Improving Service Delivery in Education Through Collaboration: An Exploratory Study of the Role of Cross-Sectoral Alliances in the Development and Support of Charter Schools


  • *The research reported here was funded as a field-initiated study by the U.S. Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Program. The authors thank three anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions on an earlier version of this article. The first-named author will share all data and coding materials with those wishing to replicate the study.

Priscilla Wohlstetter, Center on Educational Governance, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, Waite Phillips Hall 901, Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039


Objective. This article explores cross-sectoral alliances as mechanisms for enhancing service delivery in public education. We assess the extent to which the three economic sectors—nonprofit, for-profit, and public—are involved in partnerships with charter schools and identify the benefits that charter schools receive from partnering with other organizations.

Methods. The study utilized a qualitative approach: data collection involved interviews with charter school experts in 37 states.

Results. We found that organizations from each of the three economic sectors were involved in alliances with charter schools and that these alliances offered a range of financial (e.g., facilities, salaries), political (e.g., legitimacy, credibility), and organizational (e.g., curriculum, management) benefits.

Conclusions. Our findings from this exploratory study suggest that cross-sectoral alliances have the potential to enhance the capacity of charter schools to deliver high-quality educational services. Three hypotheses generated from the findings are also offered to guide future research on charter school alliances.