiative of
providing all students with relevant education, defined as opportunities to explore
a variety of careers; skills with which to pursue those careers; and valued
credentials, which translated into credentials that matched established industry
benchmarks (National School-to-Work Learning and Information Center, 1996,
Accountability via national, state, or local standards, also translated into
goals for the private, rather than the public, good. Social mobility as an
educational goal within the standards movement, focused on the individual, and
promoted distinctions between the more gifted and advanced, to the detriment of
the less able. Rather than improve the quality of learning in schools, which the
goals of democratic equality or social efficiency promoted, social mobility would
put in place standards that would make it harder for those not in the select group
to obtain grades, credits, or degrees that symbolized academic success.
Other Research on Educational Philosophy Related to School Choice
Some studies, such as Adler's (1997), had identified differences in
principals of elementary charter and non-charter schools in factors other than
philosophy. Adler discovered that principals of charter schools scored
significantly higher on what was termed organizational intrapreneurship, which
she equated with innovativeness in the overall school. Her recommendation was
that school leaders create a climate conducive to intrapreneurial behavior in
order to foster innovation within schools.
A similar study by Dolan (2000) examined a charter school in Connecticut
for evidence of organizational innovation and experimentation. Exploring the
charter school movement as a philosophically radical critique of public schooling,
Freeman (1999) studied values and goals of founders, principals, and teachers
involved in the formation of four new charter schools in North Carolina. Other
researchers saw some profit to conducting studies of school principals and of
schools' philosophies based on Kohlberg's (1973) six-stage model of moral
development. Certainly the study of administrators' philosophies as relates to the
school choice movement, which subsumes the category of charter schools, will
continue into the 21st century and will potentially involve new research models to
accommodate hybrids of traditional and non-traditional schools and new forms of
school restructuring (Keedy, 1992).
Situating Charter Schools in the Historical,
Political, and Philosophical Context of Education in the United States
United States public education is rooted in a democratic value system.
Thomas Jefferson believed that public schools could develop citizens able to use
and protect their democratic rights. He thought that public institutions should be
shaped by a democratic society, which it would then foster. Democratic decision-
making was to be supported in schools, with discourse enabling educators and
students to play active roles. They were to be creators rather than objects of
social and political institutions. Democratic principles were to be learned and
practiced in public schools and brought to bear positively on society outside the
Today's public school system originated in the mid-nineteenth century
when, in the 1840s and 1850s, states began to establish schools as an activity of
government. Until educational reformer Horace Mann succeeded in his lobby for
the common school, schools were community institutions under religious or lay
control, operating with a mix of public and private funds. Citizens sent their
children to these schools based on their financial abilities and preferences. As an
American institution, 20th century charter schools resembled village schools of
the early 19th century and one-room schoolhouses of the 20th century. They were
rooted in communities, locally autonomous, accountable to parents, and had to
generate revenues by attracting and retaining families (Sadker & Sadker, 2000).
The common school was to be both politically and economically in public
control. It was to include children of all classes and ethnic groups. As the
common school evolved, its mission became one of forging a common identity
from the growing and diverse population. A "one-best" system ideology was
deemed necessary to assimilate the millions of immigrants into the American
culture. States began to legislate compulsory attendance, graduation
requirements, and universal availability (Sadker & Sadker, 2000).
In the late 19th and early 20th century, new factory models of the industrial
age began to be applied to public schools. Scientific management principles
attempted to standardize and centralize operations in order to make schools
more orderly and efficient. States also legislated qualifications for teachers and
administrators, consolidated school districts and local school agencies, and
became one of the largest employers with one of the biggest payrolls in the
world. Today, 9 out of 10 school-aged children attend tax-financed, government-
run schools (Cline & Witte, 1990).
Horace Mann (Sadker & Sadker, 2000) hoped that a public education
system would contribute to a common value system, while allowing for diversity.
Progressive educator John Dewey (1959) also espoused this belief in the
democratic ends of education. Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, Dewey
wrote prolifically about the need to build a more democratic and egalitarian
society. Dewey rejected individualism, asserting in My Pedagogic Creed, "all
education proceeds by participation of the individual in the social consciousness
of the race" (p. 19). Rejecting a passive or reactive role for individuals in relation
to social systems, progressive education offered a more holistic view.
Progressive education promoted deliberation among citizens as society
embarked on a path of endless change.
Further, Dewey (1959) did not believe in setting "any end outside of
education as furnishing its goal and standard," because that would "deprive the
educational process of much of its meaning" (p. 28). Dewey (1943) called for
schools to be a "genuine form of active community life... a miniature community,
an embryonic society" (pp.14 -18). He called for a curriculum that inspired
students to analyze, evaluate, and ultimately improve their social experience
using the guiding principle of democratic values to provide the philosophical
context. Ultimately, a democratic school would be one that tried to enable people
to create their own world collectively rather than to fit into one that had been
created for them.
Many teachers and schools had difficulty applying Dewey's concepts. By
the time Dewey published a more detailed explanation of his principles in
Experience and Education in 1938, progressive education was in decline.
Another force that developed concurrently with the progressive movement also
contributed to its demise. In the late 19th century, administrative reformers,
modeling their efforts after the business community, attempted to create a more
uniform educational system. By the 1930s, a professionally administered school
system made it difficult to express Dewey's democratic schooling within a
hierarchical bureaucracy (Engel, 2000). This shift from a democratic model to
what was considered a more economical model for public schools was the result
of unfavorable comparisons between efficient businesses and inefficient schools.
Dewey did not object to centralization, consolidation, and professional
administration. However, the form advocated in the 1938 report by the National
Education Association's (NEA) Educational Policies Commission (EPC) was
more consistent with Dewey's democratic school system. The report urged
participation in policy-making by the entire school staff, students, and the general
public. The report stated that such democratic practices would result in better
policies and placed value on the democratic process. Involving students was
attuned to the progressive's democratic ends of education, which included youth
in addressing concerns that affected young and old alike.
Such an administrative system, however, was not the type Dewey's
progressivism was attempting to operate within. Taylor's efficiency model
resulted in curricula, not organized around educational principles, but rather
focused on economizing on staff and facilities. Taylor believed in a "one best
method" of production determined mainly through time and motion studies.
Scientific management meant detailed management control of production, which
in turn translated to much less freedom and discretion for workers. Operating
under an economic philosophy, schools focused on 100% use of space at all
times (Callahan, 1962; Tyack, 1974). The result was organized and
compartmentalized curricula, with students moving from room to room.
Educational questions became subordinated to business considerations
The Rise of Market Ideology in Education
In the 1950s, progressive ideas were under attack from conservative
politicians who blamed progressivism for America's lack of educational
preparedness in the face of the communist threat. The Russian's launch of
Sputnik, in 1957, clinched the arguments. They thought that America's
inadequate educational system was the reason for the Soviet's technological
victory (Engel, 2000).
The response of the federal government to this threat to national security
was the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. The act funded
curriculum revision and marked the first direct intervention by the federal
government in educational policy. This was followed in 1961 by President
Kennedy's pledge to economic expansion and military preparedness that
indirectly gave rise to the human capital theory. Human capital, defined by
economists as the stock of knowledge and skills possessed by the labor force
that increases its productivity, became associated with the economic effects of
education. Although such capital was difficult to quantify, spending on public
education began to be termed an investment instead of an expenditure
(Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1962).
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 proposed
categorical school aid to disadvantaged groups. This reflected the idealism and
movement toward equality that characterized the 1960s. Social activism was also
expressed in the rise of the free school movement that attempted to make
changes outside the mainstream educational system. This challenge to
conventional methods of education was unsuccessful, but its tradition was
reflected in the interest of progressive educators in charter schools at the end of
the 20th century (Engel, 2000).
A conservative political climate prevailed in the 1970s. In the early 1980s,
the Nation at Risk report (1983) alerted Americans to a crisis in education.
Proposals to increase graduation requirements, lengthen the school day, and
institute standardized testing required increased spending by states. This was
largely supported by the nation's governors (National Governors' Association,
1991). In the 1990s, business, technology, and government influenced the
direction of public education, as reflected in the school-to-work movement, the
push to increase technology in schools, and the movement toward standardized
testing at the state and national levels.
Site based management was concerned with implementing programs that
increased student achievement. Educational reform discussions reflected
competitive concerns. Community involvement was concerned not with the
purposes of education, but with how best to meet goals and standards. Civic
education and democratic concerns were no longer part of the discussion.
Standards-driven curricula provided criteria for academic achievement
(Anderson & Dixon, 1993; Plank & Boyd, 1994).
Malen and Ogawa (1988) conducted several district-wide case studies of
site-based governance councils. They found that even when governance
councils received training and were given broad jurisdiction and formal policy-
making authority, they demonstrated similar patterns of conformity. Site-based
schools moved toward more stringent and control-oriented policies. These
management councils did not significantly effect changes in curriculum or
instruction. Neither did they address equity issues or fundamental restructuring of
schools. Rather they developed such reforms as student conduct codes and
expulsion policies. The authors concluded that bureaucratic discourse created a
kind of control that predetermined the topics and direction of site-based
In Tinkering Toward Utopia (1995), Tyack and Cuban state,
In the last generation, discourse about public schooling has become
radically narrowed. It has focused on international economic competi-
tion, test scores, and individual 'choice' of schools. But it has largely
neglected the types of choices most vital to civic welfare: collective
choices about a common future, choices made through the democratic
process about the values and knowledge that citizens want to pass
on to the next generation. (p. 140)
Charter School Definitions
The definition of charter schools presented in the Executive Summary of
The State of Charter Schools 2000: Fourth-Year Report (RPP International,
Charter schools are public schools that come into existence through a
contract with either a state agency or a local school board. The charter--
or contract--establishes the framework within which the school operates
and provides public support for the school for a specified period of time.
