Edison for-profit school scam exposed
By Kevin Chojczak | April 27, 2001 | Page 2
SAN FRANCISCO--The scandalous performance of an elementary school run by the for-profit company Edison Schools has exposed the reality behind the politicians' hype about school "reform." A report issued in late March by the San Francisco Unified School District says that the Edison Charter Academy has all but dismantled bilingual education programs--and the quality of special education classes has eroded so badly that they no longer meet district standards.
Furthermore, the study says, Edison's practice of "counseling out" students who are more likely to score lower on standardized tests has hammered minorities, especially African Americans. Parents of Black students say their children have been approached and told that Edison "might not be the right school for them." An incredible one-third of the school's Black students have transferred out in the three years since privatization.
Since Edison took over an elementary school coincidentally named Thomas Edison, a flood of complaints from teachers, students and parents has been testimony to what it means to run a school for profit. Edison teachers are required to work a school year of 210 days, compared to the 181 days at public schools.
Teachers are also frustrated by Edison's curriculum, which is rigidly geared toward testing. "We were teaching to test... making sure they can pass, answer the questions right, even if they don't understand them," said Kristine Roberts, a teacher who left Edison last year. The teacher turnover rate hit 76 percent after Edison's second year of operation.
Edison's test scores have increased. But Stanford University education expert Craig Peck says this is probably because of the change in the student body. "The Edison test score 'gains,' in essence, are as hollow as corporate earnings reports that hide losses," he said.
The San Francisco Board of Education is expected to put Edison Charter Academy on 90-day probation as a prelude to revoking Edison's contract. But Edison plans to appeal. It's counting on Gov. Gray Davis' appointment of Don Fisher, head of the Gap Co., to the state board of education.
"The Fisher King" has backed Edison Schools with donations of computers and equipment worth some $25 million. In return, Fisher has made millions in choice Edison stock deals. We can't let these greedy corporations take over our schools.