Private School Management Organizations


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Throughout the United States, major changes are taking place regarding the social and economic makeup of communities. Among the changes witnessed in the last decades has been the increase in gentrification, a trend that is expected to carry on through 2025. Urban neighborhoods are increasingly transforming as gentrification expands. There is an increase in the number of middle-class families entering into the neighborhoods that were once the homes of the lower-income workers (Sheppard, 2012). Chaskin & Joseph (2013) elucidated that the movement of the middle-class families has affected various aspects of life in the neighborhoods, including the education system. Once the families move into the neighborhoods, they have an impact on the management of the schools, especially through the private school management organizations (PSMOs), which are currently taking shape in the country. Evidently, a private school, which has been primarily composed of Latino and Black student population is speedily changing to comprise a population of middle-class whites (Roberts, 2012). Research on PSMOs is taking shape, but not much has been done on the factors that are influencing its operation.


Hence, the main purpose for the current study is to establish the potential impact of gentrification on private school management organizations focused on secondary schooling. PSMOs in the management of private secondary education are in the experimental phase, although their use in the primary education has been in operation in the last decade. Therefore, it is interesting to learn how the increasing gentrification is going to affect their operation.

Research Question

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To achieve this aim, the research question that is answered through collection and analysis of data (Farrell, 2015) is “To what extent can gentrification affect private school management organizations focused on secondary schooling.”


The main hypothesis measured through the collection and analysis of quantitative data is that gentrification has a negative effect on private school management organizations focused on secondary schooling.

Definition of terms


Gentrification is a contentious term, with a number of scholars and critics coming up with their explanations of the concept. However, generally, the term that has been in use since 1964 is used in reference to the improvement of the working class neighborhoods for occupation by middle-class families (Sheppard, 2012). The concept has enlisted debate, relating to the impact of the move on the social, economic, and political lives of the affected communities.

Private school Management Organization

Past research has focused on the impact of school organization on the performance of students and schools. Whether private or public, there is always some impact on how the education system is managed (Carbonaro, 2003). Privatization of the education system is designed in such a way that the market incentives are entrenched into the education system (Brown, 2002). According to Squire, Robson, and Smarick (2015), the most effective way of understanding the concept of PSMOs is to go back to the concept of charter management organizations (CMOs). The management organizations perform the administration of a network of charter schools made up of three or more schools. The same approach is assumed in PSMOs, where there are independent organizations for the management of three or more private schools. The network approach is increasingly being used in the management and operation of private schools.

Literature Review


The composition of neighborhoods is steadily changing with the movement of the white, middle-class families to new neighborhoods. The structures are changing fast, where the housing and other infrastructure occupied by low-income workers are being improved and occupied by the middle-class professionals and their families (Chaskin & Joseph, 2013). Lees, Slater and Wyly (2013) assumed the same perspective by suggesting that there is a set of new realities in the cities across the country. Chaskin and Joseph (2013) are among the many scholars who have investigated the reinvestment and displacing of the former residents of the cities by others. The authors indicate that there has been increasing debate on the potential impact of this reality (Chaskin & Joseph, 2013; Lees, 2012). The returning of the middle-class families in the major cities in the United States has been happening steadily, and has been experienced in New York, Chicago, and in other major cities.

The idea of gratification has been viewed by Lees, Slater and Wyly (2013) as a class notion playing out in an urban context. In research, gentrification has been measured from the point of view of displacement and class difference (Lees, 2012). The term is considered by Chaskin and Joseph (2013) as the adaptation of working-class and socially marginal parts of a region and making it into a resident for middle-class families. Another study carried out in London defined the term as the displacement or success of one class (working class) by another (middle-class) (Chaskin & Joseph, 2013). Evidently, there is a class trend in all definitions of the concept of gentrification. Therefore, there are two ways of viewing the concept. Firstly, there is the displacement of the working class by the middle class. Secondly, it is the concept of improvement of neighborhoods such that there is a reflection of the values held by the middle class.

Private School Management Organizations

The choice of the school is founded on the needs of the children and the desires of their families. There are always a number of options that parents have in the choice of the education system for their children (Squire, Robson, & Smarick, 2015). Farrell (2015) added that the logic in the process is that the schools will strive to meet the needs of the children and the desires of the parents. There has been a major change witnessed in the education system, with one of the trends being the adoption of the PSMOs. The new model assumes the same structure as the charter management (CMOs), which is the network system in the running of the charter schools (Hankins, 2007; Hvidman & Andersen, 2013). Squire, Robson, and Smarick (2015) revealed that the increase in the number of private schools in some parts of the country has witnessed an interest in the development of PSMOs. The financial viability of the school systems has driven the change in the model for the management of the schools (Speck, 2010; Squire, Robson & Smarick, 2015). Hence, the aspect is informed by the reality of the cost involved in parents’ choice of private education for their children.

Farrell (2015) indicated that for effectiveness in running private schools, there has been adoption of the network model where three or more private schools are managed under one organization. The model is a promising and probably the most incredible one for schools in urban settings (Squire, Robson, & Smarick, 2015). The managing agency for the schools is an independent one, without any influence from the government. Hvidman & Andersen (2013) added that the model is in place to play a role in supporting the running of the private schools to improve efficiency. It is also critical for the organization to be responsible for running three or more private schools. The model is operational at the elementary and the secondary levels of education in the country.

Effect of Gentrification on Education

Gentrification is revealed to have an impact on various structures of the society as well as the education system (Roberts, 2012). Depending on the composition of the neighborhood or the urban setting where a school is situated, the composition of a school is defined. For the schools where the composition has been that of black and Latino students from lower-income families, change is expected because of the alteration in the composition of the neighborhood within which it operates (Preuhs, 2006; Keels, Burdick‐Will, & Keene, 2013). Hvidman and Andersen (2013) contended that in the process of displacement, major changes are expected in the schools, and in this case promptly. As the middle-class families are moving to the cities from the suburb neighborhoods, they are expected to enroll their children to new schools, both public and private schools (Roberts, 2012). The new students are evident of new changes in many aspects of the schools.

Gentrification has continued to receive criticism based on the impact it has on the former residents of the urban neighborhoods that are taken over by the middle-class families (Roberts, 2012; Keels, Burdick‐Will & Keene, 2013). Though controversial, Roberts (2012) confirmed that gentrification has a major detrimental impact on the educational aspects of the regions. The change in composition dictates more changes in the management of the schools. Prior to gentrification, as Roberts (2012) posited, the schools are composed of primarily Black and Latino students from the lower income families. The management of the schools has always taken into consideration of the needs of these students and their families. On the contrary, major changes in management and operation of the schools occur when the composition change. The management of the school has the potential of undergoing a complete transformation as the new parents come into play.

Effect of Gentrification on PSMOs

The gentrification process means that the private schools are no longer run in the same way they have always been done because of the changes in their composition (Keels, Burdick‐Will, & Keene, 2013). The PSMOs has been running the schools, although there is still a lack of adequate evidence of their impact on the schools and their performance. Gentrification, from the perspective of changing the composition of the school, will definitely change the running of the private schools in the urban areas where they are situated. Roberts (2012) indicated one of the major changes, looking at the key stakeholders in the running of the private schools. The author indicates that the changes mean that there will be involvement of parents from middle-income families in a manner that has never been seen in the past. In some cities where gentrification has occurred, there have been major changes in the running of the schools, including development of new parent associations and school-community partnerships. There has been reenergizing of funding for the schools, with potential impact on the PSMOs currently running the schools.

Basically, the question that remains to be answered is whether the PSMOs will be able to run the private secondary schools in the way they have been running them before gentrification and the related impact of changing the composition of the schools. The impact of gentrification on the PSMOs in running a secondary school is an area that remains scantly researched, indicating the rationale of the present study.


Research Design

The study assumed a quantitative research survey design carried out in Chicago. Hence, to answer the research question and test the hypothesis data was collected in the form of numbers from a sample of participants. The sample from which the data is collected is the members of private school management organizations, those engaged in the active running of the PSMOs. The management of three particular schools was included from which 6 participants (2 from each was drawn). The schools were: Beacon Academy, Wolcott, and GEMS. Five participants were identified and the questionnaires were administered through the email. To be included in the study, the members must have been in the active running of the PSMOs and the active management of private secondary schools in the urban setting. The data will compare the running of the schools by the organizations before and after gentrification of the town.