The school's charter gives the school autonomy over its operation and
frees the school from regulations that other public schools must follow. In
exchange for the flexibility afforded by the charter, the schools are held
accountable for achieving the goals set out in the charter including
improving student performance. (p. 1)
Because approaches to establishing charter schools varied so widely
from state to state, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement of the
U.S. Department of Education funded The Charter School Roadmap (Education
Commission of the States, 1998). This guide's purpose was to assist
policymakers in identifying areas needing to be examined in initial consideration
of charter schools legislation or in reevaluating existing charter legislation. Their
report noted the lack of a common definition of charter schools. This was, in part,
responsible for the lack of consensus among states about the design of charter
school reform and a concomitant lack of legislative uniformity. In their report,
charter schools were described as,
autonomous public schools that are granted some freedom from district
and state regulations, allowing them to use innovative methods for
teaching, spending, and hiring. With this autonomy comes accountability.
If the school does not meet performance goals within a specified time, the
charter may not be renewed and the school may be closed. (p. 1)
Charter schools were part of a strategy for educational reform defined by
Finn, Manno, and Vanourek (2000) as an "independent public school of choice,
freed from rules but accountable for results" (p. 14). As public schools, charter
schools were financed with tax dollars and open to all who wished to attend
without regard to race, religion, or ability. They were accountable to an
authoritative public body, such as a local, district, or state school board, as well
as to those who enrolled in them. Charters were different from traditional public
schools in that they could be created by almost anyone, were exempt from most
state and local regulations, staffed by educators who chose to be employed
there, attended by students whose families chose the school, and could be
closed for not producing satisfactory results. Supporters concluded that charter
schools were the best strategy for removing bureaucratic obstacles that they
claimed were responsible for the poor academic performance of traditional public
schools (Finn, et al., 2000).
The Growth of Charter Schools
The term "charter" is reported to have originated in the 1970s with New
England educator Ray Budde (Liu, 1999). He suggested that local school boards
grant contracts or "charters" to small groups of teachers so that they might
explore new approaches in a school-within-a-school model (Amsler, 1992;
Budde, 1996). Albert Shanker, the late American Federation of Teachers
President, publicized the idea in a 1988 National Press Club speech. He called
for empowering teachers by creating charter schools that focused on teachers'
professional development and a clear commitment to improving student
achievement (Sautter, 1993).
Shanker further defined the innovation he envisioned as one in which any
group of teachers or school could develop a proposal for a way to educate
youngsters better and then would be granted a charter to implement that
proposal. Participation by teachers and parents would be voluntary. Each school
district would agree to maintain the school for 5 to 10 years. This would continue
as long as there was no decline in the indication of student achievement and as
long as teachers continued to teach and parents continued to enroll their
children. At the end of a probationary period, the charter school would be
evaluated to see whether its goals had been met. The charter could then be
extended or revoked. Like private schools, charter schools were self-governing
and had control over their staffing, budget, internal organization, calendar,
curriculum, schedule, and more.
In 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass a law allowing charter
schools (Hadderman, 1998). California followed in 1992, and by 1996, 25 states
and the District of Columbia had charter schools laws. These schools served
28,000 students across the nation (American Federation of Teachers, 1996). A
50% increase in the number of charter schools was reported in 1998 by the
National Study of Charter Schools (RPP International, 1998); 34 states had
approved charter school legislation, and a dozen others were debating this
reform. In school year 1998-1999, more than 250,000 students were being
educated in charter schools in the 27 states that had operating charters. As of
September, 1999, 36 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico had passed charter legislation, and more than 1,600 charter schools
were in operation in 32 states (RPP International, 2000).
In February, 2000, the Office of the Press Secretary for President Clinton
announced a $30 million increase in charter school funding, bringing the total to
$175 million and paving the way for the 3,000 charter schools the President had
suggested be in operation by 2002 (Office of the Press Secretary, 2000). In May
2000, the Center for Educational Reform, which advocates alternatives to the
traditional public education system, announced the publication of their fifth
annual National Charter School Directory 2000 (Center for Educational Reform,
2000). This directory, whose publication annually coincided with National Charter
Schools Week, profiled the nation's 2,000 operating and approved charter
schools, serving more than 430,000 children.
In July, 2000, Volusia County, Florida, with 60,000 students and 65
schools, received legislative approval to become a charter school district, the
largest in the nation. Like operations of individual charter schools, the central
administration of the 66-school system was freed from many state rules and
regulations that applied to regular districts (Bowman, 2000b). Another larger
Florida county, Hillsborough, with 158,000 students, and a third, Sarasota,
received approval to become charter districts later that year (Rees, 2000). Most
of the nation's charter schools at this time were in the South and West. Half were
located in three states: Arizona, California, and Michigan, and another fourth in
Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas (RPP International, 2000).
Federal Charter Schools Legislation
President Clinton first proposed the Public Charter Schools Program in
1993. The Public Charter Schools Program (PCSP) was enacted as Title X, Part
C, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1994. This
program was designed to help charter schools cover planning, start-up, and early
implementation costs during the first three years of their existence. It also
authorized an evaluation of the program (ESEA Sections 10301[b] and 10305[a]).
In fiscal year 1995 the initial appropriation was $6 million (Center for Educational
In 1998, Congress reauthorized the PCSP by passing the Charter School
Expansion Act (P.L.105-378). The expansion was to include mature charter
schools that could apply for funds to disseminate promising school practices. The
appropriation for fiscal year 2000 was $145 million (Center for Educational
During National Charter Schools Week 2001, President George W. Bush
reaffirmed his support for charter schools by outlining his proposal for $175
million to establish a "Charter Schools Homestead Fund." The fund was
designed to address facilities needs. President Bush also announced his plan to
seek an additional $200 million in 2002 for the federal charter school grant
program (Charter Friends, 2001).
Florida Charter Schools Legislation
Enacted on May 17, 1995, Florida's charter school law authorized the
formation of both new charter schools and the granting of charter school status to
existing public schools (Florida's Charter School Legislation-1 999 Version).
Proposals for charters might be made by individuals, parents, teachers, a group
of individuals, a municipality, or a legal entity organized under the laws of the
state. The state of Florida did not, however, allow private schools, parochial
schools, or home education programs to be eligible for charter school status.
Florida's charter schools had to maintain nonsectarian programs (Florida's
Charter School Legislation-1999 Version). Methods by which a school would
achieve racial/ethnic balance that reflected the profile of the community it served
or within the racial/ethnic range of other public schools within the district was also
to be included in the charter. Although Florida allowed non-certified teachers to
teach in charter schools, the charter had to specify the teaching qualifications
each charter school would require. Charter schools in Florida were required to be
specific as to baseline achievement data, as well as in describing how academic
progress would be achieved and measured as compared to other comparable
student populations. In Florida, charters might be terminated if achievement
requirements stated in the charter were not met. If a charter school was not
renewed or was terminated, all property purchased with public funds reverted to
full ownership by the district school board. Its debts did not revert, however, but
became the responsibility of the governing board.
Florida's Academic Accountability
On April 28, 1999, the Florida House and Senate approved Governor Jeb
Bush's A-plus Plan for education. This made Florida the first state to offer state-
paid tuition scholarships for children in what were characterized as failing public
schools to attend a public, private, or religious school of choice (Heritage
The legislation set up a grading system for Florida's schools that was
based on a standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
Schools would be assigned a grade between A and F based on their scores.
Schools that improved their scores would be rewarded with up to $100 per pupil.
Students attending schools receiving a grade of F for two consecutive years
would be able to transfer to a school of their choice (Florida Department of
On March 14, 2000, a Florida judge struck down the State's eight-month-
old school voucher program as unconstitutional. On October 3, 2000, the Florida
First District Court of Appeals ruled that the school voucher program was
constitutional and could remain in effect. However, no new schools received a
grade of F at the conclusion of school year 1999-2000, because all 78 schools
that had received an F grade the year before had made substantial progress on
the writing part of Florida's standardized tests. Voucher proponents pointed to
the higher scores as proof that raising expectations got results (Heritage
The Publics' Attitude Toward Schools: Traditional Public and Charter
In the September, 2000, "32nd Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the
Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools," Rose and Gallup (2000)
documented the public's increasing satisfaction with the public schools their
children attended and the belief that reforming the existing traditional public
school system was preferable to seeking an alternative system. Half of those
surveyed in this poll had no knowledge of charter schools. When told that charter
schools were freed from many state regulations under which traditional public
schools operated, a majority of respondents opposed them. Granting charter
schools leeway in teacher licensing requirements, use of prescribed textbooks,
and length of school day and school year, were exemptions favored by
respondents. However, the public believed that curriculum requirements and
accountability to the state should remain in force.
Generally, parents showed strong support for local schools and a lack of
knowledge of charter schools. This figure changed when polling college
graduates, 69% of whom had knowledge of charter schools, compared to 37% of
high school graduates who had no knowledge of charter schools. Policy
implications cited in the poll highlighted that without efforts to educate the public
about charter schools, it would be erroneous to assume public support for them
(Rose & Gallup, 2000).
In support of charter schools, a survey of close to 3,000 charter school
parents conducted by Finn, Manno, and Vanourek (2000) showed consistently
higher satisfaction with philosophy, standards, school and class size, quality of
teaching, curriculum, parent involvement, and performance of children when
compared with the schools their children had attended or would otherwise attend.
The 521 charter teachers surveyed also showed high levels of satisfaction on
these same factors. These findings were not surprising given that these parents
and teachers had made a decision to leave regular public schools, probably due
Some Charter School Issues and Debates
Questioning the Polls. Disputing the Findings
The Center for Educational Reform, a Washington-based organization that
supported educational choice, challenged the findings of the "32nd Annual Phi
Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools"
(Rose & Gallup, 2000). The center's president, Jeanne Allen, disputed the
fairness of the poll's forced-choice question of whether to improve the existing
education systems or find alternatives to regular public schools. Allen stated that
"no viable public policy asks people to choose one thing at the expense of the
other" (Bowman, 2000c, p. 12).
Her views were echoed by Howard Fuller, a former superintendent and
president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. Based in Milwaukee, the
organization pushes for educational choices for children of low-income black
families. Fuller agreed that "certain questions on the poll were designed to elicit a
particular response" and faulted Phi Delta Kappa for bias (Bowman, 2000c, p.
The poll's director, Lowell Rose, stood by the findings. He pointed to the
decline from 44% in 1998 to 39% in 2000 of the public's support for publicly
financed vouchers for private school tuition. Calling the supposed decline in
support for public schools a myth, Rose believed the poll showed solid support
for the traditional education system. Rose also commented that he had never
expected education to become "the number-one priority in the nation and in
every state," but that was his present observation (Bowman, 2000c, p. 12).
A similar debate existed over conclusions reached by 50 of 53 supposedly
objective studies conducted since 1995. These reported charter schools as
"innovative, accountable for results, and successful at providing new
opportunities for children and reforming the traditional education system"
(Bowman, 2000e, p. 10). The Center for Educational Reform (CER) reported the
collection to be exclusively research-based studies that drew mainly objective
conclusions, eliminating a hundred others the center deemed more opinionated.
Independent researcher Gerald W. Bracey accused the CER of being
highly selective, questioning the claims that an "overwhelming majority" of
charters exhibited these traits. Bracey directed policymakers to ignore the CER's
summary, which he believed clearly misrepresented the findings, and to "read the
reports themselves" (Bowman, 2000e, p. 19).
Also refuting CER's claims, the National School Board Association, one of
the staunchest opponents of charter schools, published a report entitled Charting
a New Course: Fact and Fiction about Charter Schools (2000). The researchers
for that report synthesized existing research and relevant state policies. They
concluded that little evidence existed to support charter claims of elevated
student achievement, classroom innovation, or influence on traditional public
schools (Good & Braden, 2000).
Conflict-of-interest concerns routinely surfaced in the examination of
charter school literature. For example, in "Can Charter Schools Revitalize Public
Education?" Vine (2001) complained of for-profit school systems that participated
in union busting, discrimination, and poor management. In discussing
Massachusetts charter school law, she noted that it allowed companies to set low
salaries, while requiring taxpayers to cover transportation costs for charter pupils.
Meanwhile, companies often got bargain rent on school facilities.
In one instance, Sabis International, a company headquartered in
Lebanon, assembled a board of directors for its for-profit school in Springfield,
Massachusetts that included the mayor, superintendent of schools and two
members of Springfield's School Committee. The Springfield Educational
Association disputed the Springfield School Committee's decision to give Sabis a
rent-free building, wondering just who the Springfield School Committee would
actually negotiate with in such proceedings (Vine, 2001).
Do Charter Schools Influence Traditional Public Schools?
A June, 2001, report issued by the U.S. Department of Education
supported claims made by the Center for Educational Reform. RPP International,
the independent research firm whose own connections with charter schools was
being scrutinized, conducted four one-year studies of charter schools for the
U. S. Department of Education, titled Challenge and Opportunity: The Impact of
Charter Schools on School Districts (RPP International, 2001). The research
questions asked of central office administrators and education newspaper
reporters or education analysts in 49 school districts in five states were, (a)
"What changes have districts made in district operations and district education
that can be attributed to charter schools?" and, (b) "Under what conditions do
charter schools affect change in district operations and district education?" (RPP
International, 2001, p. 1).
The study focused its research in the five states Arizona, California,
Colorado, Massachusetts, and Michigan where previous fieldwork in charter
schools had already been conducted. The charter schools in this study reflected
a broad variation among key components: grade level of students, urbanicity,
and other factors. State policy contexts also varied. Data was collected through
14 in-depth site visits in 14 districts, where multiple central office administrators
and newspaper reporters were interviewed. Telephone interviews were
conducted with a senior district official and a local newspaper reporter or
education analyst in the remaining 35 districts (RPP International, 2001).
The study found that every district in the sample reported effects from
charter schools and made changes in district operations, in the district
educational system, or both. Nearly half of district leaders reported becoming
more customer-service oriented, increasing their marketing and public relations
efforts, and increasing the frequency of their communication with parents. In
many districts, administrators began paying close attention to their local charter
schools, typically by tracking the number of students who attended charter
schools and monitoring charter school students' test scores (RPP International,
Most districts implemented new educational programs, made changes in
educational structures in district schools, or created new schools with programs
that were similar to those in the local charter schools. In addition to these findings
on changes in district operations and services, the study identified factors related
to state law and local conditions that influenced how charter schools affected
districts and how districts responded to charter schools (RPP International,
Conclusions from this exploratory examination were that districts made
changes in their educational services and district operations as a result of charter
schools, and that these changes were influenced by enrollments, financial
conditions, and nature of the granting agency. The rapidly increasing number of
charter schools and the tendency for districts to respond by making operational
and educational change suggested that charter schools could impact the public
school system (RPP International, 2001).
Hassel's (1998) study of charter schools in four states, however, reached
decidedly different conclusions. He found that innovations of charters were the
same as those proposed elsewhere. Hassel found that the direction of innovation
had actually gone from traditional schools to charters. Charters were mainly
characterized as employing tried and true educational practices known to the
broader educational system (Olsen, 2000). The UCLA Charter School Study
(Wells, Lopez, & Scott,1998) also found little difference in how teachers in the
charter schools taught in comparison to regular public school teachers.
Pack (1999) agreed. He found that charter teachers in his study had not
changed how they taught, since coming to charter schools. He further revealed
that their classroom performance had been negatively affected by consensus-
based, teacher-led, decision making management that left them feeling pressed
for time and overwhelmed.
With regard to instructional innovations moving from the charter to the
regular public school sector, findings did not strongly indicate instructional
innovation in charters. Further impediments to the spread of innovations from
charters to public schools included resistance by teachers and principals in
regular public schools. Because there had not been enough time to demonstrate
higher student achievement by charters, there was no reason for regular public
school educators to seek direction in educational practices from charters (Hassel,
Who Supports Charter Schools?
Walberg (2000) noted that "school choice makes for incongruous allies"
(p. 46). The most vocal proponents for charter schools, according to Walberg,
were groups and individuals representing a politically conservative point of view.
The political right, with a history of opposition to federal control of schools, was
represented by such substantial organizations as the Heritage Foundation. One
of the nation's largest public policy research organizations, the foundation has a
mission "to formulate and promote conservative policies" (The Heritage
Foundation, 2001). It became one of the most prolific publicists and influential
forces for the charter movement.
The reform strategies the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation sought to
advance included support for educational diversity, competition, and choice.
Reform of elementary and secondary education is the foundation's sole focus. In
1996, when Chester E. Finn, the foundation's president and chief executive
officer assumed office, the foundation assumed primary sponsorship of the
Educational Excellence Network (EEN). This 15-year-old umbrella organization
for the promotion of sound education reforms was founded by Finn and Diane
Ravitch in 1981. The EEN had long advocated high standards, strong academic
content, and accountability. It also was dedicated to the reinvention of K-12
education, to include such alternatives as charter schools, contract management,
and other strategies for stimulating more education choices, greater competition,
and consumer empowerment. This foundation frequently sponsors educational
research projects of the Hudson Institute.
African Americans were the most strongly represented ethnic group
supporting charters. Charter schools maintained bipartisan support in the
legislative and executive branches of government as well as from corporations.
Even wealthy private citizens could influence the direction of public education. In
June 2000, for example, billionaire Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft
Corporation, pledged $200,000 to support a signature drive for a statewide
initiative that would allow up to 80 charter schools to open over the next four
years in the state of Washington. If successful, Washington would become the
37th state with legislation allowing charter schools (Bowman, 2000a).
