Date of Award

Summer 8-24-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Burke, EdD

Second Advisor

Frank LaBanca, EdD

Third Advisor

Laura Main, EdD


Since their creation in 1991, charter schools have been controversial within the educational community. As charter school laws lie in the realm of state legislation, there is wide variation in the requirements for charter school application and how accountability is measured. National studies comparing standardized student achievement test scores from charter schools with traditional public schools have mixed reviews, with the strongest schools identified within large, urban districts such as Boston, Washington, DC, and Houston. This qualitative study explored non-urban charter schools that utilized experiential learning as their curricular foundation. The purpose of this multi-case study was to examine two charter schools located in different states on the east coast of the United States. The research investigated (a) best practices utilized in their operation, (b) how they defined student success, and (c) what organizational structures existed to support the model. The findings from this research regarding best practices included founding the school on a strong set of principles, or mission, to provide a focus and shared beliefs that provide purpose to the organization, interdisciplinary, collaboration, and flexibility. The findings from this research regarding measuring student success reveal that using multiple data points, focusing on character development, and encouraging self-reflection as successful practices of these schools. Focusing on recruitment of teachers, support through professional development and mentoring, and cultivating community emerged from the study as three best practices of organizational structures to support non-urban charter school utilizing the experiential learning model.