Philadelphia gives 42 schools to outside groups. Will this reform work?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that 42 low performing schools are being given to 7 outside managers, including 20 to for-profit Edison Schools. Another 28 schools will be converted to charters, independent schools or “reconstituted” systems, meaning that their staff will be radically changed.

The commission unanimously approved a list of guidelines on the financial aspects of these partnership schools and the rules to which they will be held, including an obligation to raise test scores or lose their contract.

The schools will not be given more financial resources than other low-performing schools in the district, but they will be eligible to compete for federal and other grants.

From what the article says, these schools are so bad that they had to try something. I particularly like the fact that they are trying a variety of approaches. That way, they will be able to compare results from the regular public school method vs. a selection of differenct approaches.

I assume that many school employees, including teachers, administrators, etc. will lose their jobs. This is unfortunate for the individuals. However, I like the implicit message to school employees they must succeed or they’re canned. That’s how my firm works, and insurance is a lot less important than education.

Is this reform effort a good approach? Will it work or fail? Which alternatives will come out on top?

I think a few of them will work.

The story doesn’t really go into enough detail to say whether the policy is good or not, IMO. Are they actually giving up property? Physical schools? Is these management contracts for 2 years? 5? In perpetuity? Are there clauses to back out given specified circumstances?

Sounds like they don’t have any of those pesky details worked out yet.

I doubt it will work. Around the country, there’s been a fairly definite pattern for Edison Schools. They take over a failing school and promise to raise achievement levels. Time passes, scores don’t go up enough, and eventually an angry school board terminates the contract.

Here’s an extremely detailed study of the company:

Also, the company has been accused several times of trying to fudge statistics about test scores for their schools.

I’m of a mixed opinion, so I’m not sure how I’ll help the debate, but I wanted to chime in since I live in Philly.

Our school system has been in trouble for years. Children are coming out of it with horrible scores in everything. We haven’t even came close to meeting a budget for a long time. Last year we had to get emergency aid from the state which barely came in time and was much less than we needed.

Everybody seems to be of the mentality that our school system in a bloated bureaucratical institution thats in desperate need of reform. Teachers are paid extremely low amounts in city schools which causes them to seek jobs outside the city which fuels suburban sprawl which decreases tax revenue which causes tax increases which fuels suburban sprawl, etc. Kids seem to be given a pass to move on through grades no matter how bad they do.

So I’m leary about letting a business run the schools, but years have proven that our city isn’t doing any better. I think things are going to work them out like this:

Edison will take over the schools. Edison will trim here and cut there and basically get the budget back in order. Grades will not improve over a period of a couple years. City will say Edison is not doing its job and retake the schools with the budget now in order and claim a win for itself if there is even marginal growth.

By the way, schools were give to non-profit and parent organisations as well. Not just to Edison. I would also have liked it if they didn’t give quite so many schools away all at once. I would have transfered them a little more slowly to see how things play out.

Well those are my two cents. Hope they help.