Date of Award

Spring April 2014

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Antonia Darder

Second Advisor

Ernest Rose

Third Advisor

Emilio Pack


Students attending charter schools, including those with learning disabilities, are subject to policies set by individual charter management organizations. One practice used within some charter schools is grade-level retention, or having students repeat a grade level. Literature overwhelmingly indicates that retention is associated with negative outcomes, yet the practice continues to be used. One particular charter school that uses a strict retention policy and retains students with learning disabilities was studied to understand how the process unfolds. Using the conceptual frameworks of critical disability theory and critical pedagogy, the study draws inferences regarding how this phenomenon blends with ableism and power imbalances. Six teachers (four general education and two special education teachers) participated in interviews for this qualitative case study. Through triangulation of findings from individual and group interviews, trends were identified. A major finding showed that although retention is conceptualized as beneficial for the school to threat unmotivated students, for students with learning disabilities, retention is still regarded as highly ineffective and harmful. Decision making factors used with students with disabilities include particular individual characteristics, such as abilities and parental support. Discussion into participants’ perception of students with disabilities as inferior, and how retention as punishment asserts the school’s power, follows a review of concepts, effectiveness, and decision-making factors related to retention. Implications for educators to improve inclusive and fair school policies, in addition to rethinking traditional methods of analyzing school practices are discussed. Further research in various educational initiatives and areas of study are summarized.