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Charter school dynamics in Colombia:
Findings on the operationalization of accountability and Competition

Global Education Colloquium

March 15, 2016
Brent Edwards, Drexel University

Charter schools are among the most prevalent public-private partnerships in the education sector. Too frequently, charter schools are assessed only by measuring outputs such as enrollment and test scores. This paper assesses the logic model behind charter schools, specifically the mechanisms of accountability and competition. This paper examines these mechanisms through study of the Concession Schools (Colegios en Concesión) in Bogotá, Colombia using a realist evaluation methodology. The findings show that both accountability and competition do not work as conceived by charter school proponents. Moreover, this paper demonstrates that successfully operationalizing the charter model represented by the CEC program requires that the mechanisms underlying each segment in the model are carefully designed, that they directly connect, and that the functioning (or not) of one does not adversely impact the others—a difficult task given the dynamic and sensitive nature of many of the mechanisms. More specifically, both a lack of competition in the bidding process and poorly designed contracts affect the ability of the government to hold schools accountable; similarly, insufficient choice for parents—or, parental choice on an insufficient scale—affects the development of competitive dynamics among schools.

About the Speaker

Dr. D. Brent Edwards, Jr. is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Educational Administration and International Education at Drexel University. His work focuses on the political economy of education reform and global education policies, with a focus on low-income countries. Previously, he has worked with the University of Tokyo; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Amsterdam; the Autonomous University of Barcelona; the George Washington University; the Universidad Centroamericana; and the World Bank. In addition to his work appearing in such journals as Comparative Education Review, Comparative Education, Journal of Education Policy, Prospects, and Education Policy Analysis Archives, among others, he has two forthcoming books, titled: International Education Policy and the Global Reform Agenda: Education with Community Participation in El Salvador and The Political Economy of Schooling in Cambodia: Issues of Equity and Quality (both with Palgrave MacMillan).