Although the measure was vigorously opposed by the state teacher union, in April 2001 the Clark County School Board in Las Vegas, Nevada unanimously agreed to have Edison Schools take over seven of the district’s underperforming schools for five years at a cost of about $8 million a year. A subsequent teacher union lawsuit to overturn the board’s decision resulted in a settlement whereby the board agreed to form committees to evaluate Edison’s performance and make a recommendation to terminate, extend, or expand the firm’s contract.
When test scores were announced in February for the schools Edison manages, even the top teacher union official sounded impressed and encouraged by the strong results. At the elementary level, scores in reading, language, and science at the Edison schools were virtually the same as the district’s comparison group. However, scores in math showed the Edison students had improved more and performed better than their peers in district schools.
“There’s a reason to be excited whenever a kid shows improvement,” Ken Lange, executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, told the Las Vegas Sun. “Obviously the folks in those schools and the students are working very hard, and there’s been a conscious focus on mathematics as a challenge area.”
Lange suggested it may take another year of test scores before Edison’s overall performance can be evaluated, telling the Las Vegas Sun, “We need to give [Edison] a little more time.”
Contracts Extended in Peoria and Davenport
After seeing the impressive academic gains achieved in Edison-run schools in their districts over the past five years, school boards in Peoria, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa both voted in April to extend the partnership contracts for another five years.
In Peoria, the nearly 2,000 students at the four Edison-run schools have shown substantial gains on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, with one school–Franklin-Edison Primary School–ranked among the highest-gaining schools in the entire state.
“The partnership will benefit the district, Edison, and most of all Peoria’s students and parents,” said Vince Wieland, president of the Peoria Board of Education. “I look forward to another great five years.”
In Davenport, the academic gains made by the 478 students at Jefferson-Edison Elementary over the past five years have contributed to overwhelming parental support, with 94 percent of Jefferson-Edison parents giving the school an A or B grade.
“When visiting the building, you can see that wonderful things are happening at the school,” said Susan Low, board president of Davenport Community Schools.
“This public/private partnership reveals what can happen when Edison and school districts work together to achieve a common goal,” added Chris Cerf, president and chief operating officer of Edison Schools.