Semester of Graduation

May 2018


Master of Arts in Education (MAE)


Curriculum Studies

Document Type



Media coverage and debate over education policy has fashioned in the minds of many Americans a basic fear that our public schools are failing. In the midst of this alarmist climate, a compelling solution has arisen: charter schools, which are publicly funded but often privately run. A particular brand of charter schools call themselves “no excuses schools:” they insist that every child can perform at high levels, regardless of poverty, race, or any other circumstance. While many studies and reports have investigated claims that student achievement is higher at charter schools than traditional public schools (Cunningham, 2012; Hoxby et al 2009), there has been less research devoted to the exploration of identity formation in students who attend charter schools.

In this qualitative research study, I use critical discourse analysis to unpack hidden messages about students and student subjectivity in the online materials of a recently opened charter school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the non-profit organization that supports it. In analyzing documents that describe the school’s mission, vision, and values, I find that teachers are constructed as difference-makers with the power to alter the trajectories of children’s lives and close the achievement gap. While such an idea may be appealing, especially to young teachers like myself, it is also problematic. Believing in great teaching as the answer inculcates deficit models in students by implying that their parents and communities are not enough. Moreover, it offers an individualistic solution (teachers) to a structural problem (the poverty and racial segregation that cause inequities in education.



Committee Chair

Hendry, Petra



Available for download on Monday, March 24, 2025