To download dissertations and theses, please click on the appropriate "Download" button for your campus to log in and be e-verified. When you reach the "Sign into your JWU email" page, enter your JWU username and password.

Non-JWU users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Critical factors for charter school approval: A historical case study of Rhode Island's five Middle College Charter School applications

Robert Pilkington, Johnson & Wales University


This historical case study of a series of Rhode Island applications to open a Middle College Charter School reveals the key approvability factors needed for an application’s conditional approval as a Rhode Island charter school. Between the years 2003 and 2007 five different iterations of the same Middle College Charter High School were drafted and submitted to the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education. Each application presented modifications from the previous proposal. These modifications were intended to increase the application’s viability as an approvable document. Of the five applications only the fourth, the Urban League Middle College, has been conditionally approved by the State Board of Regents. This examination of the five applications revealed a pattern of characteristics useful to future RI charter school applicants as new applications are drafted. By examining the journalistic record, as well as journal articles and post conference summary reports of the national and local charter school and school reform organizations, a pattern of political controversy, teacher union obstruction, social justice motives on behalf of applicants and authorizers, legislative action designed to halt charter growth, and an intention for PK to 16 reform state-wide emerges. This historical case study is significant in that it is not only a guide for future charter school applicants, but that it memorializes charter school activity during the era of the moratorium and serves as a seminal work in the little studied history of Rhode Island’s charter schools. Using fundamental historical case study strategies, the five Middle College iterations are laid side by side in a comparison. Key factors of an application such as its targeted enrollment, statutory influence, union affiliation, proximity to areas of high poverty density, educational management experience of the sponsor, results of public meetings, and the cohesiveness of the academic plan (Middle College) were ordinally rated, graphed and analyzed. Key findings revealed that the factors that may increase the likelihood of conditional authorization by the Regents were enrollment targeted to non-subgroup at-risk youth, a lack of union affiliation, a combination of educational management experience and social justice orientation on the part of the sponsor, and the positive outcome of public meetings. Other key factors were revealed to not be critical in increasing the likelihood of conditional approval. Primarily, solely targeting the most at-risk youth, locating the school within a high density poverty area, the applicant’s political or statutory influence, or the cohesiveness of the proposed academic plan (in this case the Middle College philosophy) were not essential factors in the Regent’s authorization decision for conditional approval.

Subject Area

School administration|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Pilkington, Robert, "Critical factors for charter school approval: A historical case study of Rhode Island's five Middle College Charter School applications" (2009). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3359242.