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Title page for ETD etd-08042017-120903

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Blissett, Richard Steele Lee
Author's Email Address rsl.bliss@gmail.com
URN etd-08042017-120903
Title The Ideological Politics of Charter Schools
Degree PhD
Department Leadership and Policy Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
William Doyle Committee Chair
Jason Grissom Committee Member
Marc Hetherington Committee Member
Matthew Springer Committee Member
  • education policy
  • education policy
  • ideology
  • topic modeling
  • school choice
  • charter schools
Date of Defense 2017-06-13
Availability unrestricted
Charter school policy is driven by a combination of empirical concerns about their effectiveness as well as ideological motivations. However, there has thus far been a relative lack of evidence on the latter, making it difficult to identify ways to shift the policy debate. This dissertation begins to fill this gap by pursuing three related research projects. First, I conduct a qualitative investigation of two opposing social movements in East Nashville to break down their positions on charter schools and school choice. Here, I find that there are significant differences in perspectives on choice and charter schools, including perspectives on the role of teachers and leaders, community, and no-excuses environments. However, there are also important points of commonality. Second, I employ topic modeling methods to organize and identify the language and concepts associated with charter school coverage in United States news media. First, in earlier years, there was significant emphasis on the publicness of charter schools and their independence from the public system. Later, there was more of an emphasis on the financial resources aspect of charter school policy. Lastly, drawing on lessons from political psychology, I present the results from an information search exercise designed to illuminate the types of information that people find most important when evaluating charter school policy. I find evidence that people tend to seek out pro-attitudinal information and that people’s search behaviors differ by ideology and schooling background. Altogether, the results from these studies have important implications for researchers and policymakers alike. The most important takeaway is that charter school attitudes are not always primarily driven by concerns about their effectiveness. This dissertation demonstrates several ways in which the other ideological considerations are indeed observable, opening up a new avenue for exploration.
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