Opponents to charter schools included teacher and administrator groups
throughout the states. The National School Board Association was one of the
staunchest opponents of charters (Bowman, 2000d). Block (1996) cited teachers
unions and school boards as charter school foes. Meanwhile, Sperling's research
(1999) identified Michigan superintendents as representative of that population in
their skepticism about the ability of charter schools to provide better educational
outcomes for students. Teachers unions in various states have filed lawsuits
against charter schools for allegedly violating state laws.
Both the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation
of Teachers (AFT) moved from positions of opposition to cautious acceptance of
charter schools (National Education Association, 2000). In 1995, the NEA
launched its Charter School Initiative and began operating three charter schools
in Hawaii, Colorado, and Connecticut. Several features distinguished NEA's
program from other charter schools: employment of only licensed practitioners
and continued applicable collective bargaining provisions. NEA also welcomed
parental involvement and guaranteed open admission of students to its schools.
What Are the Philosophies Behind the Founding of Charter Schools?
The National Study of Charter Schools (RPP International, 1998)
addressed the questions of why charter schools were founded and what attracted
parents to them. These two questions revealed the underpinnings of charter
schools that resisted characterization as a single-philosophical entity. Given that
throughout charter states, for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations, parents,
individuals, universities, school districts, municipalities, and businesses were
some of the entities that could obtain charters, attempts to posit philosophical
generalizations proved fruitless.
However, answers to the study's (RPP International, 1998) questions
illuminated the attraction of charters. The study identified dissatisfaction with
regular public schools as a major factor in the popularity of charter schools.
Generally, parental complaints fell into four areas: concerns about academics,
school climate, safety, and accessibility for parents. Low academic expectations,
student feelings of isolation, harassment by other students, and parents' feelings
of frustration that their efforts to play a meaningful role in their child's education
were unwelcome contributed to their low regard for traditional public schools.
By contrast, parents and students felt attracted to charter schools because
they perceived higher standards for student achievement, a nurturing
environment, and flexibility features that were more likely to enable the school to
meet individual student needs or to offer the kinds of programs deemed desirable
by parents. According to this U.S. Department of Education sponsored study,
Charters start from the inspiration of individual educators, groups of
parents, community leaders, or teachers with a dream. They want
something different for children. They gather support, overcome skeptics
and political resistance if they need to-and they often do-and create a
proposal that says why they want to start their charter school, what
students they want to serve, and what they plan to do. Once a charter
school is founded, parents and students make deeply personal decisions,
exercise their choice and take a chance on enrolling in this new
opportunity. (RPP International, 1998 p. 6)
Most charter schools sought to realize an alternative vision of schooling.
Three-quarters cited vision among other reasons for founding, and 59% were
founded primarily to realize an alternative vision for schooling (RPP International,
In 1998-99, 28% of charters schools were started primarily to serve a
special population of students as compared to 19% of all charter schools founded
prior to 1998 (RPP International, 2000). Special populations included special
education students, emotionally impaired students, students with reading
disabilities, and physically handicapped students. Charter schools also targeted
programs for economically disadvantaged students, children of migrant workers,
and a wide variety of at-risk populations at all grade levels.
Students in charters were more likely to be educated in a school with a
grade configuration that deviated from the traditional elementary, middle, high
school progression. One-quarter of charter schools spanned K-8, K-12, or were
ungraded, compared to less than one-tenth of all public schools (RPP
Regardless of whether charter schools were newly created or conversion
schools (public schools converting to charter status), the primary reason for
founding charter schools was to realize an alternative vision for schooling (RPP
International, 2000). Although diverse as a group, each charter school had a
single unifying mission or focus that lent coherence to the school and attracted
like-minded teachers, parents, and students. No two missions were identical;
each represented the founding group's philosophy or purpose. In a 1998-1999
survey of 305 charter schools across the United States, 58% had a curricular
focus that was described as core knowledge, back to basics, or direct instruction
(Center for Education Reform, 2000).
Do Charters Promote Stratification?
According to some studies, the trend toward choice had a distinct
consequence: increased sorting ( Dygraaf & Lewis, 1998; Hawley, 1996;
McKinney, 1996; O'Neil, 1996). A healthy mix of social, racial, and ethnic
characteristics of schools, long the chief description of public schools and
democratic education, seemed to be eroding. Opponents of choice said that
consumerism would exacerbate inequities (Carnoy, 2000, O'Neil, 1996). Critics
claimed that the opportunity for students of different racial and ethnic
backgrounds to learn from and about one another would be lost (Engel, 2000;
Plank& Boyd, 1994). For others, the shift had dangerous philosophical
overtones, with education increasingly seen as a "private good," and parents as
autonomous consumers (Hawley, 1996). Deregulation had schools belonging to
their immediate constituents, with many schools not required to deal with groups
having special needs (McKinney, 1996).
However, a large national study found that students in America's charter
schools had demographic characteristics similar to students in public schools.
The National Study of Charter Schools four-year research program, begun in
1995 and sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education, documented and
analyzed the charter school movement. It represented the most comprehensive
study on charters available to date. Almost 1,000 directors of charter schools
responded to the survey, as well as directors in 37 state charter offices. Ninety-
one charter schools participated in the longitudinal portion of the study (RPP
While students in charter and public schools had similar demographic
characteristics, charter schools in some states served significantly higher
percentages of minority or economically disadvantaged students. Charter
schools were more likely than public schools to serve black students (almost
24% versus 17%) and Hispanic students (21% versus 18%). Overall, charter
schools enrolled a larger percentage of students of color than all public schools
in the states with open charter schools (RPP International, 2000).
A common measure of economic disadvantage was students' eligibility for
free or reduced-price lunch under the National School Lunch program. In 1998-
99, charter schools served a slightly higher percentage of students eligible for
free or reduced-price lunch than did all public schools in the 27 charter states
(39% versus 37%). Charter schools in 1998-99 and all public schools in the 27
charter states both served approximately 10% limited English proficient students
(RPP International, 2000).
However, the National School Board Association (2000) argued that
recent studies by the U. S. Department of Education were misleading. Those
reports suggested that charter and traditional public schools served a similar
demographic mix of students. The NSBA report pointed out that this was true if
data were aggregated at the national level. When data were aggregated at the
level of neighborhood school clusters, or at individual schools, the evidence
revealed an ethnically and economically segregated student body.
How Well Do Charters Serve Students with Disabilities?
Research has shown that parents of students with disabilities seek school
choice for the same reason as parents of students without disabilities (Lange &
Ysseldyke, 1998; McLaughlin & Henderson, 1998; Rothstein, 1999). Some
charter schools targeted students with specific disabilities, but such segregated
education was contrary to the principles underlying the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and could create vulnerability to legal
challenges (Rothstein, 1999). A 1995 survey of 110 charter schools in seven
states conducted by the Education Commission for the States found two-thirds of
the schools surveyed were not designed to serve children with learning
disabilities (Medler & Nation, 1995). In school year 1998-1999, states with
charter schools served 8% of students with disabilities, as compared with 11%
for all public schools in those states (RPP International, 2000).
Costs of compliance for students with disability could be prohibitive to
charter schools. However, charters were answerable to all sections of the law.
Approval of charter applications should have been dependent upon the ability of
the applicant to show evidence of special education preparedness (Estes, 2000).
Empirical data comparing the quality of instruction for special education students
in regular public and charter schools was scant and difficult to derive (Archer,
2000; Rothstein, 1998). Accountability data concerning compliance was also
hard to obtain (Levin, 1999). Evaluating comparative achievement of students
with disabilities to regular education students was especially difficult because
most charter schools had been in operation for less than three years (Archer,
2000; Levin, 1999; Rothstein, 1998).
The charter movement continued to be monitored for demographic
comparisons and quality of service for this special population. Stratification
concerns and questions surfaced about acquisition by charter schools of funds
targeted for special education, with minimal or no expenditures in that area.
These funds represented the profit margin for some for-profit charter schools'
managing corporations (Dykgraff & Lewis, 1998).
While improper financial management had been the chief cause of charter
revocations nationwide (Hess, 2001), debates about accountability center on
student achievement indicators as the chief measure of charter success.
Although charter schools have been in existence for nearly a decade, more than
half have been in operation less than five years (RPP International, 2000).
Besides lack of longevity, other complications brought academic accountability
into question. Even charter supporters who called for "accountability via
transparency" (Manno, Finn, & Vanourek, 2000, p. 478) acknowledged the
limited availability of performance data and recognized that state accountability
systems were not developed in many states.
Texas, which had a well-developed state assessment system, required
that charter schools, like regular public schools, be rated by the Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) after two years of operation (Texas
Education Agency, 2000). However, the majority of Texas charters were located
in urban areas and served high numbers of multiethnic and low socio-economic
students. In Texas, approximately 42% of students enrolled in charters were
Hispanic, compared to 37% in regular public schools, and 34% were African
American, compared with 14% in regular public schools. Nearly 66% of students
enrolled in charters statewide were at risk of dropping out, compared to 37% in
regular public schools of Texas (Charter Schools Resource Center, 1999).
Also like charters nationwide, however, Texas charters served fewer
special education and limited English proficient students, raising questions about
equity and social justice. Those types of students were also considered difficult to
educate. This further complicated the academic accountability issue because,
even without those students, charter schools throughout the state of Texas failed
to match the academic performance of traditional public schools (Fusarelli,
In addition, because charter schools enrolled less than 1% of Texas'
school population, comparisons were difficult. With so few charter students taking
the TAAS test, each one exerted a greater impact on the percentage passing at
each grade level. A more accurate measure would have been to compare
student achievement in charter schools with public schools with similar
demographics. Still, because of low numbers and the fact that many charters
catered to students who had not done well in regular public school programs,
accurate comparisons could remain elusive (Texas Education Agency, 2000).
Another southern state, Georgia, had similar problems. Georgia also had
a statewide academic assessment in place, and after four years found that
charters had mixed academic success. Some charters showed steadily
increasing test scores, while others posted declining scores. This was distressing
due to the fact that students attending Georgia's charters represented a higher
percentage of gifted students, a lower proportion of economically disadvantaged
students, and evinced more parental involvement than at most Georgia schools
(Georgia State Department of Education, 2000).
A key component of all charter schools' legislation was academic
accountability (Nathan, 1996; Vergari, 1999). According to the National Study of
Charter Schools. Fourth-Year Report (RPP International, 2000), 96% of all
charter schools used standardized assessments for accountability purposes.
Eighty-two percent used five or more types of assessment measures, with one-
third of all charter schools indicating use of all seven types of assessments listed
in report's questionnaire: standardized tests, performance assessments, student
demonstrations, student portfolios, parent surveys, student surveys, and
Charter school proponents Manno, Finn, and Vanourek (2000) suggested
that even greater accountability for charter schools could be achieved by using
General Accepted Accountability Principles for Education (GAAPE). This was
borrowed from Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) used by
business. Application of those principles would permit "a regimen in which so
much is known about each school that its various watchers, participants, and
constituents, could and routinely do regulate it (p. 475).
The requirement to prove student performance forced charter schools to
have accountability that was tantamount to surveillance. Ultimate control, under
the threat of revocation of a school's charter, went to the chartering body. This in
turn was linked to local and state accountability mandates. The retention of
power over charter schools by the state reproduced traditional power
Interestingly, according to the Georgia Charter School Act of 1998, all
charter schools were waived from compliance with the state testing program.
However, Georgia's charters rarely waived curricular or testing requirements
(Opfer, 2001). Opfer's study revealed that regular public schools in Georgia
requested more waivers, including curricular and testing requirements, than did
charter schools. Her argument was that the requirement for charters to prove
quality with standardized performance measures limited their ability to innovate
and even ran counter to the philosophy of many charter schools.
Opfer (2001) argued that Atlanta, Georgia's, charter schools "cannot be
truly innovative because the accountability mechanisms paired with the schools
primarily standardized tests keep educators in those schools tied to traditional
pedagogy and curriculum" (p. 203). Her research in those schools led her to
conclude that pressure on charter schools to focus on meeting individual student
academic needs was done at the expense of curricular and pedagogical
innovation and camouflaged the retention of power by the state over charter
Standardized measures of achievement ran counter to the philosophy of
many charter schools. Schnaiberg (1998) reported that some Colorado charter
schools used multiage grade configurations in which students received neither
letter grades nor credits, but employed portfolios to chart student learning. She
noted that for some charters, such innovations represented the very essence of
their school. Having to contend with accountability systems based on standards
and performance goals set at the state or district level compromised the schools'
However, from its inception, the charter movement had been connected
with academic accountability, which excluded other educational discourses that
might have been more innovative. The disciplinary nature of accountability and
the advent of government intervention in education relegated the learning
process to a quantifiable event and negated the uniqueness of children,
teachers, communities, and schools.
Are Charter Schools Causing the Erosion of Democratic Values?
In the late 19th century, admiration of the efficiency in industry resulted in
efforts to create a more uniform system of education in the United States. The
outcome of the rise of professional administration was bureaucracies dedicated
to consolidation, rationality, impartiality, and precision (Engel, 2000). Between
1900 and 1925, unfavorable comparisons of school operations to businesses
promoted the cult of efficiency, based on Taylor's theories of scientific
management. Curriculum became organized and departmentalized around the
need to economize on staff and facilities (Callahan, 1962).
A perceived lack of educational preparedness and Russia's launch of
Sputnik catapulted schools into mainstream marketplace competition. National
security was at stake, and the federal government became heavily involved in an
arena that had heretofore constitutionally fallen to the states. Economic growth
became a companion goal, and terms like investment in education and global
competition spawned a wave of educational reforms.
The report A Nation at Risk (National Commission for Excellence in
Education, 1983) decried America's mediocre educational performance in
comparison with foreign nations. Quantifiable outcomes became the basis for
judging schools. Educational excellence was defined in terms of productivity and
achievement, and the institutionalization of market ideology was accomplished
without any appreciable improvement in America's standing in the global
economy or in the quality of its educational standing (Engel, 2000).
According to Engel (2000), charter schools clearly represented a
marketplace approach to education. "Charter schools intensify and profit from
market segmentation within education" (p. 86). In his book, Engel stated that
school choice had weakened the rationale for maintaining public education and
pushed civic education for democracy off the agenda, thereby undermining
democratic values in the educational system. School choice appeared as the
ultimate application of market ideology to the educational system.
Engel (2000) believed that market-oriented school choice eliminated
public education as a community enterprise, removing citizens from the common
effort to educate their children. The intergroup communication and social
cohesion that sustained democratic values was lost. In Rethinking School
Choice, Henig (1994) referred to the risk that market rationale for school choice
"will undermine the social and political institutions that are prerequisites to
achieving genuine reform" (p. 193).
To some educators, privatization in the form of charter schools seemed
incompatible with democratic values (Carnoy, 2000; Engle, 2000; Vine, 2001). In
a competitive market, charter schools must target a particular market in order to
ensure financial survival. "Charter schools are as much small businesses as they
are educational institutions" (Finn, Bierlein, & Manno, 1996, p. 20). For-profit
educational chains had already entered the picture. The transfer of control of
school instructional services to managers who were not elected nor on the public
payroll, but who were paid with public funds under contract with a governmental
body, was privatization that was inherently in conflict with a democratic
educational system (Engel, 2000).
There was no doubt that certain programs in charter schools had merit.
Those schools might be academically beneficial to their students. But the
question remained whether democracy was furthered. Without a common setting
and a curriculum that promoted civic responsibility, questions about the survival
of a democratic way of life were called into question. As proponents of charters
and school choice, Chubb and Moe's (1990) perspective was probably correct:
"the policy choice in education was between the market and democracy" (p. 68).
Do Parents Choose Schools Based on Philosophy?
Were parents choosing charter schools based on the school's philosophy?
Cooke's (2000) case study of a charter high school in California revealed that
parents overwhelmingly chose this charter school for their child based on school
social indicators. Was the culturally bounded choice, as opposed to school
academic indicators, a rational choice? This finding complicated marketplace
reasoning. Concern with global competition had seemed to be the impetus
behind policymakers' desire to overhaul education, whereas this research on
decision making in one school setting showed parents' motives to be other than
Stated Engel (2000), in his book on market ideology versus democratic
values, school choice "inevitably favors those with time, education, experience,
and assertiveness to make that selection properly" (p. 79). Wells' (1993) study
examining how parents make educational choices concurred:
Parents and students rarely seek out the best or most competitive school
in a systematic and well-informed fashion. Rather, several factors, in-
cluding expectations, racial attitudes, sense of efficacy, and alienation and
isolation from the larger society, affect the amount of information parents
and students have access to and the kinds of decisions they make...
[These factors] are strongly influenced by the social and cultural context
of the choosers. Thus, I argue that competition between schools for
students...will quite possibly lead to greater racial and social-class
segregation and stratification. (p. 30)
Carnoy (2000), in rebutting Goldhaber's (1999) article in the December
issue of Educational Researcher, pointed out that the increased school
effectiveness in delivering achievement would not necessarily offset the negative
effects of greater stratification. He pointed out that parents might chose schools
based on peer effects rather than on a school's effectiveness. Schools attracting
higher scoring pupils with more educated parents might appear to be more
effective and be more selective with regard to waiting lists. Conversely, schools
in low-income neighborhoods might lose higher scoring students and could not
compete, even if they truly were more productive schools.
In a study of 17 charter schools in California, charters formed in low-
income areas still drew higher educated parents from among the low-income.
Therefore, elitism could be relative to the overall student populations in their
school districts, with resulting stratification (Wells, 1993).
Do Leadership Requirements Differ in Regular Public and Charter Schools?
The importance of the role of the principal in creating an effective school
was borne out in the literature (Drake & Roe, 1999; National Association of
Elementary School Principals, 1990; Sergiovanni, 1995). Although those roles
had been documented mainly for regular public schools, charter schools were no
different. Charter schools also needed leadership that provided vision, as well as
the ability to manage effectively. Founders of charter schools needed a clear
purpose for their schools and had to hire directors for their schools who could
implement that vision through their knowledge about teaching and education, and
their competence in matters of school governance.
Dresser's (2001) study of urban Colorado charter schools explored the
role of the schools' leadership. The study gathered baseline data about the kind
of day-to-day leadership present in charter schools. It also attempted to identify
the role, function and challenges of charter school principals. The average
enrollment of the 17 responding schools was 242 students, representing 24% of
all students enrolled in all Colorado charter schools. The schools expressed a
multitude of philosophies as reflected in their curricular focuses.
