The Politics of Educational Reform: The Alberta Charter School Experiment 20 Years LaterReport as inadecuate

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Global Education Review, v3 n2 p103-109 2016

In this paper we examine the public charter school movement in the Province of Alberta, Canada over the past 20 years to determine how charter school policy and regulations have limited and controlled the impact of charter schools on public education. Specifically we focus on the extent to which charter schools in Alberta fulfilled the aims and expectations of policy reformers as sites of research and innovation, vehicles to create competition, and expanded public school choice options for parents, and to enhance student learning and outcomes. Based on a critical policy analysis and interviews with stakeholder groups we argue that charter schools in Alberta have been a controlled experiment in the introduction of quasi-markets in the public education system. The Ministry of Education created a regulatory structure permitting a limited number of charter schools to exist at any point in time, and a rigorous approval process that created sufficient pressure to leverage change in public education and expanded choice options for parents; however, the tight regulations have also prevented charter schools from fulfilling their full mandate as a vehicle of educational reform.

Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Charter Schools, Politics of Education, Educational Change, Educational Policy, Public Education, Competition, School Choice, Outcomes of Education, Policy Analysis, Stakeholders, State Regulation, Educational Innovation, Academic Achievement, Semi Structured Interviews

Mercy College New York. 555 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522. Tel: 914-674-7350; Fax: 914-674-7351; Web site:

Author: Bosetti, Lynn; Butterfield, Phil


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