Opening the “black box”: Organizational differences between charter schools and traditional public schools.


  • Xin Wei SRI International
  • Deepa Patel SRI International
  • Viki M Young SRI International



charter schools, traditional public schools, school working conditions, instruction, teacher evaluation, job satisfaction, teacher efficacy, propensity score matching.


Using survey data collected from 2,273 teachers in Texas, this study explores differences in school organization that contribute to the experiences (e.g., working conditions, instruction and student engagement in learning, self-efficacy and job satisfaction, and teacher evaluation) of charter school and traditional public school teachers. Researchers used propensity score matching to reduce the impact of selection bias and to produce accurate estimates of the charter-traditional public school differences. Compared with similar teachers in traditional public schools, charter school teachers reported a more supportive teaching environment, higher expectations of students among staff, a greater sense of responsibility for student learning, and higher levels of student engagement in learning. However, they reported, attending fewer professional development trainings focused on instruction and aligned to teaching assignments, fewer opportunities for professional development and collaboration with colleagues, and lower perceived fairness of teacher evaluation. Findings from this study provide valuable insight into the school organization factors that may underlie teacher turnover and represent unmet needs among charter school teachers, and suggest strategic areas of focus for policymakers, charter management organizations, and charter school leaders in addressing teacher retention and student achievement.


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Author Biographies

Xin Wei, SRI International

Xin Wei, PhD, is a senior research analyst at SRI International, Menlo Park, California. Her research interests include education evaluation, statistical modeling, experimental designs, and psychometric theory, with a focus on disadvantaged populations. Wei has a doctorate in educational psychology, measurement and statistics, from Stanford University.

Deepa Patel, SRI International

Deepa Patel is a research analyst working with SRI International, Menlo Park, California. She is involved in research projects on K–12 education reform and teacher development. Patel holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, and a master’s degree in teaching from Fordham University.

Viki M Young, SRI International

Viki M. Young is a senior researcher in the Education Division at SRI International. Her research spans high school and district reform, charter school scale-up, human capital development, and data use for instructional purposes. She holds a Ph.D. in education policy analysis from Stanford University.




How to Cite

Wei, X., Patel, D., & Young, V. M. (2014). Opening the “black box”: Organizational differences between charter schools and traditional public schools. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 3.