Dressier (2001) reported that 13 of the 17 responding charter school
leaders had previous experience as the lead educator in a school. The same
number indicated that the founders or board of directors of the school had hired
them, rather than being founders themselves. Through the questionnaires,
respondents indicated that their roles, functions, and job descriptions were much
the same as those of traditional school principals. Likewise, the educational
challenges they faced were similar. Other than standardized tests, accountability
criteria differed. Some used formal beginning and ending reading and writing
tests, others used grade level report cards, and still others sought to adhere to
standards set by the district and state. All respondents indicated the importance
of parent satisfaction, which was determined by annual surveys. Finally, the
principals surveyed stated that their duties also included those of a school
superintendent. Even though they were a public school and part of a school
district, their work interfacing with the governing board and the chartering district
The personal and professional challenges faced by these charter
principals raised questions about principal preparation, and provided a glimpse
into the crucial role principals play in the new and developing educational setting
of charter schools. Responding charter principals indicated that "they had to be
more consumer-oriented, had to work harder to increase ethnic diversity in their
schools, be more responsive to parental expectations, needed to involve
teachers in all areas of school life and to encourage diversity in thinking and
expectations" (Dressler, 2000, p. 180).
Effective leadership in schools of choice, where governance was expected
to be less burdensome, and focus on outcomes was supposed to be clearer,
called for further study. Expectations for principals in charter schools and the
ability of those principals' to meet those expectations, could benefit from field-
based exploration. Sarason (1999) noted that leadership was among the most
important variables to consider in successful charter schools.
Mestinsek's (2000) study comparing leadership characteristics of
principals in charter schools and traditional schools addressed that variable.
Forty elementary principals responded to the Multifactor Leadership
Questionnaire (Bass & Avolio, 1989). That questionnaire measured
transformational and traditional leadership styles. The Multifactor Leadership
Questionnaire provided 10 scales: four related to transformational leadership,
two to leadership, one to non-leadership, and three to outcome measures as a
result of leadership practice. Although a majority of all responding principals
preferred transformational leadership practices over transactional or
nonleadership practices, the degree of preference between the groups differed
The findings indicated that American charter school principals perceived
themselves as transformational leaders significantly more than did either Alberta,
Canada, or California's regular public elementary principals. Charter principals
scored significantly higher than Alberta elementary principals on the
transformational leadership characteristics of inspiration, intellectual stimulation,
and charisma. Charter school principals also scored significantly higher on the
leadership measure of charisma when compared to California public elementary
principals. All three groups preferred the collaborative transformational
leadership style. Also, all three groups appeared to be in transition from the role
of instructional leader to the new role of chief executive officer (Mestinsek, 2000).
Another leadership dimension pertinent to charter schools was shared
decision making. Since parents, the community, teachers, and other constituents
were expected to participate to a greater extent in charters (Duquesne University
Charter Schools Project, 1998), Johnson's study (1993) on emergent patterns of
leadership in a shared decision-making school (SDM) deserved attention.
Charter schools each had a unique school culture, ones not typically
characterized by isolation and not thought of as being governed by an authority
principle. Another feature of SDM was its organic nature, which developed
differently within each individual school setting. Charters seemed to be well
suited for the shared decision-making model.
When Johnson (1993) conducted her study, the first charter schools were
opening their doors and beginning to make their claims as models for renewing
public education. The developmental research school Johnson studied was much
larger and had a longer history than charter schools, but it was a school in need
of renewal. According to Johnson's observations over a two-year period, SDM
served as a vehicle for that renewal. At Neptune High School, Johnson observed
a principal who supported the work of the SDM committees and encouraged
participation of all stakeholders. Many of Neptune's faculty were reported to have
been resistant to change, but over the course of the study, interviews revealed a
move by all teachers to engage in the issues before the SDM councils. Positive
policy changes occurred and the entire school culture, including students, moved
toward more democratic processes of communication.
At Neptune, leadership was not confined to certain individuals or groups,
but rather was characterized by acts of leadership. As in Mestinsek's (2000)
study, the preferred model of leadership was transformational, based on the
writings of James McGregor Burns (1978). At Neptune, influence flowed from the
behavior of individuals assuming leadership positions to the followers. Charters
may yet become models for further democratic school reform of the type
described by Johnson (1993).
A comparison of public and charter school principals' philosophies of
education was not currently a part of the voluminous literature on charter
schools. Research in other areas of charter schools operations was inconclusive.
First, charter schools had been in existence less than 10 years, with most in
operation for fewer than three years. Second, while there was a substantial
amount of research, much of it was driven by various ideologies. At least four
large, conservative public policy think tanks conducted their own studies and
published findings favorable to charter schools. The U.S. Department of
Education had funded national studies, providing mainly demographic
information and evaluating federal aid programs and compliance issues in
charter schools. Even those federal studies had been cited in conflict of interest
If unbiased data existed, it would most likely have been based on
standardized tests administered by each state. Parent satisfaction surveys
already supported the fact that choice engendered satisfaction, even if the choice
was not markedly different or better than non-choice alternatives. Questions
about the effect of choice and charter schools on democracy had yet to be
answered. Conflicting data existed concerning racial and economic stratification,
and for-profit educational management organizations further complicated the
question of privatization's effects on an institution that was originally envisioned
as clearly in the public domain.
Findings that charter schools influenced the schools and school districts in
which they existed was also debatable. What was not in question was that the
number of charter schools was on the rise and that the support they received
transcended political, economic, and cultural divisions. Therefore, there was
clearly a need for further study of charter schools, their philosophies, and the
ideologies of their founders and leaders.
This chapter describes the design of the study. The first section restates
the purpose and hypotheses to be tested. The second discusses the selection of
the research participants. The third describes the instrument that was used to
measure participants' philosophies of education. The fourth presents the
statistical methods of analyzing the data. The fifth describes the interview
process and other qualitative methods used to clarify the quantitative findings.
The instrument used in this study resulted from an original study and a
series of revisions. The Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) was
developed as part of a dissertation study (Zinn, 1983). After a decade of practical
validation of the PAEI, in 1994 Zinn created the first draft of the Philosophy of
Education Inventory, K-12 (PEI). Based on review of inventory scores and
evaluative information provided by over 800 teachers participating in educational
leaders workshops, in 1994 and 1995 two additional revisions of the PEI were
made. In 1997, Zinn updated and expanded the interpretive information but did
not change the PEI. No statistical testing of external validity of the PAEI was
done to determine that it could be accurately generalized to K-12 educators.
Purpose and Hypothesis
The purpose of this study was to examine differences among philosophies
of education of leaders in charter schools compared to leaders in
demographically matched public schools. Based on the Philosophy of Education
Inventory (PEI, Zinn, 1997), the following null hypothesis was tested:
There are no significant differences in the average scores of public and
charter school principals on the five philosophical scales measured by the
Participants consisted of 12 educational leaders in one Florida county--six
from charter schools and six from demographically matched public schools. One
medium-size school district in north central Florida was selected, and schools
were demographically matched using two criteria: (a) the percentage of students
eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches, a standard measure used to
determine socio-economic status (SES); and (b) ethnicity-the percentage of
African-American and Hispanic students (see Appendix B for demographic
matching of participants' school populations used in this study). The selection of
the educational leader focused on the principal of the public school matched with
an educator of similar standing in the charter school, presumably the director.
The sample size for this study limited the power of the statistical analysis. With
only 12 participants, detection of hypothesized differences between group means
on the five subscales of the PEI was unlikely.
The Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory
The Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI) was completed in
1983 as part of a dissertation study (Zinn, 1983). Its purpose was to assist adult
educators in a process of philosophical inquiry. The PAEI categorized an
individual's personal philosophy of adult education with respect to five prevailing
adult education philosophies. It was a self-report questionnaire consisting of 75
The PAEI was statistically analyzed for content and construct validity and
reliability. Content validity was established using a jury of six internationally
recognized "experts" in the field of educational philosophies. Instructions for the
content validity study directed jurors to assign a relative value on a 1 to 7 scale to
indicate how closely they believed each of the five options represented each of
the five philosophies. Thus, there were five relative values assigned to each
option of every inventory item.
Mean scores for each jurors' responses were calculated by Zinn for each
response item. These scores were then compared with the categories to which
the researcher had assigned each option on the inventory. Responses of six
jurors to Zinn's questionnaire were used to calculate mean scores for each
response item. Sixty-seven percent of the jurors assigned 97% of the individual
items to the same philosophy as did Zinn. Ninety-three percent of the individual
items correlated significantly with the total scores on the scales or philosophies
they were intended to represent. The majority of response options (84%) yielded
moderate to high correlation coefficients (.41-.77) with total scores.
The PAEI was judged to have a fairly high degree of validity based on jury
mean scores of >.50 (on a 7-point Likert scale) on 93% of the response options,
and communality coefficients of >.50 on 87% of the response options. Reliability
coefficients of >.40 on 87% of the response options and alpha coefficients
ranging from .75 to .86 on the five scales were considered measures of moderate
to high reliability.
Construct validity was determined through factor analysis, using
responses from 86 individuals across six states and the District of Columbia.
