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Report Roundup

February 25, 2004 4 min read

For-Proft Education Firms Pick Up More Schools

The number of public schools managed by for-profit education management companies continues to grow, according to a report documenting the trend.

“Profiles of For-Profit Education Mangagement Firms,” from the Commercialism in Education Research Unit. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

This school year, 51 education management companies, or EMOs, run 463 public schools, which enroll 200,400 students in 28 states and the District of Columbia, the report says. That’s an increase from 13 EMOs managing 135 schools in 15 states five years ago.

In most cases, the schools run by EMOs are charters, says the report by the Commercialism in Education Research Unit, an arm of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University. Of the total number of schools run by such companies, 81 percent are charter schools. That’s a jump from 74 percent in 2002-03.

The study also examines the role of EMOs in managing online schools. Four for-profit companies manage 17 such virtual schools, enrolling more than 10,500 students in 11 states, according to the study.

—Rhea R. Borja

Economic Impact

No nation in the world has achieved sustained economic growth without attaining near-universal basic education for its people, concludes a report released last week.

“Teach a Child, Transform a Nation,” from the Basic Education Coalition. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The report—commissioned by the Washington-based Basic Education Coalition, an umbrella group of 19 private and nongovernmental development and relief organizations—found that countries that improve literacy rates by 20 percent to 30 percent see corresponding gross-domestic-product growth of 8 percent to 16 percent. In addition, the report notes that as secondary school enrollments increase, nations tend to become more politically stable.

—Kevin Bushweller

Technology Evaluation

A study of a Pennsylvania school district in which education technology was significantly upgraded through a state- sponsored “Digital School District” program has found that the infusion of technology had unintended drawbacks.

“Quaker Valley Digital School District: Early Effects and Plans for Future Evaluation,” from the Rand CORP. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., conducted the study. RAND researchers found that—contrary to the expectation that the availability of more technology would give teachers more time to spend on instruction—teachers in the 2,000-student Quaker Valley school district reported that increased clerical and management demands caused by the new technologies inevitably took time away from instruction.

The program supplies laptop computers to students in grades 3-12, provides wireless Internet connections in district buildings, and provides wireless connections in students’ homes.

Among other findings, the report notes that students would show up for class without their laptops, forcing teachers to spend additional time planning alternative activities that could be performed without computers. Home Internet connections also suffered many technical problems, the report says.

—Kevin Bushweller

Adult Education

Difficulties that have plagued urban secondary schools for years—such as students’ lack of motivation, behavior problems, and learning disabilities—may be shifting to adult education programs, concludes a report.

“An Exploratory Case Study of 16-20 Year-Old Students in Adult Education Programs,” from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

Conducted by the Center for Advanced Study of Education at the City University of New York, the study examined five adult education programs, run by five school districts in various places, and serving about 72,000 adult students.

The report suggests that the enrollment of larger numbers of recent high school dropouts, those ages 16 to 20, in adult education programs may be contributing to the problems.

—Kevin Bushweller

Student Attitudes

After decades of decline, interest in politics among the nation’s college freshmen has continued to rise in recent years, according to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s graduate school of education and information studies.

Findings from the “The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2003" are available from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s graduate school of education and information studies.

The survey—which University of California, Los Angeles, researchers conducted last fall, drawing responses from 276,449 college freshmen at 413 U.S. colleges and universities—found that 33.9 percent of students felt that “keeping up to date with political affairs” was a “very important” life goal, compared with a record low of 28.1 percent in 2000.

—Kevin Bushweller