The Social Context of Charter Schools

Authored by: Zachary W. Oberfield

Handbook of Research on School Choice

Print publication date:  June  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815381464
eBook ISBN: 9781351210447
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines research comparing the subjective experiences and demographic characteristics of four sets of charter and district school stakeholders: administrators, teachers, parents, and students. It begins by contemplating the expectations and claims made by early and current charter school proponents. Understanding these expectations helps establish a set of criteria to judge the experiment. It goes on to consider research examining administrators, envisioned by charter proponents as bold and unchained relative to their district peers. Following that, the chapter explores research examining who teaches in charter schools and what they experience relative to district teachers. Finally, it widens the lens to ask about the students who attend charter and district schools and the experiences reported by their parents. In sum, the chapter argues that charter schools have achieved many of the goals set forth by early theorists and proponents. However, this is not to say that the entire promise of charter schools has been fulfilled or that stakeholders’ experiences with charter schools have been uniformly positive. The chapter closes by identifying holes in our understanding of the social context of charter schools and suggesting areas for future research.

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