Edison Schools, September 2001
Everyone wants to know if Chris Whittle's attempt to create a chain of effective schools and turn a profit at the same time is working. Stock analysts (and shareholders) know the profit question remains unanswered, but, according to its own fourth-year annual report, Edison seems to be a doing a decent job of educating kids. The report begins with a word from RAND, which has been engaged by Edison to do a rigorous, independent evaluation of its schools and report the findings for better or worse. Those results will not be available for two or three more years; in the meantime, RAND has reviewed Edison's own annual report and says that its statements are consistent with available data from state and testing company sources. The nation's largest for-profit public school management company - now operating 136 schools - says that it has improved student proficiency test scores by an average of six percentage points (and scores on norm-referenced tests by an average of five percentage points) every year since 1995. The report also says that 84% of Edison schools are achieving at higher levels now than when they opened. Meanwhile, the number of low-income and African-American students attending Edison schools increased between 1998 and today (from 57 to 70% and 46% to 64% respectively). Skeptics may want to see comparisons between Edison and nearby schools serving similar populations, but they will have to wait for the RAND evaluation. Edison's annual report is available at www.edisonschools.com/design/d23.html or by calling Edison at 212-419-1600.