Thursday, March 22, 2001

City district now is open to for-profit school pitch

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The third try could bring success for a private, for-profit firm seeking to do business with Cincinnati Public Schools.

        Educators with New York-based Edison Schools on Wednesday presented to the Board of Education their plans to operate a school in partnership with the district.

        “Achievement is something that takes time. If you want to be a great writer, you have to write, write write. If you want to be a great reader, you have to read, read, read,” said John Chubb, Edison's chief education officer.

        For a partnership to take place between Edison Schools and Cincinnati Public Schools, the Board of Education must authorize Superintendent Steven Adamowski to work out specifics with Edison.
        Mr. Adamowski said he wants direction from the board. For example, does the group want Edison to operate as a magnet school, or as a year-round school?
        There is no word on when a decision could come or what school year a partnership would begin. Board members said they want more time to study the Edison research.
        “We set goals for our schools each year and it may not look like much, but the idea is that after five years it should be a very different school.”

        Edison operates 113 schools in 21 states, including two in Dayton, Ohio. Edison started running schools in 1995 and now serves 57,000 students.

        The district and Edison tried to work together in 1995 and 1998. This year, Edison's education model was one of three choices presented to low-performing schools undergoing redesign.

        While none of those schools chose the Edison model, there is strong support in the community, particularly from the Baptist Ministers Conference, for bringing the model to Cincinnati.

        “The last two times, Edison did not have a track record and we were not willing to be a guinea pig,” board member Harriet Russell said.

        That has changed.

        Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Rick Beck said the union is willing to work with the company. Board members and Superintendent Steven Adamowski said Edison would make a good option — either as a magnet school or as a year-round school.

        Edison offers things to students that Cincinnati can't — such as longer school days, laptop computers for every teacher and in-home computers for every student — because the district chooses to spend money on different things and must deal with the teachers' union, Mr. Adamowski said.

        The state gave approval in 1999 to the Rev. Calvin Harper, pastor of Walnut Hills' Morning Star Baptist Church, and Deborah McGriff, Edison's executive vice president, to open an Edison school as a charter school. That school was never started, but the authorization is still valid.

        The Rev. James H. Cantrell, pastor at Zion Baptist Church, said he was impressed by the Edison Schools in Dayton and wants Cincinnati students to have the same opportunity.

        Since 1995, Edison's reach and credibility have 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 schools are also showing academic success, Mr. Chubb said.

        The seven Edison schools in California, when compared to all schools in the state, showed larger increases on the Stanford Achievement Test, even while more Edison students (65 percent) were receiving free and reduced lunch (an indicator of poverty) than those in the state (47 percent). Edison scores increased 6 percentiles while state scores increased 4 percentiles.

        Edison uses a longer school day — up to eight hours — and a longer school year.Students are grouped with a team of teachers that follows them through the grade levels. They use the Success For All reading model and a math model called Everyday Math.


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