Home > Uncategorized > For-profit schools corrupt educational systems — lessons from Sweden

For-profit schools corrupt educational systems — lessons from Sweden

from Lars Syll

Neoliberals and libertarians have always provided a lot of ideologically founded ideas and ‘theories’ to underpin their Panglossian view on markets. But when they are tested against the ​reality they usually turn out to be wrong. The promised results are simply not to be found. And that goes for for-profit schools too. 

13985314751_448115c2f8_o-1024x954The Swedish school system has somewhat oddly combined market principles such as decentralization, choice, competition, and corporate providers with an evaluation system that is highly trust-based and where teacher-set school grades are high-stakes for the students. This means that both students and schools have incentives to game a system that is easy to game and the findings suggest that the integrity of the evaluation system has been compromised. The results show that all groupings of free schools set higher grades than municipal schools when controlling for student achievement on national tests. As the national tests are locally graded, they are not fully reliable and the differences between public and private providers are more pronounced when more reliable tests are used to control for achievement.

To some extent, the differences in grading standards between municipal and free schools can be accounted for by differences in location and student demographics. Even after holding such factors constant, however, grading standards among private providers appear lenient, in particular among schools that belong to two of the large corporate groups (IES and Kunskapsskolan). Grading is less lenient among other free schools, including those that belong to the large corporate group Academedia, but still significantly more generous than among municipal schools. These differences between corporate providers that face similar incentives seem worthy of deeper investigation.

Students at all free schools groupings have higher teacher-set subject grades than students at municipal schools, an advantage that remains after taking location and student composition into account. Among all free school groupings except the IES, however, the results indicate that this performance advantage over public schools can fully be accounted for by more lenient grading standards. For free schools that belong to the IES, close to two-thirds of the grading advantage over public schools can be attributed to more generous grading …

Back in the 1970’s, Campbell (1979, p. 85) wrote that ‘the more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the processes it is intended to monitor’. Campbell’s argument was not only that certain incentives would corrupt the measurement of – for example – educational outcomes, but also that education itself might be harmed. In this chapter, I have presented evidence suggesting that opening up education to providers with strong incentives can compromise educational measurement. Whether it also corrupts the educational process itself is an even more important question, but a question I leave for others to consider. An important takeaway from the analysis presented here is that different providers do not necessarily respond in the same way, even when faced with similar market conditions and acting under the same regulatory regime.

Jonas Vlachos

  1. June 2, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Horrors of Privatization abound, and a book could (and should) be written to document them. Privatization of education always leads to an elitist system where the rich get better education than the poor. Privatization of prisons leads to truly tragic outcomes in the USA where people are imprisoned on the slightest excuse, because it adds to corporate profits. Privatization of essential utilities leads to what one might expect — corporations enjoying the stranglehold to maximize their profits. YET, the dominant narrative is still that governments are in-efficient as service providers and private sector should be given this task.

    • Rob Reno
      June 2, 2018 at 2:23 am

      Five Stars * * * * * (if I could).

      • June 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

        If you are interested in writing (and I would be very interested in reading it), start with one small piece — lookup privatization of prisons articles on CounterPunch, there have been many and provide us a post with a summary of the most egregrious abuses – this will create a start, and we can gradually collect other pieces.

      • Rob Reno
        June 9, 2018 at 4:20 am

        Dear Asad: My deepest apologies for not seeing your post. I have not been very attentive to this blog for a while as my daughter is getting married and our HOA (Home Owners Association) is abusing our neighbors and we are organizing to stop them. It seems Trump’s ugly nature is creating a trickle-down uncivil society (more like it is shredding our social fabric by mainstreaming extremism).

        Thank you for your kind words (assuming they are directed at me) and interest. I am going to look at CounterPunch (link?) and study up as I am deeply troubled by the trend of privatization of prisons. I will try to find the time to write a piece. Thank you for suggesting I do this.

      • Rob Reno
        June 9, 2018 at 6:04 am

        Asad, if you have any articles that you find stand out let me know. I will start them first. I will read them all as I found them. Let me make some preliminary remarks before I read the articles though.

        The privatization of the American prison system as we see it today is akin to slavery. A traffic ticket turns into a warrant for the poor simply because they cannot pay it. And there begins a systemic injustice that is an abomination in the eyes of God. No doubt some secular materialist libertarian economist can think up some theory to justify it in the name of liberty and freedom. Lucifer made the same argument and they were both confusing license for liberty. America, like Lucifer, the bright and morning star, is gong to fall, for she has forgotten that pride comes before the fall.

        It is just not prison that is being privatized, for so is the justice system. When judges campaign like politicians and are allowed to fundraise, the same corruption we see in politics corrupts the justice system. America is systemically criminalizing being poor.

        But let’s face reality; America is at war with herself. The social fabric is being ripped asunder by the pandering to the lowest common denominator in human nature; bigotry, hatred, fear, xenophobia, nativism, fundamentalist religion & market fundamentalism wedded together in a toxic cocktail that preaches a twisted gospel ( http://narrenschiff.rip/wp-content/uploads/data/Twisted-Gospel.PNG ).

        Justice makes a nation great, and the greater a nation the more solicitous will it be to see that injustice shall not befall even its most humble citizen. Woe upon any nation when only those who possess money and influence can secure ready justice before its courts! It is the sacred duty of a magistrate to acquit the innocent as well as to punish the guilty. Upon the impartiality, fairness, and integrity of its courts the endurance of a nation depends. Civil government is founded on justice, even as true religion is founded on mercy.

        America is slaughtering her own children at the alter of gun-rights theology, another toxic brew spawned by ignorant Christian fundamentalism: http://narrenschiff.rip/gun-rights-theology/

    • Craig
      June 2, 2018 at 6:29 am

      The ultimate horror of privatization is the money creating powers of private finance and their paradigm of Debt Only.

  2. Grayce
    June 2, 2018 at 1:38 am

    It is interesting that people take for granted that government is NEVER the way to run anything. Yet, for-profit health care has resulted in the end of dividends, out of sight CEO salaries, and a system of delay and deny for participants. For-profit schools will do the same: place cash value on the management and cut corners for the students.

  3. barankai
    June 2, 2018 at 10:31 pm

    Centralized “trust based evaluation system” sounds like a slogan from a Soviet edu propaganda campaign Remove Big Gov from the output measurement and everything gonna be fine

    • Craig
      June 3, 2018 at 3:53 am

      The obsession with “free” markets (in actuality they are in a continual state of chaos because they are neither bounded by cost on the lower end nor by price on the upper end, and they are then dominatingly smothered by the current monetary and financial paradigm of Debt Only as a mask of equilibrium) will fall away when the rational, ethical and intelligent control of fiat money is accomplished by the policies of the new paradigm.

      The libertarian kant that government is always and everywhere the deepest problem will finally be seen as the irrational generalization it always has been when the government implements policies aligned with and actually effecting freedom and free flowingness in the temporal universe. And we can say to such lingering recalcitrants: A = A, Freedom is freedom….check your premises.

  4. Helen Sakho
    June 4, 2018 at 2:59 am

    Sweden remains a very confused state. Please see my previous contribution on this particular state. The likelihood is that it might be on the road to losing the more rational and healthier side of its confusions on more fronts.

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