Privatization in nine urban public schools: A case study of "contracting out" in Baltimore

Barbara Spencer Ayers, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to provide an analysis of a private for-profit company management of several public schools in Baltimore. The study investigated why the public sector outsourced to the private sector and examined the issues and decisions as they affected nine public schools. Interviews, observations, documents and records, and an unobtrusive measure of nonverbal clues were employed in this case study. The inquiry presents a detailed description of the privatization of nine public schools in Baltimore. This study reviewed the key participating groups and their roles in supporting privatization. Included was an examination of the city of Baltimore, its urgent social and budget problems, and the examination of Alliance for Schools That Work partnerships of Educational Alternatives, Inc. (EAI), Johnson Controls, and Peat Merrick, private companies seeking expansion in the public sector. The results of the first 3 years of Baltimore's efforts in privatization are presented. It was concluded that privatization of public schools can exist in states that advocate a choice agenda. Legislation is most critical, particularly in financing privatization of public schools with local taxes and state and federal funds. This can be achieved when the board of education or its agency are used as an intermediary between the private sector and the State. The contracting out of private sector companies into education has had little, if any, impact on student outcome variables; however, it was observed that teaching methods were dramatically altered from teacher-centered methods to student-centered methods and high usage of computer-assisted instruction. Maintenance of the schools was dramatically improved and a computer-based management system was implemented that resulted in much faster turnaround time in ordering supplies and services. Although participating administrators were concerned about their abilities to master the computer software, they were supportive of the privatization efforts. The "Tesseract" method used by EAI is a compilation of various contemporary methods including cooperative learning, peer tutoring, and student-centered problem-solving activities. Teacher opposition to changing the structure of the classroom and the hiring of non-certified personnel to participate in the instructional process was the single most important source of conflict, resulting in litigation.

Subject Area

School administration|Urban planning|Area planning & development|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Ayers, Barbara Spencer, "Privatization in nine urban public schools: A case study of "contracting out" in Baltimore" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9543449.