A study of the Philadelphia school district’s experiment with privatization concludes that students in schools run by outside managers performed better on state assessments than did their peers in district-run schools.
The study by Paul E. Peterson, the director of the program on education policy and governance at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, comes on the heels of several other reports that found students in privately managed schools didn’t perform as well as those in the 21 schools that Philadelphia restructured. The district is evaluating whether to renew contracts of the 43 outside managers. (“Panel: Phila. District Should Question Private Management,” March 7, 2007.)
Mr. Peterson’s report, released on April 10, examined the Pennsylvania State System of Assessment scores of two cohorts of 5th graders and found that the proportion of students in the privately managed schools reading at or above the “basic” level by 8th grade, between 2003 and 2006, improved 25 percentage points, compared with 15 percentage points in restructured schools. In mathematics, the proportion of students performing at or above the “basic” level improved by 23 points, compared with 12 points in restructured schools.
In a statement, Mr. Peterson noted that an earlier report by the RAND Corp., which found the restructured schools performing better than those with outside managers, examined the results of several types of tests, but that the PSSA was the test for which schools were held accountable, and was most closely aligned to their curriculum.
A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2007 edition of Education Week