Independent Variable

The independent variable in the study is gentrification which is measured by establishing the rate of gentrification in the urban setting under study. Data on the rate of gentrification was collected from the same participants because they are assumed to have an understanding of the factors affecting their work and the education system in general. Another indicator of gentrification is the number of students from middle-income families who have enrolled in the schools, being managed by the PSMOs in the recent past. For example, if the schools had a low percentage of the middle-income families and the numbers have increased, then there is evidence of a high rate of gentrification. Quantitative data provided the idea of this rate.

Dependent Variable

The dependent variable measured in this study is private school management organizations focused on secondary schooling. The impact of gentrification in the running of these organizations in secondary school was established through analysis of data collected from the same participants. The participants were assumed to have adequate knowledge of the running of the schools because they are members of the PSMOs, and hence they understand how their work has been affected by the changes experienced in the neighborhoods.

 Data Collection Methods

The data was collected through a structured questionnaire which was filled by the participants (see a copy of the questionnaire in the appendix). Following identification of the participants, approval was sought from the administrators of the PSMOs in Chicago. With the approval, the questionnaires were provided to the participants who filled them. The questionnaire included two important parts. The first part provided an important information on the rate of gentrification in the urban center as evident from the rate of change in the enrollment of students from middle-class families. The second section contained information on the impact of the change in the operating of the PSMOs. Analysis of this data will provide a clear picture of the rate of gentrification and how the reality has affected the PSMOs at the secondary school level.


The findings were categorized into two main sections as per the data collection questionnaires. The first section included the data on the rate of gentrification in the urban setting under study. The information would indicate the changes in enrollment for the period of ten years as studied. The findings are indicated on the basis of the response to the questions that were included in the questionnaire.

Could you suggest that there have been major changes in the city in the last one decade?

The response to this question was 100% yes. Indeed, this means that all the respondents indicated that there have been structural changes in the city in the past decade. Evidently, the respondents have witnessed some major structural transformations in the neighborhoods around them. However, the question did not take into consideration the nature of the change, which was considered in the next question.

Do you think that there has been an increase in the number of middle-income families in the city?

Again, the response to the question was 100% yes. The participants indicated that there has been an increase in the number of middle-income families that have moved to the city from elsewhere. The respondents indicated that the class composition of the city has been transforming in the last ten years. The results are in line with the arguments by Lees, Slater and Wyly (2013) that cities in the United States, just like in other developed nations have undergone major structural changes with the infrastructures used by the working class being replaced by a better one, reflective of the middle-class life. Also, life in the cities has been changing with the incoming of the middle-class individuals who are taking over the homes of the lower class families in the cities. The participants served to confirm this observation that the urban set up has transformed as more middle-class professionals move their families from the suburbs to the cities.

Have the changes affected the schools that you manage?

Just like the other two questions, 100% of the respondents indicated that the changes have an impact on the secondary schools that they manage. The respondents indicated that the number of the students from the middle-income families that have enrolled in the schools has been increasing. Probably because of the displacement of the lower income families from their homes, the same is happening in the schools. In the period of the study, the respondents indicate that year after year; they have witnessed an increase in the number of middle-income students and a decline in the number of lower-income families. Like Roberts (2012), there is evidence of greater enrollment of white, middle-class students, as the black and Latino students ebb away. The respondents have been managing secondary schools with more marginalized students than the middle-income students. However, this picture has been changing over the years as the city continues to welcome new residents.

The respondents also indicate a change in the economic capability of the students who are joining the school. Prior to the last decade, the schools have had to contend with seeking economic backing for the running of the schools because most of the students were from disadvantaged families. Sheppard (2012) indicate that as the middle-income families move into the cities, they are faced with the reality of the education system for their children. There are many choices available to the parents, but the increasing popularity of the private schools makes a majority of them to consider this form of education for their children. Also, at the high school level, most students from the charter schools consider something different, hence finding them choosing the private school systems. These are some of the reasons why the respondents indicate an increase in the enrollment of the more middle-class students in the schools. At the same time, this happens in the face of declining of the number of working class in the city because of the displacement.