Internal consistency and test-retest stability were determined based on Pearson
product moment correlations for individual response options, items, and overall
The Philosophy of Education Inventory
The instrument used to measure the philosophical constructs of interest
for this study was the Philosophy of Education Inventory K-12 (PEI), designed
and validated by L. M. Zinn (1997) (Appendix C). Like the PAEI, the PEI was a
self-report questionnaire consisting of 15 sentence stems. Each of the 15 stems
had 5 sentence completions, for a total of 75 items. A Likert scale allowed
respondents to select within a range of responses from 1 to 7 (1 = Strongly
Disagree, 7 = Strongly Agree). The choice reflected the completion that best
represented the beliefs of the respondent. A neutral point of 4 indicated that the
respondent had no opinion or was not sure about a particular sentence
completion option. Respondents were asked to respond based on what they
"most frequently or most likely do" (p. 3).
New Instrument Development
Development of a new Philosophy of Education Inventory (K-12) began
with a comparative literature review completed in 1993 by L. VanLoan Anthony
(South Florida Center for Educational Leaders). This secondary research was
designed to provide a theoretical basis for determining whether the five
philosophies of education central to the PAEI would also be relevant and
significant for K-12 educators (Zinn, 2000).
According to Zinn (2000),
based on a credible theoretical premise, combined with strong statistical
validation and a decade of practical validation of the PAEI, the first draft of
the PEI (K-12) was created in 1994. The new instrument was essentially
unchanged from the PAEI, except for minor language substitution to make
it more relevant to teachers of children. Interpretive information was also
modified to reflect educational theorists, methods, techniques, and
practices relevant to K-12 educators (p. 2).
In order to validate the use of this instrument with K-12 faculty, over 800
teachers participating in workshops sponsored by the South Florida Center for
Education Leaders reviewed the instrument for face validity. These "experts"
provided feedback that resulted in two additional revisions of the PEI. There were
no statistical validity studies done on this form of the PEI. Based on the strength
of the content and construct validity and internal consistency of the original PAEI,
only minor wording changes were made to the PEI. However, some of the labels
for the educational philosophies were modified, and the sequence in which they
were presented changed with the reversal of two philosophies.
For statistical analysis, the two independent variables were (a) the public
school principals and the charter school principals and (b) the combined variable
of ethnicity, the percentage of African-American and Hispanic students, and
socio-economic status, based on incidence of free or reduced price lunch. The
dependent variable was the principals' scores on the philosophy measure, with
each philosophy as a different level. The five philosophies were behavioral,
comprehensive, progressive, humanistic, and social change education. A
repeated measures analysis of variance was performed on responses to the
questionnaires to test significance of differences among means of the two
groups, charter and public. There were repeated measures on each of the five
philosophies, to determine whether or not there were interactions. Internal
consistency estimates of the five scales with this sample of principals were
calculated. Specific contrasts were planned for instances when the main effects
The repeated measures analysis of variance was chosen as the statistical
procedure because of three assumptions. One assumption was that the repeated
measures utilized the same type of scaling procedure. A second assumption was
that respondents would apply the same response strategy when responding to
the items in each scale. The final assumption was that that the statistical test was
designed to determine whether there were differences among the scales (J.
Algina, personal communication, August 6, 2001).
According to Stevens (1996), the repeated measures analysis of variance
was an appropriate choice of statistical procedure for scoring the PEI because of
power issues. Stevens counseled against using the multivariate approach if n
was less than a + 10. In this study a equaled 5, the 5 levels that are types of
philosophies-the repeated measures. Using the formula n = 5 + 10, which
equals 15, this study had fewer; only 12 participants' questionnaires were
analyzed. The multivariate test would have been relatively less powerful than the
univariate approach that was used because of low n. Furthermore, use of the
Huynh-Feldt adjusted p-value yielded an honest error rate, controlling for type I
Qualitative Data Collection
In April, 2000, four visits were made to the school board office in the
county in which the study was to be conducted. The county office supplied
demographic information about the area's charter and traditional public school
populations. Another researcher assisted in the process of matching schools for
the study. Participants consisted of 12 educational leaders in one Florida
county-six from charter schools and six from demographically matched public
schools. Demographic matching considered the percentage of African-American
and Hispanic students and the percentage of students eligible to receive free or
reduced price lunch.
According to McCracken (1988), qualitative data can clarify quantitative
findings and quantitative data can identify the scope and distribution of qualitative
findings. McCracken's (1988) book The Long Interview directed the qualitative
data gathering and reporting process. McCracken made the case that the
literature review was a kind of qualitative analysis, a critical undertaking that
served two purposes. First, it revealed the assumptions of previous literature and
forced a deconstruction of it to determine how problems and findings had
previously been defined. Second, it aided in the construction of the interview
questionnaire, establishing categories and relationships to be investigated.
Reviews of the literature of philosophy of education and of the charter
school movement were conducted. The county school board offices provided a
multitude of charter school documents: several charter schools' applications, on-
site charter school monitoring review instruments, a packet from various school
board departments required to support charter schools, Florida's Charter Schools
Legislation 1999 and 2000 Versions, and "The Bush/Brogan A+ Plan for
Education." Public and charter school websites and brochures provided
contextual data for the schools included in the study.
The Interview Process
In May, 2000, when informed consent was obtained from the university's
Institutional Review Board (see Appendix A), preliminary contact was made with
charter school principals and a visit was made to each school in order to contact
the chief administrator, introduce the study, and deliver the PEI. Requests were
made to allow informal observations before the school year concluded. Four of
the six charter schools agreed to observations.
Class activities a half-hour to an hour in length were observed at four
schools beginning mid- May through summer session's end in June. The purpose
of these observations was to familiarize the researcher with the charter school
settings, to provide a context for the study. Field notes taken during or
immediately after each observation provided supplemental contextual data that
was useful in formulating interview questions.
The county school board office granted access to public school principals
in late May. At that time it was suggested that waiting until public schools
dismissed for summer recess might better allow public school principals to
participate in the study. Rather than the county office mailing the consent
documents and the PEI, it was agreed that they would notify the selected
principals via electronic mail that permission had been granted for the researcher
to solicit their participation.
All participants required a minimum of three visits: the first to explain the
study and solicit participation; the second to retrieve the completed PEI so it
could be scored; and the third to explain the results of the PEI, give a gift copy of
the instrument, and conduct the interview. Contact was made with the traditional
public school principals beginning mid-June. During the first and second visits,
informal conversations with teachers at school sites occurred. These
conversations contributed to the contextual database.
All public school administrators were interviewed in their offices, but
interviews with charter school administrators were held in a variety of settings
that best suited the needs of that administrator. One charter principal was
interviewed at the construction site of that school's new facility. Another
requested the interview take place in her home. A third charter administrator was
interviewed in his office at the local community college. The other three were
interviewed at their schools.
Development of the Semi-structured Interview Guide
Prior to constructing the questionnaire, McCracken (1988) suggested a
review of cultural categories, meaning a reflection by the researcher on the
familiarity the investigator had with the research settings. This review was
attempted in order to alert the researcher to personal biases that might exist, as
well as to an appreciation of the insights an intimate acquaintance with the
settings might provide. The paradoxical juxtaposition of creating distance and
embracing familiarity provided the context for developing the questionnaire and
conducting the interviews.
The questions for the interview guides were developed based on the
literature and document reviews. Discussions with committee chairpersons for
this study also contributed to the formulation of questions. Preliminary and
subsequent visits to school sites provided the historical and cultural context from
which planned questions evolved. The observations and conversations that took
place at charter and public school sites prior to beginning the interviews also
helped generate questions.
McCracken's (1988) questionnaire construction included biographical
questions followed by open-ended questions, designed to allow respondents to
expand on the topic. Various methods to elicit continuation of testimony along
certain lines were contained in his book. Planned questions assured that the
interview covered the critical areas of the topic being researched.
McCracken (1988) suggested that the interviewer combine a professional,
as well as a friendly approach. Listening for key terms and for interrelationships
in the data, and awareness of implications, and assumption were of paramount
The interviews began several weeks after the PEIs were collected. The
interview sessions averaged 45 minutes each. Two separate and successive
stages of interviews were conducted. Both sets began with biographical and
descriptive data concerning the research participants. In some instances, this
data was available on schools' websites or in school publications. In those cases,
the researcher reviewed that information before beginning the interview.
The first six interviews, five with charter school administrators and one
with a public school administrator, used Interview Guide #1 in Appendix D. For
the next six interviews, one with a charter school administrator, and five with
public school administrators, the number of questions increased to include
planned questions added as a result of the initial six interviews, while also
refining and narrowing questions to those which bore most directly on the
research hypotheses. Interview Guide #2 in Appendix D displays those
Finally, in an effort to gain as wide a perspective as possible concerning
the research hypotheses, a decision was made to seek two additional interviews:
one with county's charter school director and one with a charter school board
member serving on three charter boards. These interview guides are also
contained in Appendix D. The first interview was conducted at the end of May
and interviews concluded at the end of July.
Qualitative Data Analysis
The purpose of the interviews was to further explain the findings of the
Philosophy of Education Inventory (Zinn, 1997), in order to enhance the power of
the quantitative findings. The interview was designed to probe beyond the
questions contained in the instrument to explain the results. Although
McCracken's The Long Interview (1989) served as a guide for formulating
questions and conducting the interviews, the purpose of the qualitative research
in this study did not aim to uncover constructs, patterns, or themes contained in
formal qualitative research. However, some stages of McCracken's analysis
process were employed.
