PITFALLS FACE PRIVATE CONTRACTORS IN SCHOOLS

December 12, 1995

When a private firm hired to educate children in nine inner-city Baltimore schools had its contract canceled last month, vested interests in the education establishment claimed that was proof privatizing education doesn't work.

Critics of education reform claimed the firm, Education Alternatives, Inc., did not raise students' test scores as promised. But there are real questions about the comparability of the scores to those of students who remained in public schools.

  • A public school spokesman said test scores in the privatized schools first dipped, then returned to a level on par with those of public school students.
  • But fifth-graders in the EAI inner-city schools registered modest gains in reading and math, while a control group in public schools suffered a five-point drop in both subjects.
  • EAI "mainstreamed" learning disabled children and included their scores in results, while scores of such children in the public school control group were not included in reports.
  • About 25 percent of children in Baltimore are considered learning disabled, compared to about 10 percent nationally.

EAI's contract was canceled even though the firm's results in Baltimore were by no means shabby. And at a school run by EAI in Miami Beach astonishing progress was made. In both reading and math comprehension, EAI students improved anywhere from 12 to 33 points, while scores for youngsters in Dade County public schools improved no more than 12 points.

Source: Daniel J. Murphy, "Why Schools Flunk Ed Reform," Investor's Business Daily, December 12, 1995.

 

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