Scaling up Success for ELLs in Charter Schools: Exploring the Role of Charter School Authorizers
thesisposted on 2018-02-18, 00:00 authored by Peggie K. Garcia
The population of English language learners (ELLs) and the number of charter school students have both been increasing rapidly over the past two decades, yet there has been surprisingly little attention paid in the literature to the convergence of these two trends. This study begins to fill that gap by examining the role that charter school authorizers might play to ensure that ELLs have equitable access to charter schools and that those schools provide ELLs with high-quality, research-based programs that build on their assets and skills. This exploratory qualitative study employed a multiple-case case study approach to examine ELL-related authorizing practices in 10 urban school districts. Guided by the advocacy coalition framework and Honig’s (2006) three P’s theoretical framework (people, places and policies), I examined how authorizing practices across the 10 diverse authorizers were shaped by external factors, the agency of the actors within the authorizing office, and by the local context in which the authorizer was situated. In terms of external factors, the political orientation of the state and substantive references to ELLs in the state charter law did appear to influence ELL-related authorizing practices, but statewide language policies and external civil rights oversight did not explain variation across the sample. Two factors related to the “people” component were important: the authorizer’s access to ELL expertise and the authorizer’s commitment to improve access and quality for ELLs in charter schools. In terms of the “place” component, authorizer type and the charter climate in the district did not help to explain variation, but the proportion of ELLs in the district and the capacity of the authorizer did appear to be important. Finally, within the “practices” component, authorizers with the most focused ELL-related practices integrated ELLs throughout the application and monitoring processes, involved ELL experts at key junctures, encouraged charter schools to set mission-specific goals, and used multiple measures—including measures that were valid and meaningful for ELLs—to measure the quality of their charter schools, both overall and for ELLs specifically. On the basis of my findings, I conclude by outlining implications for research, policy, and practice.