Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Ed Psychology and Research


Educational Research

Committee Chair

Ernest A. Rakow

Committee Member

Deborah L. Lowther

Committee Member

Paul M. Wright

Committee Member

Steven M. Ross


Similar to other states, charter schools in Tennessee were established to improve student learning, provide options for parents, encourage the use of innovative methods, and provide new opportunities for teachers. With the passage of the TNPublic Charter School Law, the first four charter schools opened in the 2003-04 academic year. Since that time, evidence has accumulated that this cohort of schools has been able to demonstrate many of the purposes outlined in the TN charter school law. For example, teachers and parents have generally reported positive experiences with the schools as well as satisfaction with key outcomes. Additionally, although student achievement results have been mixed, the schools have all successfully renewed their charters. The extent to which the charter schools are being innovative, however, has not been well documented. Using a qualitative collective case study approach, the goal of this paper was to examine if the first cohort of TNcharter schools is utilizing innovative methods. The resulting themes across schools included the use of extended learning time, engaging students as individual learners, adopting a holistic view of education, high-levels of support for the school's mission coupled with participative decision-making, and purposeful parent and community involvement with the schools. When examined in isolation, the charter school practices appear to be well-founded in the research literature, but do not ostensibly seem to be truly new. When the combination of practices is examined, however, then each school appears to provide a unique approach to educating their students, the vast majority of whom are economically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk. Additionally, the schools offered educational methods and opportunities that may not have otherwise been provided in their respective communities. This holistic, contextually-based examination of innovation also offers lessons for adoption and scale-up of practices by other schools.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.