Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

Document Type



Since 2014, 42 states have adopted charter school legislation. Research has been conducted on charter school effectiveness and legislative adoption. However, limitations in the research exist regarding school choice in that studies address inequalities and outcomes at the school level, with limited attention to the state-level policy environment. Additionally, research does not consider variations in state school choice policy nor does it link policy differences to equitable educational outcomes.

This descriptive study described and categorized the variation of state charter school polices and explored differences in state level education finance, student demographics and academic outcomes, and school type characteristics. A cluster analysis yielded three clusters of states with charter school laws that were statistically and descriptively unique in terms of charter school autonomy, equity funding, and growth. ANOVA tests confirmed that the clusters were significantly different than one another. The three indices that were the basis of clustering have underlying composite variables that describe the nature of charter school laws in greater detail. Chi-square tests were conducted to determine whether or not the percentage of states, with each law characteristic specified in the composite variables that made up the index variables (autonomy, equity funding, and growth) differed significantly across clusters. Chi-square tests for all the composite variables reveal that the three state clusters differ significantly from one another. To further explore how the state clusters differed from one another in terms of factors examined in past research, the analysis compared cluster averages for variables measuring state level education finance, student demographics, education outcomes, and school types. ANOVAs were run for all of the clusters’ means for each characteristic variable. Only two of thirteen characteristic variables’ means were significantly different across clusters.

The descriptive findings in this study can be used in concert with legislative adoption and charter school effectiveness research to reduce limitations in these research areas. Through this advance in charter school research, social workers will gain increased clarity to whether charter school reform is purportedly an equalizer of educational opportunity across class, race, ethnicity and/or gender.



Committee Chair

Livermore, Michelle



Included in

Social Work Commons