Gove approves US for-profit charter companies to take over schools

Gove has approved a list of a dozen ‘preferred’ sponsors to take over schools he regards as under-performing. Among them are three leading American for-profit charter companies – EdisonLearning, K12 and Mosaic.


In the US 98 for-profit Education Management Organizations (EMOs) manage 729 schools in 31 states. Over 93% of EMO-managed schools are charter schools – the rest are district schools. 60 are virtual schools, delivering their curriculum and providing instruction via the Internet.[1]


K12 Inc. is the largest for-profit EMO in terms of enrolment. It runs 24 schools: 23 charter and 1 district. Edison is the third largest. It runs 61 schools:  31 charter schools and 30 district schools. Mosaica runs 30 charter schools.


How effective are they? Under the No School Left behind legislation every school is given an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rating based on results in standardised tests. AYP provides a crude indicator of the extent to which schools are meeting state standards. Of the schools managed by for-profit EMOs, 53% met AYP and 47% did not. 61% of Mosaica schools, 48% of Edison schools, and only 25% of Mosaica schools met AYP.


In spite of its low performance figures, Mosaica has been chosen by Gove presumably because of its claim that ‘We specialize in school turnaround by bringing positive, sustainable change to underperforming schools.’ For-profit EMOs typically operate a heavily prescriptive rigid model of schooling. According to its website ‘Mosaica Education’s competitive advantage is the use of the Paragon curriculum in its classrooms. Paragon combines the rigor of a classical education with hands-on learning modules, a quarterly theatrical performance and classes taught chronologically.’

Mosaica has contracts with 77 schools in China, Egypt, India, the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. Southeast, and it is negotiating to open others, including now in England. “We are profitable because we have lots of schools,” said Mosaica co-founder and president Gene Eidelman. According to a press report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (5 April 2010)

‘Mosaica Education is not your typical school district. It runs a global empire like a corporate giant from chic offices in Lenox Towers, overseeing classrooms from Atlanta to Abu Dhabi. Its top executives see Georgia as fertile ground for planting new public schools. But the state is cautious about its advances. Mosaica’s international growth seems to have hit a roadblock in its hometown.’

The Georgia state Board of Education recommended not approving Mosaica’s latest project, the Math & Science Preparatory Academy of South Fulton, because the school appeared to be corporate-driven, not parent-driven. State associate superintendent Garry McGiboney said his staff found it unusual that Mosaica, rather than parents, responded to most of the questions in a probe of Math & Science Prep. Staff suggested that the school didn’t seem to have a true math and science focus because of curriculum limitations. Mosaica, like other EMOs, has had contracts lapse when some of its schools failed to meet performance goals over time or decided they could run the campuses without the company.

[1] Molnar, A., Miron, G., & Urschel, J.L. (2010). Profiles of for-profit education management

organizations: Twelfth annual report – 2009-2010. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.


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4 Responses to Gove approves US for-profit charter companies to take over schools

  1. Jane says:

    Trevor: I agree that we should not be insular but we should be looking at those things we do well and then looking internationally at what others are doing well. As you say, those places are not the USA and Sweden. When we see good practice we also need to consider whether it will adapt to our communities. As with all situations, imposing a structure from one place on to another will almost certainly fail.

    Unfortunately, we seem to have education policies based on a mixture of nostalgia for the grammar schools, which failed such a very high proportion of children and were not uniformly good, an idea that private education is uniformly better than state education, and a sycophantic belief that everything coming from the USA is good.

  2. trevor fisher says:

    the cross atlantic consensus on educational reform has been in place for several decades, particularly under Blair. Charter schools inspired academies, America First inspired Teach First, but KIPP has not taken off in britain.

    The driver is not however US, but international forces in a globalised economy. Gove cited Sweden (till it went wrong, then the silence was deafening), now cites Singapore. He ignores Finland, the most successful european country in PISA, because the model does not fit his dogmas

    we should not take a narrow insular position. Debate is international. Alberta probably has more to offer us than any european country, though finland is certainly worth looking at

    trevor fisher

    editor, education politics.

  3. Jane says:

    It is a very, very sad day when the UK Government considers that we need to look to the USA for ideas on education. When I was at college, it was the USA which looked to us for ideas. Since then, successive Governments have messed around with different forms of governance under the guise of parental choice.

  4. dave says:

    If you want to understand something about charter schools, consider this recent case. An 18-year old women was attending an optional Summer school course at her charter school in the USA. Early in the morning, before class, she left the campus to have breakfast at the local diner. When she returned, the acting principal and a couple of members of staff grabbed the woman, dragged her to an office, and subjected her to a protracted sexual assault, striking her repeatedly on her bottom with a large wooden board. The woman had first been forced into a sexually humiliating position. In an attempt to protect herself, the woman received a damaging blow to her hand, from the wooden weapon.

    It should be noted that the method used to assault the woman was universally used to discipline and humiliate male and female slaves, during the time when slavery was legal in US history.

    An 18-year old woman, attending extra lessons in the Summer of her own free will, who missed no classes and caused no trouble, assaulted in a way that will haunt her forever, because a depraved charter school teacher caught her out on a technical infringement of the rules.

    Fans of corporal punishment always say it is a tactic of last resort. All research has proven that in schools where corporal punishment is commonplace, it is a tactic of first resort, and used by sadists whenever possible, regardless or the triviality of the ‘offence’.

    Charter schools commonly offer corporal punishment in American school districts that have otherwise banned the practice in public (not the UK meaning) schools. They also tend to have the long hours, arbitrary and petty rules, and oppressive atmosphere of British academy schools.

    The use of multi-national companies to trojan the academy/charter system into nations like the UK is a new tactic. The idea is to increase the ‘unaccountable’ front, so potential parent power hits a brick wall of “who the heck do we talk to to fight this” and local politicians can shrug their shoulders and say “out of my jurisdiction”. Then the multi-national can hand over effective control of the school to whichever local ‘Mr big’ has a suitable extremist political or religious mania. Using a local thug is genius, because the government can claim that the academy school is still a local, rather than central creation, and thus is ‘of the people’ not ‘from the government’.

    People who define the problem of the academy movement using USA-bashing or ‘for-profit’-bashing are fools, plain and simple, for these methods are used by the government as a means to an end. The only significant issue with academy schools is why they are desired by the government (starting with Tony Blair) in the first place. The regime of an academy school, the people that craft and control this regime, and the psychological effects of this regime on the pupils and local community, form the heart of the real issue.

    Sadly, the abusers that take advantage of such regimes (as described at the top) are just a symptom of the evil represented by what lies beneath the move to flood the UK with academy schools.

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