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.
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.
 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. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/EMO-FP-09-10