Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Kathleen Sullivan Brown, Ph.D.


Lynn Beckwith, Ed.D.

James Murray, Ph.D.

Lana Stein, Ph.D.


This particularistic case study of St. Louis, Missouri charter schools examines the history of the charter school movement in St. Louis from the perspectives of those most closely involved in policy-making and school development, covering the period from the local movement?s inception in 1996 through the first sponsor review year in 2005. Transcribed interviews of ten key participants in the policy development and start-up process, as well as archival data, were thematically coded, deconstructed, triangulated, and reconstructed to form the basis of the history as it is presented in this study. This qualitative study reveals the rich narrative of charter school development specific to St. Louis at the time of the study. It does not study the qualitative efficacy of the charter schools themselves. This history includes conflict between charter proponents and local districts, legislators and sponsors, school operators and sponsors, and most other conceivable combinations of key actors in the process. Conflicts have resulted from disagreement about the legislation itself, the role of the sponsor, the legal and ethical conduct of operators, the effectiveness of the schools, and the philosophical concept of using public money for these independent (but ?public) schools. Of the eight schools included in the study, six are still operating as charter schools. Further research should include expanded study of these schools and other charter schools for those elements of success that may be transferable to traditional schools. If two of charter schools? purposes are creating market forces that compel positive change in the local school district, and providing the opportunity for experimental methods that might be applied more broadly, then these elements warrant additional scrutiny. Though the success of charter schools in the narrow context of this study was not marked, closer study of these schools as they mature may yield results that provide generalizable teaching and learning strategies.

OCLC Number


Included in

Education Commons