Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.


Elementary, Engagement, Experience, School reform, Student


This study focuses on how state policies that encourage school reform impact student experience. The paper demonstrates what students in these reformed schools experience and what lessons we can learn from their experiences. In particular, the research focuses on engagement levels and the matching of intentions to student propensities. A goal of the paper is to help bridge the policy and educational worlds by shedding light on what is happening in four school-of-choice classrooms.

A mixed methodology is used; data from an Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism, an engagement measure, and interviews are triangulated. The research was conducted at two school-of-choice schools located in the Denver Metro area. The Expeditionary Learning school is a K-12 school and the Core Knowledge school is a K-8 school.

The study found high levels of engagement and learning in schools of choice where propensities and interest are matched to the five dimensions of a classroom: pedagogy, curriculum, evaluation, structure, and intentions.

Several themes emerged from the research. The first is that students and teachers at both schools had learning propensities and philosophies that were aligned with the intentions of the schools. This alignment helped create a strong community. The second theme is that interest is an important element of student learning and engagement. The third theme is that having a clear mission and intentions improves learning. Fourth, engagement is an important indicator of school success and high levels of engagement should continue to be a goal for schools to meet. I found that engagement is high in the two schools and reflected what was taking place in the classroom. The fifth and final theme is that students have different learning needs, and thus flexible state policies should allow for more variability to allow for a wider range of learning needs to be met.

Data indicate that when the five elements of schooling match the students' propensities, they are interested and engaged in the learning process. It is, therefore, important to create flexible state policies that allow more schools of choice to be created.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Kristen E. Bunn

File size

247 p.

File format





Curriculum development, Public administration