'Charter schools are one of the most iconic public-private partnership (PPP) formulas in education. Nonetheless, despite charter school programs having been implemented in some countries for decades and their global diffusion, evidence on their impact in education systems is far from conclusive.
This report analyzes the case of the Colegios en Concesión (CEC), a paradigmatic charter school program implemented in Bogotá since 1999 to benefi t students from poor areas of the city. By adopting a realist evaluation approach, our research discusses to what extent the assumptions behind the promotion of the CEC program in Colombia are met in real situations, and challenges some of the main conclusions that existing evaluations of this program have reached so far.
This study shows that the CEC program has not achieved the expected results: these schools enjoy only of moderate levels of school autonomy; their economic efficiency largely relies on a drastic worsening of teachers’ employment conditions; many CEC schools have strategically selected their students during enrollment processes, though this practice is not allowed by the Education Department; and the pedagogical differentiation that these schools have promoted within the education system has not necessarily translated into substantive academic improvement. In fact, in relation to the latter, we have observed that in terms of learning outcomes, there are not statistically significant differences between CEC and public schools after controlling for school day and the economic status of students. However, we have also seen how CEC schools have had the capacity to generate high levels of loyalty among their more direct users, and both parents and students are deeply engaged and satisfied with these schools. Overall, our results raise some challenging questions about the effects, in terms of equity, quality and segregation, of the CEC program in the Colombian education system.'