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Edison Plans Win Charter-School Backing in Mass.

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Massachusetts officials last week gave preliminary approval to 15 charter-school applications, of which three include the Edison Project as a partner.

The decision marks the first time the Edison Project, a private reform venture established by the media entrepreneur Christopher Whittle, has won official approval for a public-private partnership.

The for-profit enterprise won approval for one of its two Boston charter applications, as well as for its applications from Lowell and Worcester.

"I think Massachusetts is making history with this charter-school reform, and to be a part of that, we are feeling really pleased,'' said Benno C. Schmidt Jr., the president of the Edison Project.

"I'm confident these schools will be opening their doors in the fall of 1995,'' he added.

The 15 applications accepted by Secretary of Education Piedad F. Robertson last week were from among 64 submitted last month by various groups of local educators and community residents.

The groups with preliminary approval will be granted charters as long as they follow through by Sept. 1 on such matters as securing school facilities and submitting detailed budgets, Ms. Robertson said.

The secretary approved the Edison Project's co-application with the Horace Mann Foundation for a charter school to be located in Boston's South End. The approved applications in Lowell and Worcester include coalitions made up of local educators, politicians, and business officials.

Rigorous Curriculum Planned

All three schools will be developed according to the Edison Project's school design, which includes a rigorous curriculum, extended school day and year, and heavy use of technology. (See Education Week, March 2, 1994.)

The 64 charter-school applications were the first submitted under a 1993 law allowing up to 25 charters. The charter schools will receive state per-pupil funding but will be free of most regulations.

"These successful applicants have identified educational needs in public education, and shown innovative, sound ways in which they will meet those needs for public school children,'' Ms. Robertson said in a prepared statement.

She said the 49 other applications "may be further enhanced or resubmitted, and still are eligible for charters should they complete the required'' suggestions from state officials.

Among the other applications to receive prelimary approval were:

  • A proposal by Boston University for a residential high school facility at Fort Devens for homeless children and wards of the state.
  • The Benjamin Franklin Classical charter school in Franklin, which will provide a classical education for grades K to 8.
  • The City on a Hill charter school in Boston, which will emphasize civics education and community service.

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