"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, February 02, 2007

Earth to Spellings: Private Management of Schools Adds Nothing

As Maggie continues a new whirlwind tour in support of the neocon's privatization plan for the public schools, perhaps someone will give her a copy of this new release of scientifically-based research, the kind that she and Grover Whitehurst are so keen on. Oops, I forgot--they are interested only in the scientifically-based research that agrees with the neocon preconceived ideology that they are sworn to support. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg or Chancellor Klein would be interested in a copy?

Well, even Spellings may find this one hard to ignore--a study by the Rand Corporation, "State Takeover, School Restructuring, Private Management, and Student Achievement in Philadelphia," on the corporate welfare Edison solution in Philadelphia. The research shows that, despite an extra $90,000,000 given to Whittle and other companies to run 45 public schools in Philadelphia, academic performance was no better than the other public schools they were intended to replace. From Rand's News Release yesterday:

Academic improvement among students attending Philadelphia public schools managed by private operators kept pace, but did not exceed, the achievement gains of students in the rest of the district in the past four years, according to an analysis issued today by the RAND Corporation and Research for Action.

While significant academic gains were made from 2002 to 2006 by students across Philadelphia, private managers who were given extra funds to run 45 elementary and middle schools did not achieve additional gains exceeding district-wide trends, according to researchers.

Researchers say that their findings have implications for other regions that are considering private management of public schools and that the effort in Philadelphia suggests the challenges of implementing private management on a large scale.

Philadelphia is the site of the largest experiment in the private management of public schools in the United States.

“The privately managed schools, on average, showed gains that were comparable to those in the rest of the district.” said Brian Gill, lead author of the report and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

“Schools in Philadelphia have shown strong improvement that has been reflected widely across the district,” said Jolley Christman, co-founder of Research for Action and an author of the report. “But our findings show the investment in private management of schools has not paid the expected dividends.”

Meanwhile, another group of schools that were “restructured” — remaining under district management with intensive intervention and a comparable increase in resources — showed significant gains in math in the first three years studied and in reading during the first year. In the fourth year, the additional resources for the restructured schools ended, but the schools appeared to maintain their gains in math.

Philadelphia's experiment with the private management of public schools began in 2002 when, after years of low achievement and budget crises in the School District of Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania launched a takeover of the 200,000-pupil district.

District management was turned over to an appointed commission, which hired a new chief executive who imposed new district-wide curricula and a system of frequent benchmark assessments.

The school district's new leaders also adopted what is known as the “diverse provider” model, turning over the management of some of the district's lowest-achieving schools to seven different private managers, who received additional per-pupil funding. Those private managers include for-profit firms such as Edison Schools (the nation's largest for-profit operator of public schools), local nonprofits and two local universities.
. . . .

The report, titled “State Takeover, School Restructuring, Private Management, and Student Achievement in Philadelphia,” is available at www.rand.org. Other authors of the report are Ron Zimmer of RAND and Suzanne Blanc of Research for Action.

RAND Education conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.

Research for Action is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization working in educational research and reform to insure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students. For more information, go to www.researchforaction.org.

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