This thesis explores the potential of charter schools and public schools to overcome the reproduction of social class that is theorized by Pierre Bourdieu (1990). My hypothesis is that charter schools are more capable of overcoming social reproduction because they are not bound by the same restrictions as are public schools. I test this using interviews with teachers, administrators, and parents of students as well as participant observation in classrooms at charter and public schools in St. Paul, Minnesota. I find that the use of test scores and labels in schools are socially reproductive mechanisms, and I assess how schools use these mechanisms and whether they offer other things to students that might improve their chances of success. In partial confirmation of my hypothesis, I find that though charter schools are not necessarily less reproductive of social class than public schools, they are, in fact, structurally more capable of overcoming it. Finally, I investigate how much test scores matter in class formation by investigating whether colleges emphasize them. I test this by analyzing an interview with an admissions counselor at a selective liberal arts college as well as a couple of studies measuring what colleges look for in the admissions process. I find that colleges do rely on upper class mechanisms, and therefore negate any progress against social reproduction that has been made in primary and secondary school.


Nurse, Anne


Sociology and Anthropology


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Inequality and Stratification


education, charter schools, social reproduction, public schools, elementary schools, educational policy, culture in schools, achievement gap

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2011 Robyn L. Trem