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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 7, no. 22 (July 22, 1999).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c July 22, 1999
Teachers in charter schools and traditional schools : a comparative study / Sally Bomotti, Rick Ginsberg, [and] Brian Cobb.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 22 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 7 Number 22July 22, 1999ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 1999, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Teachers in Charter Schools and Traditional Schools : A Comparative Study Sally Bomotti Rick Ginsberg Brian Cobb Colorado State UniversityAbstract Teachers from charter and traditional sch ools in Colorado were queried about their perceptions of their level of e mpowerment, school climate, and working conditions. Using a cluster sa mpling design, approximately 100 teachers from 16 charter schools and 100 teachers from seven traditional schools were surveyed by com bining several well-established instruments to measure empowerment school climate, and working conditions. Factor analyses yielded thr ee composite variables each for the three constructs. One-way an alyses of variance were used to explore these teachers' differences in perceptions. Results yielded consistent and practically significant diff erences in these charter and traditional school perceptions of empowerment, school climate, and working conditions. Not all of these differences, h owever, were consistent with expectations given the educational and legislative contexts driving Colorado's charter school movement Implications and recommendations for future research are given.Introduction and Background to the Study
2 of 22 Charter schools are one of the fastest-sp reading, dynamic, and controversial educational reform movements to emerge in response to widespread demands for better public schools and more school choice. A majority o f states have now passed legislation allowing parents, teachers, and community members t o start these more autonomous schools, which receive public funds but operate unf ettered by most state and local school district regulations governing other public schools Charter schools attract a diverse array of people who advocate reform of the current public school system for a variety of reasons. But at the heart of the charter school con cept is a shared set of assumptions about how and why such schools will improve public education (Corwin & Flaherty, 1995; Garcia & Garcia, 1996; RPP International, 199 8; Wells and Associates, 1998;). Supporters claim that, in exchange for freedom from burdensome rules and regulations, charter schools will be more accountable for studen t learning. In addition, charter schools will infuse a healthy competition into a bu reaucratic and unresponsive public system by providing more educational choices to par ents and students. Because of their enhanced autonomy, they will encourage educational innovation, provide more professional opportunities for teachers, and operat e more efficiently than regular public schools. For these reasons, charter schools are als o expected to serve as educational research and development laboratories and a spur to reform of the public education system as a whole. The appeal of these ideas is app arent in the speedy rate at which new charter schools are opening. Although counts vary, it is conservatively estimated that, during the 1997-1998 school year, about 781 charter schools were in operation in 23 states and the District of Columbia, serving more t han 100,000 students (RPP International, 1998). President Clinton has called for quadrupling the number of charter schools by the year 2002. This study was designed to examine the cl aim that charter schools offer teachers opportunities to enhance their professional lives. Charter school laws passed in many states explicitly intend to empower teachers to bec ome more self-directed professionals by providing them with the autonomy, flexibility an d authority they need to design new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. (Contreras, 1995; Mulholland & Bierlein, 1993; Wells and Associates, 1998). Advoca tes suggest that such empowerment means that teachers in charter schools will be enco uraged to take on aspects of a more "professional" role outside the classroom. Examples of this more professional role could include exerting greater influence over school-wide decisions, and having more say in how they organize their day and how they structure relationships with colleagues (Corwin & Flaherty, 1995). Ultimately, according to this theoretical perspective, these more empowered teachers would be better able to ser ve their students by creating educational environments that will lead to improved student outcomes (Marks & Louis, 1997). Research Questions This study examines whether charter schoo ls provide more professional opportunities for teachers by comparing the percept ions of teachers in charter schools and traditional public schools about aspects of tea ching and their work environment. There were three central questions: How do charter school teachers perceive issues of e mpowerment compared to teachers in traditional public schools? 1. How do charter school teachers perceive aspects of school climate compared to teachers in traditional public schools? 2. How do charter school teachers perceive aspects of working conditions compared 3.
3 of 22to traditional public school teachers?The Colorado Charter Schools Act When Colorado legislators passed one of t he nation's earliest and strongest charter school laws in 1993, they explicitly adopted the pe rspective that local control of schools and "teacher professionalism" must increase if publ ic education is to improve. The Colorado charter school law is considered "strong" because it includes a mechanism for appealing disputed charter school applications to t he Colorado State Board of Education. That is, local boards of education and/or school di stricts do not alone have final say over whether a charter school will or will not be approv ed for their district. According to the state's Charter Schools Act, a charter school in Colorado is a public school operated by a group of parents, teach ers, and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school di strict, operating under a contract between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education. Such schools were purposefully created to provide a n avenue for educators and others "to take responsible risks and create new, innovati ve, more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system." Essentia l characteristics of charter schools were to be school-centered governance, autonomy, an d a clear design for how and what students learn. Another clearly stated objective wa s "to create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportuni ty to be responsible for the learning program at the school site." During the 1998 legisl ative session, the Colorado General Assembly re-authorized the Charter Schools Act with out a future sunset, signaling the evolution of charter schools from a reform experime nt to a permanent part of the public education infrastructure in Colorado. Another bill, passed in 1999, increased the required amount of state per-pupil allotment going to charter schools from 80% to 95% of the public school average, as well as the base u pon which that percentage was calculated. Although charter schools still served o nly a small percentage of the state's public school students in 1999, the charter schools movement found a receptive audience in Colorado. During the 1998-1999 school y ear, for example, approximately 60 charter schools were in operation statewide, servin g approximately 14,000 students, and it was anticipated that another ten to twelve schoo ls would open in the 1999-2000 school year (Colorado Department of Education, 1999). What We Know About Teachers in Charter Schools Charter schools are still a relatively ne w phenomenon, and their sheer diversity has made them a difficult subject to study in any s ystematic way. Significant research on charter schools is just beginning to emerge. Like m ap-makers in a foreign land, the early charter school researchers have been largely concer ned with describing the broad contours of the movement and the new schools it has produced through the collection of descriptive statistics and case studies that provid e portraits of different charter schools in various states. Questions have focused on areas suc h as the variations in charter school laws; the reasons charter schools are started; thei r educational programs; their start-up problems; school, parent, teacher and student chara cteristics and satisfaction levels; charter school relations with school districts; and questions about how to measure student achievement and hold charter schools accoun table for improved student learning. Although questions about the experiences of teacher s are included in most questionnaires and evaluations of charter schools, only a couple of relatively small studies to date have teachers as their primary focu s.
