Are Charters Different?

Are Charters Different? Public Education, Teachers, and the Charter School Debate

Zachary W. Oberfield, Foreword by Jeffrey R. Henig
paper, 272 Pages
Pub. Date: August 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1-68253-067-2
Price: $35.00

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In his new book, Zachary W. Oberfield investigates the question of whether charter schools cultivate different teaching climates from those found in traditional public schools. To answer this question, Oberfield examined hundreds of thousands of teacher surveys from across the nation. The result is a trenchant analysis that deepens our understanding of what the charter experiment means for the future of US public education.


Oberfield offers a welcome reprieve from the rampant polemics of the current charter school debate. With balance and nuance, the book takes us deep inside charter schools to understand, from the teacher perspective, how these schools are—or aren’t—taking advantage of their unique flexibilities and accountability arrangements to meet their public purpose. Lots of food for thought here for charter advocates and skeptics alike. — Robin Lake, director, Center on Reinventing Public Education

Subjecting large teacher surveys to rigorous statistical assessment, Zachary Oberfield cuts through the rhetoric for and against charter schools to deliver a dispassionate, illuminating analysis. For scholars and policy makers, this book should prove indispensable. — Samuel E. Abrams, director, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Oberfield’s deft examination of teachers’ own descriptions of their work climates offers some much-needed nuance to a public debate often characterized more by ideological heat than empirical light. — Jason A. Grissom, associate professor of public policy and education, Vanderbilt University

By looking at the social, political, and organizational contexts of schools, Oberfield takes significant steps in moving forward school choice research, policy, and practice. — Mark Berends, professor of sociology and director, Center for Research on Educational Opportunity, University of Notre Dame

Zachary W. Oberfield’s thoughtful analysis, Are Charters Different? Public Education, Teachers, and the Charter School Debate, serves as a welcome departure from more ideological and polarizing literature on charter schools with its balanced, evidence-based analysis of organizational issues in charter schools. — Aimee L. Williamson, Journal of Public Administration Research And Theory

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About the Author

Zachary W. Oberfield is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College. His research interests include schools, leadership, and street-level bureaucracy. He is the author of Becoming Bureaucrats: Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service, which studies the development of police officers and welfare caseworkers during the first two years of their careers. It won the 2015 Best Book Award from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management.

Foreword by Jeffrey R. Henig

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