Private Contractors Play an Ever Larger Role in Public Education

Private Contractors Play an Ever Larger Role in Public Education

Due to the vast expansion of standardized testing under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, test design, grading, data collection and analysis have become an industry that generates billions of dollars for investors. Pearson has become the largest private contractor in the standardized testing industry.

April 24, 2013: Valerie Strauss, for the Washington Post, lists instances when Pearson, the huge date management and test design contractor, has seriously erred in designing questions, scoring standardized tests or delivering the tests to school districts.

April 27, 2012: New York Times columnist Gail Collins explores the role of Pearson as a private contractor.

Education Management Organizations (EMOs) are another form of private contracting on an even bigger scale. EMOs are one of the recommended turnaround options in Race to the Top and NCLB Waivers.

  • Edison Schools were brought in several years ago to manage schools for the School District of Philadelphia and to manage the schools in Chester Upland, Pennsylvania. When the contract ended, there was controversy about whether the public school district or the contractor owned the equipment purchased during Edison's tenure.
  • Alvarez & Marsal, a New York bankruptcy turnaround firm, was brought in by the state of Missouri in 2003 to manage the St. Louis public schools, a highly contentious period of financial cuts. Alvarez & Marsal was also hired for $15 million in 2006 to manage bus transportation for the New York City Public Schools, although the contract was terminated after thousands of children were stranded on street corners on a cold winter morning.
  • June 3, 2012: U.S. Today reports, Advertising in Schools Becoming More Common.  A growing number of school districts are partnering with for-profit Education Funding Partners to advertise in public schools for the company's private clients.
  • Here is From Buses to Special Ed, Contractor's Role in Schools Questioned, an article that explores private contracting in NYC.