4 of 22 Early studies of charter schools have, ho wever, provided preliminary evidence about who teaches in charter schools. Charter schoo l teachers are often younger than their counterparts in traditional schools, have les s teaching experience, hold fewer advanced degrees, and are mostly--but not always--c ertified, although charter school legislation generally does not require certificatio n (Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement [CAREI], 1997; Colorado Dep artment of Education, 1996; 1998; Finn, Manno, Beirlein, & Vanourek, 1997). Tea chers report going to work in charter schools for a variety of reasons, including more freedom and flexibility, family teaching and learning atmosphere, increased decisio n-making, dedicated staff, and enhanced accountability (Beirlein, 1996). The resea rch suggests that charter school teachers are generally quite satisfied so far with their experiences despite what appear to be some fairly common concerns, such as heavy workl oads, inadequate facilities, relatively low salaries and tenuous job security (B eirlein, 1996; Corwin & Flaherty, 1995; Finn, Manno, Beirlein, & Vanourek, 1997; Well s and Associates, 1998). In Colorado, for example, the average teacher salary i n 32 charter schools included in the state's most recent evaluation study was $26,802, s ignificantly lower than the $37,240 state-wide average teacher salary (though this may be a by-product of the years of experience of teachers in the different types of sc hools). Of the teachers who responded to the evaluation questionnaire, 5% were current me mbers of their local teachers association, compared to about 80% statewide. Teach ers reported a high levels of satisfaction with most key aspects of their schools but listed as their top concerns inadequate facilities/resources, heavy workload, pa rents, leadership/board, staff/teachers, and salary/benefits (Colorado Department of Educati on, 1999). In one of the earliest and most extensive studies on charter schools nationwide, researchers at the Hudson Institute (Finn, Manno, & Bierlein, 1996) collected survey data from 521 teachers working in 36 charter school s in 10 states. The researchers found that charter school teachers are a diverse lot who prize what the school is doing, like working in it, and believe it is succeeding. Satisf action was highest when it came to educational matters (curriculum, teaching, class si ze, etc.) and lowest when it came to non-educational matters (food, facilities, sports, etc.). Similarly, the Minnesota Charter Schools Evaluation (CAREI, 1997) also found that te achers reported high levels of satisfaction with their charter school experience ( 81 percent satisfied or very satisfied versus 6 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied) About one in four expressed dissatisfaction with the condition of their school building or salaries. However, this evaluation report also noted that compared to teach ers nationwide who have completed the same survey, charter school staff members' leve l of satisfaction is fairly typical for all categories surveyed. Theory to Practice: Charter Schools and the Empower ment of Teachers Although appearing new to many observers, the charter school concept is actually based on ideas that have been evolving among educat ional policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers for the past 25 years (Anderson & M arsh, 1998). Most of these ideas revolve around the educational benefits to be deriv ed from the de-centralization of school decision-making and include such related goa ls as the re-organization of schools around the task of improving teaching and learning, and the need to enhance the professionalism of teachers. Teacher professionalis m, in particular, emerged as an educational reform initiative in the mid-1980s and often accompanied policies to increase decision-making authority and accountabili ty at the school level. Recognizing
5 of 22teachers as a source of technical expertise for the improvement of schools, advocates of enhanced professionalism or "empowerment" argued fo r increasing the authority of teachers over both school and classroom working con ditions (Marks & Louis, 1997; Sykes, 1990). A "professional" conception of teachi ng, as opposed to a more centralized, bureaucratic conception of teaching, came to includ e such attributes as: (a) school-level decentralized decision-making in democratically gov erned schools; (b) extensive professional control with collective autonomy and d ecision-making authority over curricula, school policies, assessment, budget, hir ing, and evaluation of peers; (c) collegiality among staff; (d) flexible work schedul es; (e) collaborative, on-going professional development of teachers; and (f) accou ntability as measured by the effectiveness of instruction (Boettiger, 1998; Duse wicz & Beyer, 1988;). In short, enhanced teacher professionalism, or empowerment, i s generally viewed as teacher participation in all decision-making directed towar d carrying out the school's instructional mission, both in the classroom and th roughout the school. Several studies have addressed the issue of teacher professionalism, or empowerment, in charter schools, although there is little agreement as to the definition of the term as it applies to charter schools, or on how to measure it. For example, it is not always clear whether questions about teacher em powerment refer to an enhancement of teachers' long-standing classroom autonomy or in creased teacher decision-making in a wider, school-wide arena. Most of the data are ba sed on teacher self-reports with very little use of comparisons from traditional schools. Nevertheless, there is some preliminary evidence that charter school teachers d o tend to feel more "professional"--however the term is defined. For ex ample, Shore (1997) explored newly created opportunities for teachers in California ch arter schools. Based on textual analysis of 86 charter proposal documents and interviews wit h selected directors and teachers, she concluded that most charter school teachers hav e primary responsibility for governance, participate in hiring and peer evaluati on, experience fewer bureaucratic constraints, and have considerable control over the ir working environments. Corwin and Flaherty (1995) also asked questions about what rol es charter school teachers perform. In an analysis of 230 questionnaires returned by te achers in 66 charter schools operating in California, they found that teachers reported mo re influence over the curriculum and discipline policy than over grouping students and i n-service instruction. Teachers in new (not converted) charter schools, elementary schools and "high-autonomy" charter schools, in particular, reported having more influe nce and being less constrained by rules. A high percentage of teachers said they expe rimented more in the