When the state of Pennsylvania took over the failing School District of Philadelphia (SDP) in 2001 and gave the reigns to then Philadelphia mayor Street, the goal was to improve student performance. The governor at the time, Ridge, envisioned a more diverse school system with school management outsourced to such EMOs (Education Management Organizations) such as Edison Schools, now Edison Learning. Despite the fact that Edison Schools, a for-profit education company, had no background in evaluating school districts, Governor Ridge paid Edison Schools Incorporated, now Edison Learning, $2.7 million to do an evaluative study of the SDP. Additionally, Edison wrote a report of recommendations which included giving failing contracts to an EMO. And not surprisingly, the majority of those failing schools that Pennsylvania did turn into charters became Edison Schools. Studies show modest improvement in student performance.
What gets me about the Philadelphia story is that it is typical of the grifting that is going on in America's education system. There seems to be a shared understanding between the policy makers and the private sector about making more money with no apparent sense of moral obligation to do the best for the community. Whether you are pro chsrter or not, the fact that the state spent tax payer money to people who weren't trained evaluators and then rewarded their biased report with further cash regardless of evidence that they could do anything to change the outcomes. And of course, the real trouble is that this is not an isolated story but just one example of the ever-present for-profit scandal that is not only abided by but also facilitated by policy makers over the last two decades.
And in case you are wondering, Edison schools did not provide this amazing turnaround that they said they could. Their failings are chronicled in Saltman's book The Edison Schools.