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"Edison Stays Afloat by Altering Course"

"Confounding its critics in education circles," writes New York Times business reporter Diana B. Henriques, a correspondent for FRONTLINE's "Public Schools Inc.," "Edison Schools, the nation's first and largest for-profit school management company, has made it to another graduation season. But in doing so, it has altered its course in ways that may mute Edison's future role in the national debate over educational reform." [The New York Times, July 3, 2003; free registration required.]

EVALUATING EDISON

edison schools

Edison Schools' Web site contains promotional information on Edison's educational philosophy and its report on school and student performance for 2000-2001.

Philadelphia School Reform Grade Is Still an Incomplete

"After a rocky beginning, with resistance from the teachers' union and miscalculations by Edison over school staffing and Philadelphia politics, this week marked a small victory. Preliminary test scores showed that student achievement improved slightly at schools across the district, including those managed by Edison and the other outside managers. … If the idea behind school reform here was to bring in several competing models that would help spur change, then so far, said John Chubb, Edison's chief education officer, it appears that the experiment may be working." [The New York Times, June 20, 2003; free registration required]

Administrator of Schools Predicts Profit by Mid-June

"Edison Schools, the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools, reported yesterday that its losses continued to shrink in the first three months of this year and that it expects to report the first quarterly profit in its history by the end of June. The company's net loss for its fiscal third quarter, which ended on March 30, was $6.4 million, exactly half the size of its loss in the same quarter last year, on revenue of $108.4 million." [The New York Times, May 15, 2003; free registration required]

Edison Schools, Inc. Quarterly Report

(SEC form 12-Q, filed May 15, 2003)
"As of March 31, 2003, our accumulated deficit since November 1996 was approximately $291.8 million. In addition, prior to November 1996, we incurred losses of approximately $61.8 million, which are reflected in our additional paid-in capital."

Reading, Writing, and Revenue

"Edison Schools Inc. has been selling the idea that for-profit management companies can do a better job of teaching kids than public-school districts. But a growing number of educators say the reality doesn't match the hype." [Mother Jones, May/June 2001]

Complex Calculations on Academics

"In the debate over Edison Schools … Edison's supporters and its opponents cite test scores and academic studies to bolster their arguments. Unfortunately, little of that evidence is as conclusive as it has been portrayed, making an evaluation of Edison's seven-year academic record far more difficult than tracking its plummeting stock price." [The New York Times, July 16, 2002; free registration required]

Trends in Student Acheivment for Edison Schools, Inc.: The Emerging Record (PDF)

(October 2000, updated February, 2003)
This October 2000 report from the American Federation of Teachers evaluated student acheivement at 40 Edison schools in eight states. The report found that "students in Edison schools mostly perform as well as or worse than students in comparable schools; occasionally they perform better," and characterized Edison's achievment record as "mediocre." In February, 2003, the AFT updated the report to include comparisons of student performance on state assessments in 2000-01 Edison-run schools to other comparable schools in the state, and found that "averaged across all states, the typical Edison school performed below average."

 edison's response
º Union Researcher Issues Inaccurate Report On Edison Schools

Edison's Chief Education Officer John Chubb calls the AFT's 2000 report a "political diatribe dressed up in the guise of science," in this press release. "The report has no methodological merit," he says. "It is replete with stunning omissions of facts when those facts fail to support the author's agenda; and, in general, it does not deserve to be taken seriously."

Evaluation of Student Achievement in Edison Schools Opened in 1995 and 1996

(December 2000)
This report from The Evaluation Center of Western Michigan University (WMU) analyzed the results of district, state, and national achievement tests from the first 10 schools Edison had opened, and concluded that while test scores at many Edison schools had risen, equivalent improvements occurred in comparable district-run schools.

 edison's response
º Union-Sponsored Study Provides Predictably Biased Evaluation of Edison Schools

"Despite the mountains of statistics designed to give it an aura of legitimacy, the study is a political attack piece, pure and simple," said Edison's Chief Education Officer John Chubb, quoted in a press release responding to the WMU study. "It is shocking that social scientists would attempt to pass off such work as an objective evaluation." He argues that comparing Edison schools' test scores to those from "less disadvantaged" schools in the same district is unfair: "Edison is asked to manage some of the lowest-performing schools in the nation. In these schools it is important to evaluate the progress they are making, not how they compare with schools that are already successful."

The authors of the study issued a rebuttal (PDF) to Edison's criticisms.

GENERAL RESEARCH ON FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS

Public Schools: Insufficient Research to Determine Effectiveness of Selected Private Education Companies

(PDF) This October 2002 report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) reviews the research on three for-profit educational management companies, including Edison, and concludes that "Little is known about the effectiveness of these companies' programs on student achievement, parental satisfaction, parental involvement, or school climate because few rigorous studies have been conducted."

Potential of For Profit Schools for Education Reform

(PDF) "Contrary to the facile claims of their investment promoters, privatizing of operations of public schools is not a business that is easily convertible to profitability. … For-profit EMO's have generally not been profitable, nor is there evidence of breakthroughs in educational results. And, there is virtually no evidence that the quest for larger and larger numbers of schools will solve the dilemma through economies of scale." [Occasional Paper No. 4, National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, by Henry Levin (June 2002)]

Profiles of For-Profit Education Management Companies: Fifth Annual Report, 2002-2003

(PDF) Overview of 47 education management companies, including Edison, showing the number and location of 417 contract schools across the nation, from the Educational Policy Studies Laboratory of Arizona State University College of Education.

 

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published july 3, 2003

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