classroom, were freer to teach as they wished, and had more influen ce over the content and subjects that they teach. Most of these teachers considered the c harter structure essential or valuable to changed practice. Finn, Manno, Beirlein, and Van ourek (1997) reported that most of the charter school teachers they surveyed were find ing "personal fulfillment and professional reward" (Part I, p. 1) and had more ch ances to be involved with school policy making and planning. More than 90% of the te achers said they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with charter schools' educatio nal philosophy, size, fellow teachers and students; more than three-quarters of the teach ers said they were satisfied with school administrators, the level of teacher decisio n-making, and the challenge of starting a new school. More than 70% of Colorado charter sch ool teachers recently surveyed reported that they were satisfied with "teacher par ticipation in school decisions" (Colorado Department of Education, 1999). Other researchers point out that the expe rience of teachers in charter schools is likely to vary, based on school culture and context (Datnow et al., 1994). That was the conclusion of the Minnesota Charter Schools Evaluat ion (CAREI, 1997) which was
6 of 22based in part on site visits at 16 different charte r schools. The evaluation found that the professional roles of teachers vary dramatically: s ome schools have a designated principal who serves as the authority figure; while others have expanded or significantly modified the teacher role to include additional res ponsibilities. One of the most extensive studies of char ter schools to date--the UCLA Charter School Study (Wells and Associates, 1998)--suggeste d that the enhanced teacher empowerment found in some charter schools can be a mixed blessing, bringing more freedom but little support. In their case studies o f 17 charter schools and 10 school districts in the state of California, these researc hers found that teachers in charter schools value their freedom, relatively small classes, and esprit de corps, but heavy workloads are an issue. They continue: "On the issue of empow erment, our primary findings are mixed. First, the teachers in our study found great satisfaction in the intimate, personal settings that small charter schools offered and too k professional pride in being among a select group of school reform pioneers. Yet, many o f these teachers, inundated by non-classroom responsibilities, struggled with wear iness and exhaustion, and openly speculated about their ability to sustain their lev el of commitment over the long haul" (p. 49). Feelings or Fact? From the beginning of the charter school movement a few studies have reported that teachers said they "felt like professionals" i n charter schools (Bierlein, 1996), but didn't offer much, if any, data on how those feelin gs were directly tied to practice. Interestingly, two recent reports have raised the p ossibility that such feelings of enhanced professionalism--or what Wells and Associa tes (1998) call the "esprit de corps effect"--may be more feeling than reality. The UCLA study noted that teachers in charter schools often differentiated themselves from teache rs in regular public schools, and that those differences included being "more professional than their public school counterparts, and feeling great pride in their char ter school setting. Yet, despite this "esprit de corps" in these schools, they found litt le differences in how teachers actually taught. They concluded, "most teachers could not sa y what it was that they do in a charter school that they could not have done in a r egular public school, indicating that their new professional identity may be based on fac tors other than their teaching practice" (p 51). A second study, conducted by SRI Internat ional for the California state legislature (Anderson & Marsh, 1998), mentioned the same uncert ainty as to what teachers mean when they say they feel more powerful in charter sc hools. After conducting case studies of 12 charter schools and collecting descriptive da ta from telephone interviews with members of 124 charter schools, researchers reporte d that charter school status gave staff members a sense of empowerment and of being p art of a significant reform process. One teacher explained: "The fact that we are a char ter, that we are in charge of our destiny, has forced an attitude change. We have a s ense of power we never had before, whether it is true or an illusion" (p. 19). MethodSample and Data Collection This study employed a comparative survey design to compare perceptions of teachers in charter schools and traditional public schools (TPS) about aspects of their
7 of 22work and work environment. A matched cluster sampli ng procedure was used to access comparable samples of teachers in the two types of schools. First, the cooperation of administrators and teachers in about two dozen Colo rado charter schools that had been operating for at least two years in 1997-1998 was s olicited, resulting in a sample of 16 charter schools from across the state. Those school s were then matched, to the degree possible, with existing traditional public schools, based on school location and grades taught. Given the special nature of charter schools close matches were usually not possible: in Colorado, charter schools on average a re significantly smaller than TPSs and generally do not fit the traditional grade level co nfiguration of elementary, middle, or high school. Many serve a combination of elementary and middle school students, and some include all grades. Because charter schools ar e small, two or three charter schools were matched to each cooperating TPS, with seven TP Ss used as matches. Thus, the schools represented the "clusters" in the cluster s ampling design. The final sample of teachers was then drawn from the two cluster types of schools, and included 99 charter school teachers and 103 traditional public school t eachers. A total of 217 surveys were administered to charter school teachers and 219 to TPS teachers. Response rate was 46% for charter school teachers and 47% for TPS teacher s. Instrumentation The survey instrument included forty forc ed-choice, five open-ended, and eight demographic questions. The forced-choice items meas ured dimensions of teacher "empowerment," school climate, and working conditio ns. The "empowerment index" was derived from Marks and Louis (1997) which inclu ded fourteen questions the authors divided into four dimensions. We ran a factor analy sis with our data and derived three composite variables we labeled as "empowerment in t he school wide arena" (dealt with issues like involvement of teachers in hiring, budg eting, determining professional assignments, determining content of in-service prog rams), "empowerment in the classroom with students" (dealt with issues like