For-Profit Ed Sector Grows in Brazil, etc.

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For-Profit Ed Sector Grows in Brazil, etc.

While the for-profit tertiary sector in the United States has shrunk significantly over the past few years (because of fraud investigations concerning enrollment of underqualified applicants, inflation of student passing rates, and exaggeration of graduate employment data), the same sector in Brazil has mushroomed to address growing demand the government has not been able to meet with state-funded institutions. Approximately 30 percent of university students in Brazil, in fact, attend schools run by for-profit companies, reported Inside Higher Ed in June. One company, Kroton, counts more than a million students in undergraduate programs spread across 130 campuses. The economic crisis in Brazil has nevertheless forced companies to consolidate, according to a follow-up article published last week by Inside Higher Ed, leading to substantial merger-and-acquisition activity. Fear of a resulting oligopoly has led the House of Representatives in Brasilia to call for hearings on this activity. 

In acknowledgment of having overstated student progress and parent satisfaction in advertisements and of having inflated student attendance data while operating virtual charter schools in California over the past 12 years, K12 Inc. agreed to a $169 million settlement with the state’s attorney general, reported The San Jose Mercury News. According to the settlement, K12, a publicly traded company based in Virginia (NYSE: LRN), must also drop any form of incentive pay for staff enrolling students, guarantee the accuracy of claims in advertisements, and ensure teachers properly monitor student attendance. Building on the settlement, California Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla introduced a bill to ban for-profit virtual charter companies from operating in the state. That proposal, Assembly Bill 1084, will be reviewed when legislators return to work in August.

Though Arkansas and Louisiana are both home to many charter schools, neighboring Mississippi passed legislation for charter schools only six years ago and is home to merely two charter schools. According to a press release issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the state should be home to none. In a lawsuit filed in the First Judicial District of the Chancery Court of Hinds County, the SPLC contended that the state constitution stipulates that publicly funded schools must be under the direct supervision of state and local boards of education.

A reform initiative launched in 2014 by the New York City Department of Education in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) will get 16 new sites in September, reported Politico. Called the Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools of Excellence (PROSE), this program permits affiliated schools to operate outside the boundaries of UFT and CSA contracts. Schools may schedule longer periods and days, for example. As such, PROSE at once comports with the pedagogical philosophy of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, formed in 1997 as a group of 28 high schools with considerable autonomy for curriculum and assessment, and constitutes an implicit response by Mayor Bill de Blasio to the growing presence of non-union charter schools in the city, which he has repeatedly termed a solution for too few students. More fundamentally, PROSE comports with the vision of charter schools articulated in the 1980s by Ray Budde and Albert Shanker: alternative schools within districts serving as laboratories for innovation. PROSE started with 63 schools. With these additional sites, PROSE will number 140. The goal for PROSE by 2018 is 200 schools. 

Bridgeport Education, the for-profit operator of Ashford University and the University of the Rockies, is under investigation by the Justice Department, reported The Washington Post, for having allegedly underreported the amount of tuition money it received from the federal government in the form of grants and loans. According to the 90/10 rule, for-profit universities may not receive more than 90 percent of tuition in this form. Justice Department investigators are studying financial documents from 2011 to 2014. There are nearly 51,000 students enrolled at the company's two universities.

In a Q&A with Kate Stoltzfus of Education Week about his new book, Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Paul Tough disavowed the confidence in character education he espoused in his 2012 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (Mariner). Tough instead called for a macrocosmic approach focused on bettering the everyday environment of young children. Citing research in neuroscience, Tough contended that interventions during early childhood to improve parenting, in particular, would lay the foundation for the shift in mindset some educators are trying to cultivate through instruction and assessment. "It's not that I think we shouldn't measure them [non-cognitive skills]," Tough said, "it's that I think we don't know how to measure them.... The most productive direction to try to change students' psychology is to think about what educators and policymakers can do to shape the environment that surrounds kids."

In a Q&A with Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post about his new book, Education and the Commercial Mindset (Harvard University Press), Samuel E. Abrams, director of NCSPE, described the evolution of educational privatization and its limits. In addition, The Stanford Social Innovation Review ran an excerpt from the twelfth and final chapter of the book, concerning the rejection of privatization by Finnish education policymakers, on the one hand, and their embrace of core business strategies, on the other, to assess progress as well as to attract, nurture, and retain talent.

Correction: In the previous news roundup, detail regarding the role of the teachers' union as a charter authorizer in Minnesota derived from incorrect reportage. It is not the union itself that serves as a charter authorizer but rather an independent association, the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools, created by members of one local affiliate, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.


Published Monday, Jul. 25, 2016