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ERIC Number: ED565500
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 151
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3036-7316-0
The Charter School Experience: Autonomy in Practice
McDonald, Tonya Senne
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Gardner-Webb University
While traditional public school and charter school systems continue to undergo dramatic reforms in response to the educational crisis, charter schools are praised as possessing the distinguishing characteristic of maintaining autonomy in exchange for increased accountability (Buckley & Schneider, 2009). The expectations for charter schools are high due to increased autonomy and accountability (Finn, Ryan & Lafferty, 2010), yet little research has been conducted on the autonomy actually experienced by charter school leaders. This qualitative phenomenological inquiry analyzed how leaders experienced autonomy in the charter school settings. Participants' perceptions of leader autonomy were explored in four areas of educational leadership: (1) personnel management, (2) allocation of resources, (3) instructional programs, and (4) governance. For the purpose of this study, autonomy was defined as the amount of authority and flexibility exercised to lead staff effectively, make decisions based on the needs of constituents, and develop program improvements that meet or exceed expectations. The concept of autonomy is central to charter schools (Bulkley & Fisler, 2002); and yet when impositions are considered, it is possible the autonomy granted is inadequate to make much difference (Finn, Ryan, & Lafferty, 2010). This study was designed to delve more deeply into charter school leadership and determine how experienced autonomy compared to the autonomy desired by educational leaders. This study analyzed the effects of autonomy and the relationship of experienced autonomy and job satisfaction in charter school leaders. This study was qualitative in nature, and the information was collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with leaders from six charter schools within the State of North Carolina. The constant comparative method and cross-case analysis were used to evaluate the data in order to identify emergent themes from the leader responses. This study found the existence of an autonomy gap created barriers for charter school leaders in the areas of accountability, testing, and evaluation. Personnel management and instructional program design were areas leaders realized autonomy but impositions constrained. This study also determined job satisfaction was experienced by leaders who maintained autonomy to create and design schools that were focused on their missions. Autonomy contributed to the leader's sense of personal achievement, ownership, and ability to make a difference in their schools. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina