Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Charter schools were initially created with the intention of empowering teachers to implement school and classroom strategies in accordance with their educational expertise. Such autonomy and respect for teacher expertise indicates a commitment to teacher professionalism. Yet charter schools have also have higher rates of teacher turnover and hire fewer credentialed, experienced teachers. In the context of shifting and contested notions of teacher professionalism, charter schools provide insight into how teachers fare under contemporary educational policy arrangements. This comparative qualitative case study investigates how charter schools have lived up to their theoretical promise for teacher professionalism. The study finds that the autonomy built into the charter school model falls on school- and network-level administrators, who then frame the school-level organizational context in which teachers work, creating diverse conditions for professionalism. As administrators worked to meet external accountability mandates, however, they tended to implement stricter controls over teachers' work. Teachers enacted professionalism with varying degrees of success, as they resisted or navigated administrative strictures in order to implement their own ideas of best practices. This study addresses the impact of market-based reforms on teachers, and the implications for the future of teaching as a profession.