School & District Management

Edison Alliance Hired to Help Struggling S.C. District

By Alan Richard — August 11, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

South Carolina has hired Edison Schools Inc. to try to improve student achievement in the struggling Allendale County school system, a poor rural district entering its fifth school year under state control.

The for-profit company’s effort in the rural South represents Edison’s newest interest: helping states deal with the many schools listed as needing improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It’s also part of Edison’s launch of its newest product: Edison Alliance. Officials call the work a partnership with local and state school officials, rather than the complete school-management contracts usually associated with the New York City- based company.

“We’re hired to raise student achievement, and we’re fired if we don’t,” said Jeff McCoy, Edison’s senior vice president of development.

State officials hope the move finally will bring improvement to the schools in Allendale County, located about 60 miles southeast of Columbia, S.C., along the Georgia border. The 1,800-student system has been plagued by low test scores and leadership problems for decades. (“Starting from Scratch,” Oct. 13, 1999.)

Superintendent Paula Harris, who was appointed by the state to run the district in early 2003, said she was skeptical of the Edison plan until she visited an improving school in Atlanta that was using the Edison techniques.

“I became an instant convert,” said Ms. Harris, whose district serves youngsters mostly from poor families.

More than 100 teachers from Allendale County—at least two-thirds of the district’s teaching staff—have undergone initial training with Edison this summer, with more training to come.

“They’ve gotten off to a good start,” Leonard McIntyre, an assistant state superintendent in South Carolina who oversees the Allendale work, said of Edison. “A lot of it is getting people inspired and motivated and on board, and that is exactly what is needed to support the initiative.”

Price of Improvement

The state is paying for the Allendale County contract, which was signed this summer after South Carolina lawmakers approved a measure that allows the district to shift state money for academic coaches to the Edison work. Edison will provide its own full-time academic coaches.

South Carolina is paying Edison a start-up fee of $400,200, plus $327,000 annually per school. The annual fee rises 3 percent each year under the contract, which can last up to five years if Edison meets test-score goals.

Edison is helping Allendale align its teaching and curriculum with state academic standards. Those standards link with the state tests. Ms. Harris said her district does not have the capacity to complete that work on its own.

Also, teachers are being trained in classroom management, and in using Edison’s technology to check students’ academic progress monthly and learn details immediately about their academic strengths and weaknesses, she said.

Edison faces an uphill battle in raising student achievement.

The district’s scores on state tests are rising, but not enough to make the yearly progress required under the No Child Left Behind Act. Fifty-seven percent of its 4th graders scored at or above the basic level on state tests last year, compared with 19 percent in 1999.

“It’s the lowest of the low” in test scores and poverty, Edison’s Mr. McCoy said of the district.

Edison Alliance could spread nationally as states look for help with the mandates of the No Child Left Behind law, Mr. McCoy said.

Mr. McIntyre said South Carolina may use the strategy in other struggling schools. “We expect other districts to engage in a similar partnership,” he said.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management The Already Dire Substitute Shortage Could Get 'Worse Before It Gets Better'
School districts are trying all sorts of tactics, including increasing pay and relaxing requirements, to get more subs in classrooms.
10 min read
Image of an empty classroom.
School & District Management Opinion National School Boards Association Chooses to Be Part of the Problem
The NSBA chose to blur the distinction between permissible and suspect speech in suggesting the FBI should target unruly protesters.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management Facing Disruption and Firings, L.A. Extends COVID Vaccine Deadline for School Staff
The extension comes as the nation's second-largest school system has struggled to fill more than 2,000 teaching and other vacancies.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
5 min read
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stresses of teaching in the COVID-era caused a spike in teacher retirements and resignations. On top of that, schools now have to hire all kinds of additional staff, like tutors and special aides to help kids make up for learning losses, and more teachers to run online school for those not ready to return.
In this March 2, 2021, file photo, a sign is displayed at a COVID-19 vaccination site for employees of the Los Angeles School District, LAUSD, in the parking lot of SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
School & District Management Opinion Graduation Must Depend on Learning, Not Time
We’re long overdue to redesign our education system around competency, argue six superintendents. Here’s what that could look like.
Morcease Beasley, Alberto Carvalho, William Hite, Jesus Jara, Monica Goldson & Jerry Almendarez
5 min read
A conceptual illustration of a mountain of paperwork before the goal is reached.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock