Winston Charter School: A case study involving the intersection of external and internal accountability mandates
Charter schools are a growing force within the school choice movement. Charter school law provides charter schools the freedom to innovate and maintain increased autonomy as long as internal and external accountability mandates are begin met. Despite the growing popularity of charter schools, little is known about charter schools in high stakes testing states and the way they negotiate the intersection of external accountability mandates and internal school mission. This qualitative case study examines a charter school for diverse students in an urban setting. The study describes the practices teachers and the head of school engage in to fulfill the school's mission of preparing all students for college using a rigorous curriculum integrated with an intensive service-learning component.
Charter School Accountability Theory provided the framework for data collection, observations, finding, and implications. Findings indicate that charter schools in high stakes testing states negotiate the intersection of internal and external accountability mandates by utilizing state standards as a foundation for school curriculum. Charter school stakeholders must choose innovations that are compatible with external accountability mandates, and autonomy exists in the ways schools negotiate the best path to meeting the mandates. Charter school autonomy is constrained by external mandates, especially in high stakes testing states. Developing internal accountability is a challenge for charter schools as external mandates are already in place, and alignment with them is necessary for charter schools, especially those in high stakes testing states.