Public-private partnerships, accountability, and competition: Theory versus reality in the charter schools of Bogotá, Colombia


  • D. Brent Edwards Jr. University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • David DeMatthews University of Texas, El Paso
  • Hilary Hartley



charter schools, Colombia, public-private partnerships, accountability, competition, charter authorizers


While charter schools are among the most prevalent public-private partnerships in the education sector, they are frequently only assessed by measuring outputs such as enrollment and test scores. In contrast, this article assesses the logic model behind charter schools, specifically the mechanisms of accountability and competition, through a study of the Concession Schools in Bogotá, Colombia, using a realist evaluation methodology. Despite the program’s success in increasing access in marginalized areas, findings indicate that accountability and competition were hindered in practice—because of insufficient choice for parents and other unique organizational and political factors. For example, particular issues emerged that influenced the availability of viable charter operators to open and manage schools while political orientations, political shifts, and evaluation design issues affected the charter authorizer’s ability to monitor, assess, and hold charters accountable. Successfully operationalizing public-private partnerships requires that the mechanisms underlying each link in the policy theory are carefully designed and supported, that they directly connect, and that the functioning of one does not adversely impact the others—a difficult task given the dynamic and sensitive nature of such mechanisms and the imperfect world of educational reform. The article concludes by reflecting on a number of issues, including charter school exit from the market, the need for accountability of charter authorizers themselves, the increasing political clout of charter management organizations and their allies, and the ways that these actors circumvent or avoid public accountability.




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Author Biographies

D. Brent Edwards Jr., University of Hawaii, Manoa

D. Brent Edwards Jr. is an Assistant Professor of Theory and Methodology in the Study of Education at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. His work focuses on (a) the global governance of education and (b) education policy, politics and political economy. Within these two research lines, Edwards has focused on investigating the rise of global education policies and the influence of international organizations, as well as trends related to educational privatization (e.g., charter schools, low-fee private schools), decentralization, and community participation.

David DeMatthews, University of Texas, El Paso

David DeMatthews is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations at the University of Texas at El Paso. A former high school teacher and school administrator in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., he has published on topics such as school leadership, urban education, special education, bilingual education, and social justice.

Hilary Hartley

Hilary Hartley is the Regional Lead for the Western Hemisphere in the Scholar Exchanges Division of the Institute of International Education (IIE). Hilary served as the Senior Program Officer for Mediterranean Europe and Central America at the International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP), where she managed university level exchange programs. Hilary holds a master’s in International Development Studies with emphases in Latin America and International Education from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Hilary also holds bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and Political Science from San Diego State University in California. She has lived and worked in Uruguay and Spain, traveled throughout Latin America, and is fluent in Spanish.




How to Cite

Edwards Jr., D. B., DeMatthews, D., & Hartley, H. (2017). Public-private partnerships, accountability, and competition: Theory versus reality in the charter schools of Bogotá, Colombia. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 10.