Edison schools are only average
Reforms do not show substantial benefits over time, a study says
Edison Schools Inc. is working with the following public schools under two-year school reform contracts for a total of $3.9 million a year:
» Palolo Elementary
» Jarrett Middle
» Dole Middle
» Central Middle
» Aiea Elementary
» Kahului Elementary
» Paia Elementary
Mainland schools managed by Edison Schools Inc., which has landed contracts to reform several Hawaii schools, did not perform substantially better over time, on average, than other schools, a study has found.
It generally took Edison-managed schools four to five years to match gains at non-Edison schools serving similar student populations in the same areas, the report by the Rand Corporation said.
"In consequence, we cannot make strong predictions for prospective clients about whether they will achieve better long-term results with Edison or with an alternative approach," it said, though it added that some schools "have clearly done well under Edison management."
Edison commissioned the five-year study, which tracked changes in standardized tests scores at more than 140 schools managed through its Edison Schools model, under which the company assumes complete operational authority over a school.
That model has been at the center of a spate of past contract terminations by school districts bemoaning high costs and disappointing results.
Edison has the largest contract -- at $3.9 million a year -- of three mainland education firms recently hired by the state to "restructure" 20 schools plagued by chronic student underachievement on standardized tests.
Edison is using a newer model in Hawaii called the Edison Alliance, in which it acts more as an outside vendor of customized achievement programs. It began work here this past summer, well after the period studied in the Rand report.
However, the company's chief education officer, John Chubb, said Edison Alliance "is essentially the same approach as the managed-school model," minus the direct management authority.
The report noted that schools actually performed worse on average in the first year under Edison, which it blamed on transitional issues. But it noted that student achievement generally begins to climb steadily after several years.
It also noted wide variability in performance at Edison schools, which it said was due to differing levels of commitment to the program, echoing a common defense offered by education firms when the results are disappointing.
"We're coming to Hawaii with the best of what we have to offer, and the schools that implement those things with the most integrity are the schools that will show the most gains," said John Craig, Edison's general manager for Hawaii.
For its Hawaii clients, Edison is introducing curriculum expertise, professional development and other teacher support, and sophisticated data systems that will allow teachers to get instant feedback on quiz and test results.
The other firms working on Hawaii school restructuring are ETS Pulliam and America's Choice.
Dozens more schools recently were targeted for restructuring, and schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said the state wants to minimize the use of outside help at those schools.