ho w much control teachers felt over disciplining students, determining the behavior cod e, setting policy on grouping of students, involvement and influence in decisions th at affect them), and "empowerment in the classroom with curriculum content" (included control over selecting content, teaching techniques, instructional materials, and e stablishing the curriculum). The "school climate" scale was adopted fr om Dusewicz and Beyer (1988) which included twelve questions presented in three dimens ions. Again, we factor analyzed the scale with our data and derived three new composite variables. These included "collective responsibility for teaching and learnin g" (items like shared responsibility for achieving school goals, all being involved in goal establishment, articulation, and review, participatory techniques being employed, te achers working amicably on common problems, the school having a consistent and shared value system), "emphasis on academic learning" (dealt with the school having high expectations for academic achievement, there being an academic emphasis and b elief that all can learn, staff believing that they can help all students to learn, the school motivating students to learn), and "school rewards students for high achie vement' (included items like the school giving honors and awards for academic achiev ement, the school providing opportunities for children to excel and recognizing such efforts). The working conditions component of the i nstrument included a "job satisfaction scale" from Bacharach (1986) and additional questio ns about working conditions derived from Ginsberg and Berry (1990). A factor an alysis of these fourteen questions yielded three composite variables. They were labele d as "job contentment" (included
8 of 22authority to carry out work, sense of present job i n light of career expectations, the chance the job provides to be successful, current s atisfaction with school discipline, and the extent to which working conditions enable effec tiveness), "teaching and learning conditions" (dealt with satisfaction with workload, class size, preparation and planning time), and "physical plant and support conditions" (included satisfaction with issues like the school's physical condition, the classroom's ph ysical condition, instructional resources available, opportunities for professional growth, job security, and salary). We conducted reliability analyses of each sub-scale we derived from the instrument. The Alpha coefficients were all accepta ble, ranging from .59 to .87, with all scales but one at the .7 level or above. The five o pen-ended questions asked teachers to describe the most positive and negative things abou t being a teacher at their schools, if their students regularly worked with computers, and (for charter school teachers who have taught in a regular public school) how teachin g in a charter school differed from teaching in a TPS. Teachers were also asked to volu nteer any other comments they might have. Demographic questions addressed gender, age, race/ethnicity, the highest degree earned, years of teaching experience, certif ication status, and grade(s) taught. The higher proportion of females in the c harter school sample is related to the fact that many charter schools in Colorado serve element ary or elementary and middle school students and a higher proportion of females teach a t those levels. An analysis of gender and grade level taught by respondents broken out by type of school shows that the male teachers in the sample tend to cluster at the high school level in traditional public schools. Moreover, only a small minority of Colorad o charter schools fit the traditional grade level configuration of elementary, middle, or high school, making true matched comparisons to traditional public schools difficult Data Analysis We began our analyses of the research que stions by conducting one-way analyses of variance for each of the three sets of dependent variables and type of school as the two-level factor. Given the wide discrepancies betw een the two groups of teachers on the "years of experience" and "school size" variabl es noted in Table 1 however, we followed up these initial ANOVAs with one-way analy ses of covariance using the "years of experience" and "school size" variables as covar iates. None of the ANCOVA analyses produced probability values that deviated from the findings of statistical significance obtained from the ANOVA analyses. Thus, the ANOVAs are reported for ease of understanding. In addition, a series of tables are given which present descriptive statistics and corresponding effect sizes. Finally, the open-ended questions were individually analyzed for themes and patterns. ResultsDemographic Characteristics of Teachers Survey respondents were asked a number of demographic questions, including their gender, age, race/ethnicity, years of teaching expe rience, highest degree earned, certification status, and grade(s) taught. Table 1 provides a com parison of the final sample of charter school teachers and traditional public school teach ers revealing some differences between the two groups: in general, more charter school teacher s are female, are slightly younger, have earned fewer post-baccalaureate degrees, and have f ewer years of teaching experience than their TPS counterparts. The basic differences betwe en the two groups are very similar to
9 of 22 those reported in two Colorado charter school evalu ations (Colorado Department of Education, 1998; 1999). One result of that difficul ty is an imbalance in response from the two groups in regards to grade level taught, with respo ndents from charter schools including more elementary teachers and respondents from traditiona l public schools including more high school teachers. Table 1 Descriptive Information of Charter and Traditional School Teachers CharacteristicCharter SchoolsTraditional Schools Gender Female89.9%63.7% Male10.1%36.3%Age (mean) 39.142.1 Race/ethnicity White Black Hispanic Native American Asian 96.9% 0%0%2%1% 94% 1%3%0%2% Highest degree earned Bachelor's Master's Doctorate 59.6%40.4% 0% 38.2%60.8% 1% Years of teaching experience (mean) 9.115 Grade(s) taught Elementary Middle school High School 63.5% 24% 7.8% 30.4% 7.8% 61.8%
