NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Philadelphia Schools Under New Management

August 28, 2002

The lowest performing public schools in Philadelphia -- which may have the worst school system in America -- will open next week under new management. Of the 246 schools in the city, 177 are failing schools as defined by the federal education reform bill signed into law by President Bush. But only 70 of these are getting new management and strengthened curricula under the reform plan.

How bad are Philadelphia's schools?

  • Half the kids who begin school in the first grade drop out before they graduate.
  • Fifty-eight percent of its students fail reading and math; 80 percent score less than proficient.
  • Only 13 percent of high school juniors are able to read and understand a newspaper.
  • Less than 10 percent of African-American students scored at or above basic proficiency in math.

"The real tragedy is the longer kids are in school, the worse they do. In fact, the eight grade reading scores are no better than the third grade reading scores," says Paul G. Vallas, the new superintendent.

The 45 worst schools in the city, with some 25,000 students, will be managed by seven private companies and universities.

  • Edison, the best public school management company in the country, will run 20 of them; Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania another eight.
  • Another 33 poorly performing schools will be reconstituted with a different teaching staff and curriculum.

So the worst quarter of the city's schools will have a different program and better managers. Six more charter schools will open too, bringing that total to 45.

Gov. Tom Ridge's original plan to transform the entire Philadelphia school system into a privately managed one has been watered down. Nevertheless, it is the most comprehensive public school reform effort in the country.

Source: Pete du Pont (policy chairman, National Center for Policy Analysis), "City of Brotherly Education," Outside the Box,, August 28, 2002.

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