Do you think the changes are positive or negative?

In this question, 90% of the respondents indicated that the changes have not been positive. With the modifications, the managers of the PSMOs have to contend with operating of schools that are almost new because of the changes. The incoming of the students from middle-income families means that the respondents have to contend with working in a new environment. The change is more negative than it is positive because the people they have to work with are different. Keels, Burdick‐Will, & Keene (2013) indicated that the middle-class parents bring in their ideologies in the management of the schools, different from those held by the PSMOs and the lower class parents. Hence, the participants agree that their working environment is negatively impacted by the emergence of the new class of students with their needs and demands different from those they have been used. It is possible that the respondents are finding it challenging to operate in the new environment.

The Particular Effects

There are some particular effects that have been experienced by the management of the PSMOs as a result of the gentrification. One of the challenges is the aspect of dealing with a new crop of parents who have their ideologies about the management of schools. The PSMOs, conventionally, are responsible for the policy and decision-making roles in the running of the schools and have the agreement with the administrators of the schools and the parents. However, with the change in the environment of the school, there are new demands on the PSMOs to change the mode of their operation to conform to the desires of the new parents. For the educators and the parents who have always been in these schools, the demands are challenging too (Keels, Burdick‐Will, & Keene, 2013). In an environment where most of the students are from working families, the parents are better off, leaving the work of education to the teachers and the PSMOs. On the other hand, the middle-class parents would desire to be actively involved in the running of the school, which is a challenge to the work of the PSMOs.

With the change in the makeup of the school, there are many realities that are working contrary to the ideals under which the PSMOs are founded. One of the realities is the increase of the number of middle-class students, while the lower class students are reducing. In fact, this means that the PSMOs have to change the culture of their operation to include the values held by the new students and their parents. It is a fact that at some point, the PSMOs have to operate in an environment of diversity regarding culture and ethnicity and also in terms of the performance of the students (Preuhs, 2006). Therefore, this creates a great deal of demands and challenges for those running the PSMOs. Most of the parents can pay for the private schooling for their children, but they are entering into an environment where the running of the schools is not the same as in the charter schools, and different from where they are coming from. Hence, this creates conflict between the parents and their children and those running the PSMOs and the educators.

Would you prefer the environment to remain the same?

All the participants wish that gentrification would not take place and that they would continue to manage the schools in the same environment they have managed before the changes. The reality is that the managers of the PSMOs would desire to continue working within the culture they have been operating. Dealing with the change is not an easy task, especially given the incoming of new demands and desires from the new students and their families. It is also hard for them to see the composition of the schools change as fast as the lower income families leave their home and being displaced by the middle-income families. While no change is easy, gentrification is creating even greater challenges for the PSMOs in the running of private secondary schools.


Rationale of Findings

The findings from the study were expected because they were a confirmation of the findings presented in the sources reviewed. The findings indicated that the city under study has gone through a great deal of gentrification in the last ten years. There has been movement of middle-income families from other parts of the country into the city. The study confirmed the reality that these middle-class families are increasingly replacing the lower income families in the neighborhoods. The face of the city has been shown in research to be changing at a very speedy rate (Lees, 2012; Lees, Slater, & Wyly, 2013). Just like the city continues to transform, it is expected that similar changes will impact the education sector. The results are expected from the same perspective of displacement. The lower class residents of the cities are leaving to give way to the middle-class families. Similarly, within the education system, the marginal students are leaving and their places are being assumed by the middle-income, predominantly the White students.

The results indicating the impact of gentrification on the working of the PSMOs in secondary schools in the affected city are also expected. It would be impossible for the changes to take place without an impact on the way the schools are run. Evidently, the PSMOs are still new in the management of private schools, although similar models have been successful in charter schools. Hence, being confronted with the changes can be overwhelming to those managing the PSMOs. The effects are negative as indicated in the findings because of the incoming demands and desires of the new teachers and students. The schools have in the past witnessed changes in the composition of the students in the recent past, but not to the extent being experienced due to current gentrification. The expectations forced into the PSMOs are vast because the needs and desires of the middle-class students and parents are different from those of the lower class students and parents. Hence, these demands have a serious impact on the working and effectiveness of the PSMOs.