10 of 22 Size of School (mean) 327998 Certification status Certified in area teaching82.5%97% Not certified in area teaching7.2%3.0% Not certified10.3%0% Analyses of Research Questions The first research question asked: "How d o charter school teachers perceive issues of empowerment compared to teachers in traditional pub lic schools?" The ANOVA comparisons for each of the empowerment composite v ariables are presented in Table 2, and corresponding descriptive and effect size informati on in Table 3. As can be seen in Table 2, analyses of two of the three empowerment variables, "empowerment in the school wide arena," and "empowerment in the classroom with stud ents", yielded statistically significant differences between the teachers from the charter s chools and the teachers from the traditional schools ( F [1,191] = 8.60, p = 0.004), and ( F [1,196] = 11.00, p = 0.001) respectively. Looking at the means in Table 3, teac hers in the traditional schools perceived themselves to be more empowered in the school-wide arena (3.00 and 2.60 respectively), but less so in the classroom with students (3.64 and 4. 03 respectively). Effect sizes associated with those mean differences (-0.48 and +0.46 respec tively) suggest moderately strong practical significance to those mean differences. Table 2 One-Way ANOVAs for Empowerment Variables Empowerment VariablesdfF Value p In the school-wide arenaIn the classroom with studentsIn the classroom with curriculum content 1, 1911, 1961, 199 8.60 11.00 1.31 0.0040.0010.254 Table 3 Descriptive Statistics and Effect Sizes for Empower ment Variables Empowerment VariablesnMeanSDES In the school-wide arenaCharter schoolsTraditional schoolsIn the classroom with students 92 101 2.60 3.00 1.07 0.85 0.48
11 of 22 Charter schoolsTraditional schoolsIn the classroom with curriculum contentCharter schoolsTraditional schools 99 99 98 103 4.03 3.64 3.503.68 0.81 0.86 1.271.01 + 0.46 0.18 Finally, the mean scores for the third empowerment dimension, "empowerment in the classroom with curriculum content," were similar fo r teachers in traditional and charter schools, with no statistically significant differen ce. The second research question asked: "How do charter school teachers perceive aspects of school climate compared to teachers in traditional public schools?" Analysis of variance (ANOVA) comparisons for each of the school climate composite variables are presented in Table 4, and corresponding descriptive and effect s ize information in Table 5. As can be seen in Table 4, the pattern of findings was very simila r to the findings with the empowerment variables reported above, with two of the three con trasts ("school rewards students for high achievement" and "emphasis on academic learning) ac hieving statistical significance (F [1,200] = 11.47, p = 0.001, and F [1,200] = 18.81, p < 0.000), and the third not. Also similar to the empowerment variables, the direction s of those findings differed for each of the two contrasts achieving statistical significance. Table 4 One-Way ANOVAs for School Climate Variables School Climate VariablesdfF Value p School rewards students for high achievementEmphasis on academic learningCollective responsibility for teaching and learning 1, 2001, 2001, 197 11.4718.81 3.36 0.0010.0000.068 Looking at Table 5, teachers in tradition al schools perceived their respective schools to have a climate that rewarded their students for hig h achievement at a significantly greater level than teachers in charter schools (4.32 and 3. 92, respectively). Conversely, charter school teachers perceived the schools in which they worked to have significantly greater emphasis on academic learning than did their traditional sch ool teacher counterparts (4.52 and 4.11 respectively). Effect sizes associated with those m ean differences (0.56 and + 0.54 respectively), again similar to the empowerment var iables, suggest moderately strong
12 of 22 practical significance to those mean differences. Table 5 Descriptive Statistics and Effect Sizes for School Climate Variables School Climate VariablesnMeanSDES School rewards students for high achievementCharter schoolsTraditional schoolsEmphasis on academic learningCharter schoolsTraditional schoolsCollective responsibility for teaching and learningCharter schoolsTraditional schools 99 103 99 103 99 100 3.92 4.32 4.52 4.11 3.653.88 0.94 0.71 0.56 0.74 0.970.84 0.56 + 0.54 + 0.28 The final research question asked: "How d o charter school teachers perceive aspects of working conditions compared to traditional public s chool teachers?" Tables 6 and 7 present the results of the analyses in a manner similar to the empowerment and school climate variables. For the composite variable we labeled as "job contentment," the charter school teachers had a slightly higher mean score than the tradition al public school teachers, but this difference was not statistically significant, using a criterion alpha level of p < 0.0167. In terms of "teaching and learning conditions," the ch arter school teachers had a statistically significant (F[1,197] = 12.41, p = 0.001) higher me an score (3.44) than did the traditional public school teachers (2.94). The effect size for this comparison (+0.49) was also indicative of a legitimate practical difference between the pe rceptions of these two groups of teachers. For the third composite working conditions variable "physical plant and support conditions," the traditional public school teachers had a higher mean score (3.72) than the charter school teachers (2.65). This difference was statistically significant ( F [1,198] = 40.82, p < 0.000), and the effect size of -0.93 reflected the stronges t magnitude of differences between these two groups of teachers. Table 6 One-Way ANOVAs for Job Satisfaction Variables Job Satisfaction VariablesdfF Value p
13 of 22 Job contentmentTeaching and learning conditionsPhysical plant and support conditions 1, 1961, 1971, 198 4.04 12.4140.82 0.0460.0010.000 Table 7 Descriptive Statistics and Effect Sizes for Job Sat isfaction Variables Job Satisfaction VariablesnMeanSDES Job contentmentCharter schoolsTraditional schoolsTeaching and learning conditionsCharter schoolsTraditional schoolsPhysical plant and support conditionsCharter schoolsTraditional schools 98 100 98 101 98 102 4.11 3.87 3.44 2.94 2.653.72 0.86 0.82 0.95 1.01 1.211.15 +0.29 + 0.49 -0.93 Discussion The findings related to empowerment issue s reveal some expected and some surprising results. That traditional school teachers have a st atistically significant higher mean score than the charter school teachers on the empowerment vari able, "empowerment in the school wide arena," contradicts much of the rhetoric and early literature suggesting that teachers in charter schools will be able to take on a more "professiona l" role outside the classroom, such as participation in hiring decisions, budgeting, deter mining professional assignments, the content of in-service programs, or any other school -wide issue that may ultimately impact the delivery of the instructional program. Clearly, the literature on teacher empowerment included such school-wide issues as part of their c onception of what empowerment should mean (Marks & Louis, 1997; Sykes, 1990), yet our co mparative data show that such hopes for teachers in charter schools may not be as predi cted. This finding may reflect the emphasis in many school districts on site-based management p ractices. In addition, those who suggested greater authority and increased decisionmaking for charter school teachers (e.g.
