Does corporate for-profit education work for students?

1 Nov

The History of Education in America is a good capsule description of the forces which created the idea of American education.

Nineteenth Century American Education is often referred to as “The Common School Period.”  It was during this century that education went from being completely private to being available to the common masses.

The Common School movement

…not until the 1840s did an organized system exist. Education reformers like Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, working in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively, helped create statewide common-school systems. These reformers sought to increase opportunities for all children and create common bonds among an increasingly diverse population. They also argued education could preserve social stability and prevent crime and poverty.

Common-school advocates worked to establish a free elementary education accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. As such, they advocated public schools should be accountable to local school boards and state governments. They also helped establish compulsory school attendance laws for elementary-age children. By 1918, such laws existed in all states.

A situation with a Washington state school district causes one to question what is the future for the accessible education and accountability promoted by the “Common School” movement.

Chris Ingalls of KING5 News is reporting in the story, Online public schools produce profits but some are failing students that some for-profit online schools may not be a bargain for the students. Ingalls’ report focuses on Forks school district, Quillayute Valley School District which is dealing with Insight School of Washington.

Last year nearly 3,000 online students from across the state studied online through Insight. That’s far more than the 1,100 students who studied in traditional classrooms in Forks.

While the school district has oversight of Insight, the online school is actually owned and operated by a private company.

Public records obtained by KING 5 show that Quillayute schools paid The Apollo Group up to $1.2 million a month to run Insight School.

The money comes from public education dollars that the state pays for each student enrolled in a district.

Last year, the state paid about $7200 per Quillayute student – money that was split between the district and The Apollo Group…

The arrangement also gives a private company like Apollo rare access to Washington public education dollars.

A law passed by the Washington legislature in 2005 allows districts to partner with corporations to develop online school programs.

New school model

There are now 40 districts in the state with online programs. Most partner with corporations to provide the software and expertise for their online programs, but others allow corporations to run the entire program.

The teacher to student ratio is 1:53, one teacher for every 53 online students….

Many Insight students are struggling.

According to state records for the 2009-2010 school year, these are the statistics for Insight students:

  • 50% are passing their classes
  • 45% dropped out of class
  • 7.2% estimated to graduate on time

Apollo Group is one of the for-profit companies who have been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for fraud. See, For-Profit Schools: Deception and Fraud Revealed

National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (Teachers College, Columbia University) has an excellent paper about for-profit Schools.

What are the possible disadvantages of for-profit schools?

  • Lack of Knowledge. A proven blueprint for operating a for-profit school does not exist. Thus, management teams may make costly errors.
  • Misguided Focus. The fundamental purpose of a school is to educate, not make money. Essential school functions may conflict with realizing profits.
  • Eliminated Services. For-profit schools may minimize or eliminate social services readily available in public schools, because of the large cost.

It appears that many of the disadvantages of the for-profit school model are evident in the Quillayute Valley School District

Moi writes this blog around a set of principles which are:

All children have a right to a good basic education.

  1. Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved.
  2. Society should support and foster strong families.
  3. Society should promote the idea that parents are responsible for parenting their children and people who are not prepared to accept that responsibility should not be parenting children.
  4. The sexualization of the culture has had devastating effects on children, particularly young women. For many there has been the lure of the “booty call” rather than focusing on genuine achievement.Education is a life long pursuit.

The goal of this society should be to increase real education opportunities for all.

Wired Academic has the interesting post, Who Knew Britney Spears Attended A Nebraska’s Online High School? This almost tongue-in-cheek post highlights the issues of quality and accountability. See,

There is no one magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. BUT, the point is to focus on education first. There appears to be a conflict of interest with many for-profit operators of schools who see their first duty to their shareholders and not the students put in their charge who seek an education. There appears to be a conflict between the goals of the “Common School” movement and the quest for a healthy corporate bottom line.


Education Inc.: How Private Companies Profit from Public Schools by Abby Rapoport

Here’s Why For Profit Education Stocks are Actively Traded Now by Laurie Danas

For-Profit Schools, Tested Again by Gretchen Morgenson

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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