Confirmation of Hypothesis

The study tested one hypothesis, gentrification has a negative effect on private school management organizations focused on secondary schooling. From the results, it is evident that the hypothesis is proven as valid. There are effects on PSMOs caused by gentrification and the effects are mostly negative. There are major factors that impact the working of the education sector, some of which are external to the system itself. The factors, social, economic, cultural or political play a role in the organization and management of the system, while some of the factors have a positive impact; others tend to have a negative influence. Gentrification is one of those factors with a direct impact on the operating environment of schools. Any factor that has an impact on the working environment of the school affects those with a stake in the running of the school, explaining the impact on PSMOs.

The PSMOs have a relationship with the educators and the parents in the schools they support in managing. Hence, in the event that there is a change affecting the relationship, their work is affected. The relationship is affected by gentrification because it is bringing in new students and new parents with differing demands. The parents could be coming in to support the running of the schools, but the demands on the PSMOs have more negative than positive effects. In a conventional environment, the PSMOs are expected to make policies and decisions on the behalf of the schools as well as provide funding for the running of the schools. However, with the entry of the new crops of parents, the relationship is changing, tipping the PSMOs off balance. They are forming different relationships such as new school-community partnerships, changing the playing grounds for the PSMOs.

The Role of the Independent Variable

In any study, it is necessary to identify the dependent and the independent variable because the measures are the basis for determining the outcomes. The independent variable is the input model that determines the output through manipulation. In a cause-effect relationship, like the case of the current study, there should be the relationship between the dependent and independent variables. The dependent variable depends on the independent variable to establish some findings. In the case of the current study, the working of the PSMOs in secondary schools depends on the level of gentrification in the city and the secondary schools in question.

The independent variable in the study is gentrification which is measured to establish the impact it has on the working of the PSMOs. The variable has an impact on the study process because it is the impact that is being investigated. Hence, in the event that gentrification is present, then, there will be an impact. On the other hand, in case of gentrification is absent, there would be no impact on PSMOs. However, it is also necessary for gentrification to be present in the school environment for the impact to be proven. The impact would not be investigated if the gentrification did not impact on the education system, specifically the private secondary schools. Gentrification, as a variable, is an important factor affecting the running of the school, and in turn, the working of the PSMOs. For the factor to be proven, it was necessary for the composition of the students to have changed during the period of study.

Possible Spurious Variables

There are various other factors, related or unrelated to gentrification that could be the cause of the negative impact on the working of the PSMOs. One of the factors is the economic reality of the city. The economic reality of the city is impacted on by gentrification and could have an impact on PSMOs. In fact, this factor has not been taken into consideration in the study. Given the economic implication on the operations of the PSMOs in private schools, there is no doubt that the economy of the city impacts on PSMOs, either positively or negatively. With gentrification, the economy of the city is largely affected (Lees, 2012). Hence, the impact of the economy could be the cause of changes in the working of the PSMOs, although it has not been investigated in the current study. Therefore, to get a better picture of the impact of gentrification on the working of PSMOs, economy is a critical factor.

Another possible spurious variable is the policy regulating enrollment in the secondary schools being studied. On education systems, enrollment is not carried out in isolation, which means that there are rules and regulations that control the way it takes place (Nicholson-Crotty, Grissom & Nicholson-Crotty, 2011).  Based on the relationship between the working of the schools and the working of the PSMOs, it would have been better to investigate the environment within which enrollment takes place. A good example of such a policy would be one that regulates diversity at the school. The rate of diversity allowed in the school has a direct impact on the students who are enrolled in the school and the balance between the lower class and middle-class students in the school. Hence, even as more students come in, the school would not allow the balance to be toppled. Indeed, this policy would affect the way PSMOs runs the private secondary schools in the city.