14 of 22Bierlein, 1996; Finn et al., 1997; Mulholland & Bie rlein, 1993; Shore, 1997) based their findings on analyses of laws and/or reports of char ter teachers alone, without the use of comparative data. The nature of governance and pare nt involvement at many Colorado charter schools may also be a factor: although the state's Charter Schools Act provides for the founding of charter schools by teachers, almost all of them are are parent-founded schools in which parents hold a majority on governing boards. Some of the responses to our open-ended questions may help explain this reality for charter school teachers, as many complained about poor administration or overly intrusive charter sch ool boards. Other than their concern about inadequate facilities, such school wide managementrelated issues were the most common negative comments reported to us. For example, char ter teachers reported: "The board is made up of parents and many are not educators and l ack knowledge and experience which causes many problems;" "there is a lack of trust by the administration and the board;" "the most negative thing about this school is the politi cs occuring between the board, the administration and the staff;" "parent control of the school is excessive...many want to pick the textbooks and don't know how to do it..;" "Ou r governing board has too much power! They are micro-managing and do not value teachers;" "Our board is inflexible and only listen to a small parent component;" "The most ne gative thing is a parent board, who are not educators, making academic decisions." On the other hand, the finding that chart er school teachers had a statistically significant higher mean score than traditional public school te achers for classroom-related empowerment supports the researchers and charter school advocat es who predicted greater autonomy, influence, freedom and flexibility in these schools (e.g., Bierlein, 1996; Corwin & Flaherty, 1995; Shore, 1997). And the charter school teachers responses to our open-ended question about what they liked most about teaching in this s etting underscored this sense of classroom empowerment with students. Teachers consistently re ported that they enjoyed a great deal of flexibility, that the small class size allowed them to do a variety of different things, and that they enjoyed working with students who clearly want ed to be there. Some typical comments included: "I get to teach here..there is less disci plining;" "I have the freedom to try new techniques;" "I actually get to teach..I am not p ulled out of the classroom for the multitude of district pull-outs;" "I have the freedom to be creative and innovative while expanding and elaborating on the global core curriculum;" "the teaching situation allows great freedom and flexibility;" "I have the freedom to develop my p rogram as I see appropriate;" "we have enthusiastic students who want to be here;" "Ther e are few discipline problems and students come prepared to learn;" "the small class size al lows for close relationships with students--none can be ignored or fall into the wood work." Interestingly, there was no difference in the responses of charter or traditional public school teachers in the area of "empowerment with th e curriculum content." This finding is intriguing because the potential ability of smaller more autonomous charter schools to serve as laboratories for teacher-driven educational inno vation has always been a strong argument for such schools. Our comparison revealed that teac hers in both types of schools felt pretty good about their degree of control over curriculum (mean of 3.5 for charter school teachers, 3.6845 for traditional school teachers). In the ope n-ended comments by both sets of teachers there were consistently positive comments regarding the flexibility they felt they had over curriculum decisions. While the charter school teac hers were more adamant in their remarks in our open-ended questions, the statistical compar ison suggests that this feeling may be driven more by the hype surrounding the charter sch ool movement than any real difference in curriculum-related empowerment. To some degree, thi s finding is probably related to what we label as the "back-to-the-future" nature of the educational programs in many Colorado charter schools: that is, a significant number of t he state's charter schools (17 out of 49 schools existing in 1997) are back-to-basics school s that use the largely pre-determined,
15 of 22highly structured Core Knowledge curriculum. Thus, this version of educational reform we characterize as being "back-to-the-future." Interes tingly, representatives from a number of professional educational organizations in the state ( Colorado Parent Teacher Association, Colorado Education Association, Colorado Associatio n of School Executives, Colorado Association of School Boards, and the Colorado Fede ration of Teachers) recently expressed concern that charter schools have not, as yet, esta blished themselves as labs of innovation or experimentation (Colorado Department of Education, 1999). Given the literature regarding charter sc hools, our findings regarding the three school climate composite variables also reveal some unexpe cted results. Since charter school teachers are hired to fit the specific mission of t he charter, it was expected that the charter school teachers would score higher on the school cl imate variable "collective responsibility for teaching and learning." But just as Wells and A ssociates (1998) and Anderson and Marsh (1998) found that charter school teachers could not articulate why they felt their professional identity was different from traditional public scho ol teachers, we found no statistically significant difference on the school climate variab le dealing with shared responsibility, collective action and common mission/goals. Interes tingly, the charter school teachers expressed a strong sense of a common mission and sh ared goals in the open-ended question about what was positive in their school, which the public school teachers only rarely asserted. Yet, the statistical comparison shows no difference in this school climate factor. However, the charter school teachers did have a statistically significant higher mean score on the school climate factor we labeled as "e mphasis on academic learning." Perhaps this is where the idea of a shared mission in the c harter schools is being expressed. Clearly, the comments by charter school teachers highlighted their academic emphasis and the ability to focus on academics given small class size and fe w discipline problems. But it is almost counterintuitive that the traditional public school teachers would then have a statistically significant higher mean score on the school climate variable, "school rewards students for high achievement." This may be a result of the stat e's emphasis and pressure on improving test scores, and suggest that charter schools expec t high achievement and therefore don't reward it as the traditional public schools do. But it seems inconsistent given the opposite difference reported regarding emphasis on academic learning. The results regarding working conditions were most consistent with the current literature. Concerning what we labeled as "job cont entment," we found no statistically significant difference between the charter and trad itional public school teachers. While much of the charter school literature reports that teach ers in these schools are very satisfied with their jobs (Colorado Department of Education, 1999; Finn et al., 1997; RPP International, 1997), our finding of no difference in job contentm ent underscores what the Minnesota evaluation reported, namely that the charter teache rs' levels of satisfaction were typical for other teachers nationwide. Clearly, both the tradit ional public school teachers and charter school teachers had areas of distinct dissatisfacti on. These are revealed in the differences in the working conditions composite variables of "teac hing and learning conditions," and "physical plant and support conditions." The charte r school teachers had a statistically significant higher mean score on the teaching and l earning conditions factor, while the traditional public school teachers had a higher sco re on the physical plant and support conditions factor. These findings support the liter ature which reports that charter school teachers appreciate the smaller class sizes, lack o f discipline problems, parents who are active and supportive, while they disdain poor facilities, classroom conditions, lack of support materials, and questionable job security (Bierlein, 1996; Finn et al., 1997; Colorado Department of Education, 1999; Corwin & Flaherty, 1 995; RPP International, 1997). Indeed, lack of financial support and poor facilities were the most common concerns expressed by charter school teachers to our open-ended query abo ut the most negative aspect of teaching
