Friday, June 29, 2007

Philadelphia to Keep Outside School Managers One More Year

The Philadelphia school district will allow six outside groups to continue operating some of the city’s lowest-performing schools for one more year, a decision that was immediately questioned in light of studies showing that the five-year, $107 million investment has not delivered overall academic results any better than the district’s own efforts.

The June 27 decision by Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission reverberated in the city, where critics said it was driven by politics and money, as well as elsewhere in the nation, where experts who have been closely monitoring Philadelphia’s experiment with outside management were divided on exactly what lessons it is yielding for educators.

The commission, an appointed panel that has been running the 173,000-student district since a 2001 state takeover, decided to offer one-year contract extensions to the providers—Edison Schools and Victory Schools, two New York City-based private companies; Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, both in Philadelphia; and two community groups, Universal Companies and Foundations Inc. Their five-year contracts expire on June 30, and a decision had to be made about the 38 schools they would run in 2007-08.

The extensions require all the providers to offer their services for $500 more per student than what regular Philadelphia schools receive. That means a cut in pay for the four non-university providers, which had been paid $750 extra per child, and an increase for the two universities, which had been receiving $450 extra per student. Whether all six would accept new contracts on those terms was an open question.

“How do we do more with less? That is the biggest issue,” said J. Roberto Gutierrez, a spokesman for Edison Schools Inc., which is the largest outside provider, with 20 Philadelphia campuses.

Margaret Harrington, the chief operating officer of Victory Schools, said her company would accept the one-year contract. “We want to maintain our presence in Philadelphia,” she said...

This from Education Week.

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