NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Edison Schools Try Different Approach

October 25, 2000

The American Federation of Teachers is critical of the for-profit Edison Schools, saying that they aren't doing the job of educating poor and minority students any better than traditional public schools. But the AFT affiliate in Miami is pushing to run 10 schools jointly with Edison, according to USA Today, so maybe their record has something to commend it to teachers.

  • Edison Schools, started in 1992, operate 113 schools in 45 cities and 21 states, teaching a total of 57,000 students.
  • All of the schools are public schools -- operated as charters or under contract with school districts.
  • Since most of the schools are in poor neighborhoods, the poverty rates of its students are double the national average.

Studies sponsored by the company "show as many victories as the AFT claims failures," says USA Today. Certainly, they are bringing additional resources to the education of their students. Among the ideas Edison schools are testing:

  • An online monthly benchmark system available to students, parents and the school staff that tells everyone where the student stands compared to state standards.
  • Longer school days (8 hours) and a longer school year (200 days), giving students about a third more instructional time.
  • Laptops for each student to take home, starting in the third grade, and digital connections with students' homes.

The teacher turnover rate at Edison schools is about twice the national average; however, this is understandable, say observers, given the greater commitment required by teachers and the fact that many of the schools were troubled and failing to begin with. Edison recognizes that credible evaluations are needed. In July, it turned over its academic-auditing chore to the Rand Corp.

Source: Editorial, "Teachers Union Undermines Efforts to Fix Urban Schools," USA Today, October 25, 2000.


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