The theoretical basis for the organizational model Chancellor Klein would like to impose on New York City public schools is known in the educational policy world as the “diverse providers” model. The theory, laid out in the Tough Choices or Tough Times report produced by New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce on which Klein sat, has the school district outsourcing its core work, the provision of education, to a number of private providers [including for profit EMOs] who actually operate the schools.
There are two school districts in the United States that have put this model into practice.
The first district is New Orleans, where the Bush US Department of Education and the Louisiana governor used the devastation caused by Katrina as an opportunity to dismantle the public school system. Like everything else that the Bush administration has done in post-Katrina New Orleans, the result was a manmade catastrophe on top of the natural disaster.
The second district is Philadelphia, where a number of low performing schools were outsourced to for profit EMOs such as Edison Schools and Victory Schools. Today, the respected non-partisan Rand Corporation and the Philadelphia based Research for Action issued a devastating study of the Philadelphia experiment, Student Achievement in Privately Managed and District-Managed Schools in Philadelphia Since the State Takeover. The report compared 41 out-sourced schools run by EMOs such as Edison and Victory with district-run public schools. Over the last five years, the outsourced, EMO run schools produced “no statistically significant effects” in terms of improved students scores on standardized reading and math exams. By contrast, restructured district run public schools, providing many of the same resources NYC provided in the successful Chancellor’s District before Klein dismantled it, provided statistically significant better scores. What were those resources? Smaller classes, additional literacy and math instruction with proven curricula, and lead teachers, among other things.
And if this were not enough, the citizens of Philadelphia have subsidized mightily the schools run by the EMOs and the EMO coffers. District spending in the EMO run schools is 10% greater — $7750 per student — than it is in the district run schools — $7000 per student. This adds up to an annual $18 million extra spent on the EMO run schools.
“There is no evidence to proceed with the model of private management of schools, as is, that we have here in Philadelphia,” concluded Jolley Bruce Christman of Research for Action.
Commenting on the report, Hank Levin, director of Columbia University’s National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, said: “To me, it’s a romance that just hasn’t worked. It’s not that they are doing worse, but that they don’t seem to be doing any better, and they cost more. That’s a serious challenge, particularly for a district facing a deficit.”
After five years of permanent structural revolution under Klein, isn’t it time that New York City charted a path that bore some relationship to the evidence?