Public Schools:

Insufficient Research to Determine Effectiveness of Selected Private Education Companies

GAO-03-11: Published: Oct 29, 2002. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 2002.

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In recent years, local school districts and traditional public schools have taken various initiatives to improve failing schools. School districts and charter schools are increasingly contracting with private, for-profit companies to provide a range of education and management services to schools. In the District of Columbia, some public schools contract with three such companies: Edison Schools, Mosaica Education, and Chancellor Beacon Academies. These three companies have programs that consist of both management services, such as personnel, and educational services, which they offer to schools across the nation; in the District, most of the schools managed by these companies have either adopted selected elements of their companies' programs or chosen other educational programs. Each company provides services such as curriculum, assessments, parental involvement opportunities, and student and family support. Little is known about the effectiveness of these companies' programs on student achievement, parental satisfaction, parental involvement, or school climate because few rigorous studies have been conducted. Although the companies publish year-to-year comparisons of standardized test scores to indicate that students in schools they manage are making academic gains, they do not present data on comparable students who are not in their programs, a necessary component of a program effectiveness study.

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