Study Disputes Philadelphia School Changes

Bloomberg News
Friday, February 2, 2007

Philadelphia students who attended public schools managed by private operators fared no better academically than other students over the past four years, an analysis by Rand Corp. and Research for Action shows.

Philadelphia began an experiment -- the largest in the United States -- with private management in 2002 after the state took over the 200,000-student district. Private managers were given about $90 million extra over four years to run 45 elementary and middle schools in the nation's fifth-biggest city.

"Schools in Philadelphia have shown strong improvement that has been reflected widely across the district," said Jolley Christman, the report's author and co-founder of Research for Action, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization. "Our findings show the investment in private management of schools has not paid the expected dividends."

The private managers include New York-based Edison Schools Inc., the nation's largest for-profit operator of public schools. A five-year Rand study released in October found that Edison is producing student gains that are comparable to the public schools they replace. Edison manages 97 schools with 58,000 students.

The study fails to measure how the presence of private managers in the district helped generate a sense of competition that raised performance for all schools, John Chubb, chief education officer for Edison, said in a telephone interview.

"It would be irresponsible to conclude that competition was not part of the explanation for the improving test scores across the district," Chubb said.

Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive, said Philadelphia's 62 charter schools had more of an effect on competition than the private managers because the charters are newly created schools.

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