Other options for the education of the students from middle-class families are another factor that could impact the results of the study and was not taken into consideration. Where parents have more options besides the private secondary schools, it means that less pressure would be put on the PSMOs. Therefore, this means that possibly, the impact of the PSMOs on gentrification process would have been different. Evidently, the private secondary schools are not the only schools of choice for the students moving into the city and displacing the lower class students. The students being split between the private and public schools means that the number entering the private schools is smaller. In addition, it indicates that the demands and expectations of the middle-class families of the schools would be lessened. Hence, this means that there is the possibility of the effect shifting.


The study aimed at testing the hypothesis that that gentrification has a negative effect on private school management organizations, particularly on the secondary schooling. The hypothesis has important implications on the education systems, especially in the modern age where the network model of managing private schools is taking shape. While the model of CMOs has taken root in the management of charter schools, the management of private schools is assuming this form of management for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, it is critical to investigate the possible factors with an impact on the working of the model, especially those with the potential to affect it negatively. Interestingly, gentrification is also another trend that is taking the United States by storm with significant impact on the education system. While the impact of gentrification on other aspects of education has been explored, there is a limitation in the studies focusing on the impact on the working of the PSMOs. Therefore, this indicates the importance of the study that explores the topic in details. The results of this study have major implication for the management of secondary education in the country.

The study on the effect gentrification has on the PSMOs in secondary schools revealed interesting findings. First, it was revealed that the composition of the cities in the United States is increasingly changing and doing so very fast. There is change in housing and infrastructure indicating the incoming of the middle class in the neighborhoods. In the process, the working class dwellings are being abolished, and in their places, better housing facilities are coming up. In fact, there is evidence of displacement where the lower class families are being replaced by the middle-class families. These are families that have lived in the suburbs but are migrating into the cities because of the economic factors. The middle-class families are not only taking over the homes of the lower class families but are simply transforming their neighborhoods from being predominantly black and Latinos to predominantly white. The cultural and ethnic composition of the neighborhoods has changed with major impact on various areas of life, including education.

Just like the neighborhoods, the composition of the schools is greatly changing because of the increase in the number of the students from the middle-class families. As the families move to the cities, they need to enroll their children to schools and the private schools are among the choices they have. The schools are in the phase of becoming increasingly managed by the PSMOs, who then, have to deal with the increasing middle-class students displacing the lower class students. The new reality is a factor that is causing a negative impact on the work of those running the PSMOs. Besides having to deal with the structural changes, the managers of these organizations have to contend with new relationships between the parents and the schools. The new parents come with new demands and expectations from the PSMOs. Their desires in the running of the schools are completely different from those of the lower class parents. The new parents want to run things their way while the lower class parents would rather not deal with the headache of running the school. These are some of the issues identified in the study as potentially affecting PSMOs in running private secondary schools in an environment of gentrification.

The findings of the study provide evidence for the argument that gentrification has negative effects on the running of private secondary schools under PSMOs. The studies have major implications on the operation of secondary education within the cities in the country in the wake of gentrification. The PSMOs are being utilized for efficient running of the schools, hence it is necessary to establish the factors that have an impact on the model. The results have implications on those managing the PSMOs at the secondary education level. They should use the findings to establish the most effective ways of running the schools under gentrification because the trend is likely to continue into the future. They should establish the factors underlying the trend that have the most effect and address them. Clearly, the model cannot be halted simply because of a challenge. The results set the foundation for further studies on the actual impact and the strategies that can be put in place to circumvent the negative effects. In this way, the PSMOs will continue to operate beneficially amid the changes in the operating environment.

However, there are some limitations that should be addressed in future research. One, because the PSMOs is a new model in the management of secondary schools, it was challenging to get a sample big enough to ensure generalizability. Hence, performing the study in a single city meant that only a few respondents could be used. The problem could possibly be addressed by using a wider focus, possibly by including more cities that have been affected by gentrification and have secondary schools being managed through PSMOs. Another weakness is in the use of a single method of data collection affecting triangulation. In future, blended methods can be used for the collection of data to achieve reliability and validity. On the other hand, the use of qualitative and quantitative data could have provided a clearer picture of the subject under study.

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