16 of 22there. In terms of support in schools, the response s to our question about computer use revealed that traditional public school teachers ha d far greater access to computers than most charter school teachers, underscoring the lack of s upport these teachers cited. And as our statistical comparisons suggest, for the public sch ool teachers it was issues like student apathy, discipline problems, and large class size t hat dominated their concerns expressed in the open-ended questions about the most negative as pects of teaching. Conclusions and Recommendations Our goal was to examine the claim that ch arter schools will empower teachers to become more self-directed professionals by providin g them with the increased autonomy, flexibility, and authority necessary to assume resp onsibility for the development and delivery of new, innovative approaches to teaching and learn ing at their school sites. Although charter schools obviously employ a corps of dedicated teach ers who feel energized by the role they play in founding these new schools, a review of our findings shows that, for the most part, the rhetoric and early research findings regarding enha nced teacher "empowerment" in charter schools outpaces the reality of actual teacher expe rience when compared to the experiences of teachers in traditional public schools. The data do indicate that charter school teachers enjoy more professional flexibility within the four walls of their classrooms. However, they are generally not taking on an expanded role in the larger school arena, and do not appear to have any deeper involvement in curricular decisionmaking or innovation than their TPS counterparts. Perhaps the most obvious conclusion t hat can be drawn from these results is that teachers in both charter schools and tradition al public schools are relatively content with their work and have much in common, despite some fa irly significant differences between the two groups when it comes to identifying primary sou rces of job-related satisfactions and dissatisfactions.Regarding teachers' traditional classroom role, the data suggest that working in smaller, more independent charter schools does provide teachers w ith a sense of empowerment. This "freedom to teach" is, perhaps not surprisingly, re lated to smaller class size and better disciplined students. Charter school teachers gener ated higher mean scores on the composite variable called "empowerment in the classroom with students" (which deals largely with classroom management and student behavior), and on the working conditions variable called "teaching and learning conditions" (which deals lar gely with class size). Charter school teachers consistently reported in the open-ended re sponses that they enjoyed a great deal of flexibility in the classroom, that small class size allowed them to do a variety of different things, and that they enjoyed working with students who chose to be there with more involved parents. They also related their sense of classroom empowerment to the charter structure--although that perception appears to be m ore related to class size and student discipline than it is to any real difference in tea cher participation in school governance or control over the curriculum. Interestingly, there w as no statistically significant difference between charter school teachers and traditional pub lic school teachers on the composite variable called "empowerment in the classroom with curriculum content." The fact that the processes surrounding the instructional core remain similar to other public school settings indicates that the charter school movement has not resulted in the degree of educational innovation and experimentation envisioned by its ad vocates, either in individual teacher's classrooms, or on the school-wide level. The additi onal fact that traditional school teachers have a statistically significant higher mean score than charter school teachers on the variable "empowerment in the school wide arena" underscores the impression that charter schools, as practiced in Colorado, are not delivering on the si gnificantly enhanced level of teacher
17 of 22professionalism hoped for by educational reformers. Charter school teachers also scored signi ficantly higher on the school climate factor we labeled as "emphasis on academic learning." Again, this finding is probably not surprising. Given that the central argument for charter schools is that they will be more accountable for the academic achievement of their students than reg ular public schools, it makes sense that charter school teachers would pay sharp attention t o this critical mission. Smaller class size, fewer discipline problems, and more involved parent s certainly help (when queried about the most negative aspects of teaching, traditional publ ic school teachers were more likely than charter school teachers to complain about student a pathy, discipline problems, and large class size). However, this picture is not without its com plications one of the most interesting findings of this study is the lack of statistically significant difference between charter school teachers and traditional public school teachers on the school climate variable dealing with collective responsibility for teaching and learning which includes such critical measures as shared responsibility for achieving school goals, a shared value system, school-wide review of values and goals, participatory management, and teachers working together on common problems. Because charter schools are in a better p osition to hire teachers to fit their specific missions, it was expected that charter school teach ers would score higher on this variable. The unexpected results are probably an indication o f the dedication and commitment of both groups of teachers, and underscores again what they have in common rather than their differences. One of the most encouraging findings of t his study is the relatively high level of contentment both groups of teachers find when they go to work each day, despite distinct areas of dissatisfaction. Indeed, the two groups' a reas of dissatisfaction are almost mirror images of each other. While charter school teachers value their smaller class sizes and greater freedom to focus on academics, they are considerabl y less pleased with their school facilities, the availability of instructional resources (includ ing technology), their salaries, or their job security. Traditional public school teachers, on th e other hand, are much more satisfied with almost all aspects of the support they receive, but tend to be somewhat less satisfied with the teaching and learning conditions they find in their classrooms. Aside from pointing out that being a teacher in any setting has its rewards and its frustrations, these findings raise an important issue of sustainability for charter schoo l teachers: Given their relative lack of support, how long will they be willing or able to k eep going? Finally, this study raised some very inte resting issues about the mixed blessings of high parental involvement in charter schools. There is n o doubt that concerned and supportive parents are an invaluable resource for children and for schools. On the other hand, parents who want greater involvement in their children's sc hooling can apparently be a very formidable group with whom to work. For teachers wh o are scrambling to help set up new schools, get an educational program running, and me et high expectations, intrusive parental involvement can present another set of challenges-particularly if parents insist on interjecting themselves into academic decision-maki ng. At the very least, it is ironic that parents who create schools that are theoretically i ntended to enhance the professional roles of teachers can so often undermine their own good inte ntions. In terms of future directions, we see a number of a reas for potential research. Clearly, this study did not control for any measure of school eff ectiveness, and future studies should examine the impact of student performance in both t ypes of schools on teacher empowerment issues. One of the most interesting and compelling directions for future research is drawn from the widely divergent policy contexts that surr ound the charter school initiatives in each state. They differ so dramatically (Bulkley, 1999; Mauhs-Pugh, 1995) that it may be nearly impossible to conduct state-delimited research and expect to generalize to other states. If
