The perceived effects on three public schools of a charter school in Calgary, Alberta
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The purpose of this study was, in the context of the communitarian-libertarian debate, to obtain the perceived effects of a charter school in Calgary, Alberta on three selected Calgary public schools, and to determine what could be learned from the workings of this charter school to improve the Calgary public education system. By first looking at the macro debate-communitarianism vs libertarianism, and how globalization, deregulation and privatization, and the fear of an ineffective public education system impacts and is impacted by the debate, the stage was set to examine the micro debate-charter schools. Did the existence of the participating charter school in particular, and all Calgary charter schools in general, lead to a proliferation of charter schools in Calgary and/or to improved public schools? A qualitative case study approach was utilized because it permitted the researcher to perform an in-depth investigation of the phenomenon, the effects of a charter school on public schools, from the perspective of the participants involved in the study. The researcher conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with representatives from the selected charter and public schools, Alberta Learning, and the Alberta Teachers' Association. School, board, and provincial documents were examined and used to describe the schools involved in the study and to inform the study. Validity was enhanced through triangulation, member checking, and a tape-recorded data audit. It was shown that the macro debate has raged on for centuries and shows no sign of letting up. The researcher illustrated that equity is an important element of the debate and must continually be raised and discussed. Qualitatively, interviews and focus groups provided the researcher with information that indicated that both sides of the micro debate were proven to be correct. Proponents of school choice claimed that charter schools would increase diversity, which was proven to be the case. Opponents correctly maintained that charter schools had a detrimental effect on public school funding and tended to "cream" off the better students from CBE schools because they were not required to admit students with special needs. Several implications were deduced from the study when data were discussed in relation to the research. From these came several recommendations for further research and practice. Society has a decision to make. Are we in favour of an individualized or collective arrangement? Who benefits from the diversity created by charter schools and to whom is the government responding?