Data analysis of the interviews began with verbatim transcripts, sets of
observations, and the interview guides. Interview questions became files into
which utterances and observations were collected. Combining and reducing the
number of questions resulted in categories. Categories were validated by having
an independent reader, familiar with both qualitative research and Florida public
and charter schools, complete the process of establishing categories. Categories
identified by the researcher and the independent reader were then compared for
overlap. (See Appendix E for Categories by School Setting.)These categories
ultimately became the conclusions drawn concerning the reasons for similarities
and differences between the educational philosophies of charter and traditional
public school principals, as uncovered by the PEI. These explanations are
contained in the qualitative section in Chapter 4 Results.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The purpose of this study was to examine differences among
philosophies of education of leaders in charter schools compared to leaders
in demographically matched public schools. Based on the Philosophy of
Education Inventory (PEI) (Zinn, 1997) the following null hypothesis was
There are no significant differences in the average scores of public and
charter school principals on the five philosophical scales measured by
The study was guided by the research question of whether differences in
philosophy existed between public and charter school principals. This
required the examination of quantitative data provided by the PEI, and by
qualitative examination of semi-structured interviews with all 12 administrators
completing the PEI, an interview with the county's charter schools director,
and an interview with a member serving on three charter schools' boards of
directors. Examination of documents, including school websites, school
publications, the county school board's monitoring documents for charter
schools, sample charter school proposals, Florida State Statutes governing
charter schools, Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, as well as
informal interviews with teachers at selected schools and observation of classes
at selected charter schools provided multiple sources for answering the research
question, thus providing data triangulation.
Six charter and six public school administrators' responses were
calculated for the PEI and those administrators also participated in semi-
structured follow up interviews, as did two charter school officials. One medium-
size district in north central Florida was selected and schools were
demographically matched using two criteria: (a) the percentage of students
eligible to receive free or reduced price lunches and (b) ethnicity-the
percentage of African-American and Hispanic students (see Appendix B). The
selection of the educational leader focused on the principal of the public school
matched with an educator of similar standing in the charter school, presumably
Estimates of internal consistency were obtained for the 12 principals'
responses to the PEI to ensure the stability of the results reported in this study.
The five philosophical scales measured by the PEI were each defined by 15
items, making the entire instrument 75 items long. The coefficient alphas for the
total instrument and each scale are reported in Table 1.
The reliability of the total score on the instrument (computed as the sum of
the individual scale scores) was 0.92. The reliabilities of the scale scores ranged
from 0.64 for the comprehensive scale to 0.87 for the social change scale.
These high reliabilities were deemed adequate for the purpose of this study.
Coefficient alpha for the total score and scale scores
Total Behavioral Comprehensive Progressive Humanistic Social Change
Alpha* 0.92 0.75 0.64 0.77 0.85 0.87
Note. Reported alphas are for raw variables.
Similarities Between Public and Charter School Principals
This study proposed one hypothesis: there are no significant differences in
the average scores of public and charter school principals on the five
philosophical scales measured by the PEI. Table 2 presents the means and
standard deviations of the public and charter school principals on each of the five
Mean scores and standard deviations of public and charter school principals on
each of the five philosophies
Sector Behavioral Comprehensive Progressive Humanistic Social Change
Public" M= 81.70 M= 76.30 M= 90.20 M= 74.80 M= 76.30
SD = 10.86 SD = 10.56 SD = 07.94 SD = 07.78 SD = 10.56
Charter M =81.33 M= 75.70 M = 83.00 M= 69.50 M= 73.20
SD= 10.76 SD= 06.83 SD= 10.20 SD= 18.29 SD= 15.64
Note. a n=6 public school principals, b n=6 charter school principals.
According to these results, public school principals most strongly
endorsed items indicative of a progressive philosophy (M = 90.2), followed by
less strong endorsement of items representative of a behavioral philosophy (M =
81.7). Items describing a humanistic philosophy were rated lowest (M= 74.8).
Charter school principals followed a very similar pattern. These principals gave
higher ratings on items measuring progressive and behavioral philosophies (M =
83.0 and 81.3, respectively), and lower ratings on items measuring a humanistic
philosophy (M = 69.5). Average ratings on the social change and comprehensive
items were very similar for both the public and charter school sectors. On the
items measuring comprehensive philosophy, public schools had a mean score of
76.3 and charter schools had a mean score of 75.7. For items measuring social
change philosophy, public schools had a mean score of 76.3 and charter schools
had a mean score of 73.2.
Table 3 presents the means and standard deviations of the principals who
were matched according to their schools' socioeconomic status (SES) and
percent minority enrollment. Principals in blocks 1, 3, 4, and 6 indicated the
greatest alignment with a progressive philosophy (M = 90.5, 79.0, 87.5, and 97.0,
respectively). Principals in blocks 1 and 6 evinced agreement with a behavioral
philosophy as their second highest philosophical category of alignment (M =
86.0 and 87.0, respectively). Principals in blocks 3 and 4 expressed next highest
agreement on the social change philosophical category.
Principals in blocks 2 and 5 also shared the same pattern of scores.
Unlike principals in blocks 1, 3, 4, and 6, however, these principals indicated the
highest agreement with a behavioral philosophy (M = 90.0 and 88.5, respectively)
and next highest agreement with a progressive philosophy (M = 88.0 and 77.5,
respectively). (For those interested in comparing demographic matching with
blocks in Table 3, see Appendix B.)
Table 4 presents the means and standard deviations of each of the five
philosophies. According to these results, all 12 principals agreed most with a
progressive philosophy (M = 86.58). This was followed by a behavioral
philosophy (M = 81.5). In contrast, the principals in this sample agreed least with
a humanistic philosophy (M = 72.17). Both the social change and
comprehensive philosophies were rated similarly by all principals (M = 74.75 and
Mean scores and standard deviations on each of the five philosophies by blocks
Block Behavioral Comprehensive Progressive Humanistic Social Change
1 a M = 86.00 M = 76.50 M = 90.50 M = 76.00 M = 83.50
SD= 05.66 SD= 16.26 SD= 02.12 SD= 08.49 SD = 07.78
2 a M= 90.00 M= 81.00 M= 88.00 M= 81.00 M= 77.00
SD= 05.66 SD = 07.07 SD= 09.90 SD= 00.00 SD= 04.24
3 M= 65.50 M= 65.00 M= 79.00 M= 67.50 M= 68.50
SD= 04.95 SD= 11.31 SD= 04.24 SD= 00.71 SD= 07.78
4 a M= 72.00 M= 78.00 M= 87.50 M= 79.00 M= 84.50
SD= 05.66 SD = 02.83 SD= 10.61 SD= 01.41 SD= 02.12
5 M = 88.50 M = 75.50 M = 77.50 M = 49.00 M = 58.50
SD =02.12 SD = 00.71 SD= 14.85 SD= 19.80 SD = 21.92
6a M = 87.00 M = 80.00 M = 97.00 M = 80.50 M = 76.50
SD= 02.83 SD= 02.83 SD= 01.41 SD= 07.78 SD= 14.85
Overall means and standard deviations for each of the five philosophies
Behavioral Comprehensive Progressive Humanistic Social Change
Mean a 81.50 76.00 86.58 72.17 74.75
SD 10.31 8.49 9.48 13.69 12.83
Note. an= 12.
Repeated measures ANOVA was used to test whether (a) there was a
difference in the mean ratings of principals from public and charter schools on
the five philosophies, (b) there was a difference in the mean ratings of principals
from schools with different SES and percentages of minority students, (c) the five
philosophies had different mean ratings, and (d) there were interactions between
the scores for the five philosophies and the type of school (i.e., public or charter)
and the schools' SES/minority composition. The ANOVA table is presented
Repeated measures analysis of variance table
Source DF MS F p-value H-F p-value b H-F epsilon
Sector" 1 166.67 0.86 0.2692
SES/Minority 5 477.8 2.45 0.1731
Error 5 194.87
Philosophy 4 402.94 6.87 0.0012 1.6427
Phil*Sector 4 26.13 0.45 0.7745
Phil*SES/Min 20 100.69 1.72 0.1179
Error (Phil) 20 58.68
a Sector = public vs. charter, b Huynh-Feldt adjusted p-value, significant at alpha=0.05
The results of this analysis show that there was sufficient evidence to
conclude that there were significant differences in the mean ratings of the five
philosophies across all 12 principals (4, 20 = 4.00, p = 0.0012). Using a
significance level of 0.05, there was not enough evidence to support that public
school and charter school principals differ in their mean ratings of the five
philosophies (F1, s = 0.86, 2 = 0.27), or that principals from schools with different
SES/percent minorities differ in their mean ratings of the five philosophies ( 5, =
2.45, 2 = 0.17). There was no evidence of interaction between philosophy
ratings and sector (E4, 20 = 0.45, 2 = 0.77) or between philosophy ratings and the
schools' SES/percent minority (20, 20 = 0.72, = 0.12). Therefore, the results
showed that both charter and public school principals preferred certain
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