18 of 22multiple states are included in future research stu dies, the states themselves should probably be included as a variable in the analyses, at least until their contribution in those analyses is found to be non-significant. Another potential area for future researc h is suggested by the relatively large standard deviations on many of the composite variables repor ted in Tables 3, 5, and 7. Given that the charter school and TPS samples are fairly large, th e large number of standard deviations exceeding .8 indicates potentially interesting with in-group variations that could illuminate the between-group variations that were reported. The highly charged political nature of ch arter schools also necessitates rigorous attention to important design features, particularl y when multiple schools are involved and student performance is among the dependent variable s. Such design features might include: (1) waiting until charter schools are at least two or three years old to give them a chance to mature and "become themselves"; (2) equating (eithe r through sampling design or covariance measurement) students at entry into the schools; an d (3) disaggregating analyses to accommodate important school-level variables such a s mean enrollments of low SES students, special education students, language mino rity students, and mobility rates. The stakes are high as research continues on this impor tant experiment in American schooling. It is essential that future research quality be meticu lously high as well to inform the policy debate in a credible, even unassailable way for sta keholders from across the policy arena. ReferencesAnderson, L., and Marsh, J. (1998). Early results of a reform experiment: Charter schoo ls in California Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Bacharach, S. B. (1986). The learning workplace: The conditions and resource s of teaching Ithaca, N.Y.: Organizational Analysis and Practice, Inc. Bierlein, L. A. (1996). Charter schools: Initial findings. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, Louisiana Education Policy Research Cen ter. Boettiger, B. (1998). Colorado's charter school policy and teacher profes sionalism: School level interpretations. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Ameri can Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA. Bulkley, K. (1999). Telling stories:The political construct of charter schools. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational R esearch Association, Montreal, Canada. Center for Applied Research and Educational Improve ment (1997). Minnesota charter schools evaluation: Interim report Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota. Colorado Department of Education (1999). 1998 Colorado charter schools evaluation study Denver, CO: Clayton Foundation. Colorado Department of Education (1998). 1997 Colorado charter schools evaluation study Denver, CO: Clayton Foundation. Colorado Department of Education (1996). Colorado charter school information packet and handbook Denver: Author. Contreras, A.R. (1995). Charter school movement in California and elsewhere. Education
19 of 22and Urban Society 27 (2), 213-228. Corwin, R. G. and Flaherty, J. F. (1995 ). Freedom and innovation in California's charter schools Dallas, TX: Southwest Regional Laboratory. Datnow, A., (1994). Charter schools: Teacher professionalism and decent ralization. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Edu cational Research Association. New Orleans, LA. Dusewicz, R. A., and Beyer, F. S. (1988). Dimensions of excellence scales: Survey instruments for school improvement. Philadelphia, PA: Research for Better Schools. Finn, C., Manno, B., and Bierlein, L. (1996). Charter schools in action: What have we learned? First-year report. Washington, DC: Hudson Institute. Finn, C., Manno, B., and Bierlein, L., and Vanourek G. (1997). Charter schools in action: Final report. Washington, DC: Hudson Institute. Garcia, G. F., and Garcia, M. (1996). Charter schoo ls--another top-down innovation. Educational Researcher. 25 (8), 34-36. Ginsberg, R., and Berry, B. (1990). Teaching in South Carolina: A retirement initiative Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Educational Policy C enter. Marks, H. .M., and Louis, K. S. (1997). Does teache r empowerment affect the classroom? The implications of teacher empowerment for instruc tional practice and student academic performance. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. 19 (3), 245-275. Mauhs-Pugh, T. (1995). Charter schools 1995: A surv ey and analysis of the laws and practices of the states. Education Policy Analysis Archives. 3 (13), http://epaa.asu/epaa/v3n13/. Mulholland, L. A., and Bierlein, L. (1993). Charter schools: A glance at the issues. Tempe, AZ: Arizona State University Morrison Institute for Public Policy. RPP International (1997). A study of charter schools: First-year report. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education. RPP International (1998). A national study of charter schools. Second-year re port. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education. Shore, R. (1997). New professional opportunities fo r teachers in the California charter schools. International Journal of Educational Reform. 6 (2), 128-138. Sykes, G. (1990). Fostering teacher professionalism in schools. In R. F. Elmore & Associates (Eds.). Restructuring schools: The next generation of schoo l reform (pp. 59-96). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Wells, A. S., Grutzik, C., and Carnochan, S. (1996) Underlying policy assumptions of charter school reform: The multiple meanings of a m ovement. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Associ ation. New York City, NY.
20 of 22 Wells and Associates (1998). UCLA Charter School Study. Los Angeles: University of California at Los Angeles. About the AuthorsSally Bomottibomotti@cahs.colostate.eduSally Bomotti, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University. She also works as a research associate at the Research and Development Center for the Advancement of Student Learning, a universi ty-school research collaborative based in Fort Collins. Her recent research has focused on ch arter schools and school choice. Rick Ginsbergginsberg@cahs.colostate.eduBrian CobbSchool of EducationColorado State University Email: Cobb@CAHS.Colostate.edu Brian Cobb is a Professor in the School of Educatio n at Colorado State University and Co-Director of the Research and Development Center for the Advancement of Student Learning, a community research collaborative in Ft. Collins, Colorado. His research interests presently focus on a variety of educational reform topics including charter schools, high stakes testing, and block scheduling.Copyright 1999 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is http://epaa.asu.edu General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, email@example.com or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-0211. (602-965-96 44). The Book Review Editor is Walter E. Shepherd: firstname.lastname@example.org The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: email@example.com .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Andrew Coulson firstname.lastname@example.org Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida
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