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'Revolution' in Education Learning A Hard Reality

Edison - a for-profit business hired almost four years ago to manage two dozen of the lowest-performing schools in the district - is striving to radically change education in America. But the reality at the classroom level looks less than revolutionary.
Edison - a for-profit business hired almost four years ago to manage two dozen of the lowest-performing schools in the district - is striving to radically change education in America. But the reality at the classroom level looks less than revolutionary.

The required reading and math coaches can be found in many public schools. The results of new monthly online tests are analyzed every which way in the hopes of improving annual state standardized test scores. Expensive curriculum and books, already available elsewhere, replaced the outdated ones.

There's no doubt Edison has brought accountability and business savvy to the classroom. A corporate culture pervades the mint-green concrete block halls of these 1960s-era schools, which are now called EMOs or Educational Management Organizations.

But in this large-scale experiment of using the profit motive to improve schools, the approach to education has been rather conventional. So conventional, in fact, the gains in student achievement recorded so far have been largely indistinguishable from improvements seen elsewhere in the Philadelphia school system, where schools are run the traditional way.

"What we've seen is that they're not a miracle cure," said Chad d'Entremont, assistant director for the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University's Teachers College. "We simply don't know the overall affect yet. Things haven't been made dramatically worse, but they haven't been made dramatically better either."

This article, written by Anita Kumar, appeared in the November 27th publication of The St. Petersburg Times.

Published Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2005

'Revolution' in Education Learning A Hard Reality

Edison - a for-profit business hired almost four years ago to manage two dozen of the lowest-performing schools in the district - is striving to radically change education in America. But the reality at the classroom level looks less than revolutionary.

The required reading and math coaches can be found in many public schools. The results of new monthly online tests are analyzed every which way in the hopes of improving annual state standardized test scores. Expensive curriculum and books, already available elsewhere, replaced the outdated ones.

There's no doubt Edison has brought accountability and business savvy to the classroom. A corporate culture pervades the mint-green concrete block halls of these 1960s-era schools, which are now called EMOs or Educational Management Organizations.

But in this large-scale experiment of using the profit motive to improve schools, the approach to education has been rather conventional. So conventional, in fact, the gains in student achievement recorded so far have been largely indistinguishable from improvements seen elsewhere in the Philadelphia school system, where schools are run the traditional way.

"What we've seen is that they're not a miracle cure," said Chad d'Entremont, assistant director for the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University's Teachers College. "We simply don't know the overall affect yet. Things haven't been made dramatically worse, but they haven't been made dramatically better either."

This article, written by Anita Kumar, appeared in the November 27th publication of The St. Petersburg Times.

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