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ERIC Number: ED508627
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The Muzzled Dog That Didn't Bark: Charters and the Behavioral Response of D.C. Public Schools
Sullivan, Margaret D.; Campbell, Dean B.; Kisida, Brian
School Choice Demonstration Project
As of the 2006-2007 school year, 19,733 students attended charter schools in the District of Columbia, representing over a quarter of the District's total public school student population and one of the largest charter school markets in the country. It is under such circumstances, some suggest, that choice will spur competition, ultimately leading to the improvement of public education. Yet, surprisingly little research has evaluated the behavioral response of public schools in D.C. to this source of competition. Most research to date on school choice in D.C. and elsewhere focuses on the largely positive "participant effects" that school choice programs have on choosers. By looking at the issue from the ground level of one of the most choice-prevalent districts in the United States, we seek to closely examine the causal dynamics of "systemic effects" induced by competition from within the D.C. education establishment. The present study consists of a series of interviews, focus groups, and surveys along three levels: District elites, principals, and teachers. The investigation suggests that market forces that might otherwise be expected to spur a competitive response to school choice in D.C. are watered down by a lack of commitment to a truly competitive model that incorporates non-trivial consequences for failure. Efforts to enforce such a competitive model are hampered by political dynamics and burdensome regulations. District leaders preoccupied with politics, leadership problems, and administrative headaches have left individual schools to respond to charter school competition on their own. Meanwhile, D.C. principals are not responding to competition from charter schools in the ways that elites expected because they do not have the appropriate autonomy and resources to do so. Furthermore, the study suggests that the schools most affected by the exodus of students to charter schools continue to be mired with dysfunction. (Contains 6 figures, 4 tables, and 50 footnotes.)
School Choice Demonstration Project. Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas, 201 Graduate Education Building, Fayetteville, AR 72701. Tel: 479-575-3172; Fax: 479-575-3196; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of Arkansas, Department of Education Reform
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia; United States
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001