Thursday, January 11, 2001

CPS considers private-run schools


Edison firm being weighed among options

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Parents and community members at three Cincinnati public schools might choose a private, for-profit firm to run their schools' academic and management operations next year.

        Edison Schools, a New York-based education company, is one of two options being considered by the Burton, Central Fairmount and Rockdale school communities.

        The other option is direct instruction, a tightly scripted teaching method that stresses practice and repetition. It is used at Parham School.

        Each school will make its own decision.

        Edison, once ignored by Cincinnati's Board of Education and seen as problematic by the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, is now being touted as an option.

        “The issues we thought we had with them don't exist any longer,” said Rick Beck, CFT president. “We've got a better understanding of how it would work now. ...

        “Just like all these other programs available to schools, Edison frankly has some mixed history and results, but we think if a school community likes what Edison brings, they should be able to do it.”

        Burton, Central Fairmount and Rockdale are being “redesigned” by the district after three years of low performance. Each school will get all-new teachers, staff and principal.

        If the school communities choose Edison, it would be a first for the district — although contracting with a third party to operate a public school is an idea Superintendent Steven Adamowski has floated.

        “This is a design that adds a lot of value,” Mr. Adamowski said. “All students receive laptops. They get language instruction, and Edison receives lots of outside funding. But at this point, it is just an idea that is being offered.”

        That said, however, Mr. Adamowski said the district would rather offer the Edison option than compete with it as a charter school.

        Edison serves 57,000 students in 113 schools, including two in Dayton, Ohio.

        Edison and Cincinnati Public Schools would work out a contract to ensure that district academic standards are met. Edison would hire district employees — except for the business manager — and teachers would be expected to meet the standards outlined in the district's teacher evaluation system.

        Started in 1995, Edison Schools have shown increased progress in student achievement. Those gains made the reform model stand out to Cincinnati's redesign committee.

        Nothing is final, said Rick Wil liams, board of education president.

        “They're not here yet,” Mr. Williams said. “We have many groups and many programs that approach us to be a part of the district. It happens all the time. What Edison and the administration are doing is going through the process to see if this is viable.”

        This is not the first time Edison and Cincinnati Public Schools have been in conversation.

        School board members snubbed Edison in 1998 when they were redesigning other schools.

        Since then, Edison's reach and credibility has increased, evidenced by more teacher unions and school boards partnering with the company.

        The company agreed last year to work with United Teachers of Dade in Miami to operate 10 new charter schools.

        Edison also will run the five worst-rated public schools in New York City under a plan adopted last month by the New York City Board of Education.

       



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