This study examined the impact of standards-based prescribed reforms on the capacity of charter schools to maintain autonomy needed for innovation and to meet school-specific goals and missions. Charter schools are constructed on the concept of autonomy and innovation while standards-based reform initiatives are based on concepts of prescriptive accountability and standardization.
Utilizing qualitative research case study methodology, I selected three case study charter schools located in northern New Mexico and conducted semi-structured interviews with leaders and teachers from the schools in addition to reviewing document artifacts. I developed a conceptual framework of three interconnected elements of autonomy – Regulation, School Level, and Teacher Autonomy to provide a structure for organizing and interpreting the collected data. Employing the research paradigm of social constructivism, I then interpreted the meanings and interconnections of identified themes and components by developing six assumptions regarding the degree and interconnections of each element of autonomy for the three case study charter schools and their capacity to fulfill their individual missions and goals. Although the standards-based reforms had an impact on the autonomy of the schools and the capacity to be innovative, the schools were able to implement their missions. The schools even adapted aspects of the reforms to match their unique missions. This study was exploratory in nature and caution should be taken before generalizing the results of this study to other charter schools.
Charter schools, Autonomy, Standards-based Reforms
Level of Degree
Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy
First Committee Member (Chair)
Allison M. Borden
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Tyson E.J. Marsh
Fourth Committee Member
Phillips, Karen M.. "Charter School Autonomy in an Era of Standards-based Reforms." (2020). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/educ_teelp_etds/297