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The Therapy Sessions
Monday, May 16, 2005

Teaching for profit devastates Philly schools


PHILADELPHIA -- Maxcine Collier had been principal of the 400-student Anderson Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia for five years when, in 2001, she was told that a for-profit company, Edison Schools Inc., was going to take over the school's management from the Philadelphia School District.

Parents and teachers were apprehensive, she said. But more than three-quarters of Anderson's students were performing below grade level, according to Pennsylvania state testing standards. The school, in a neighborhood that borders suburban Upper Darby, housed many special-education students from other parts of the city.

Teacher Barbara Ann Scott Himmons works with her first-grade class at Kenderton Elementary School, one of the Philadelphia schools operated by Edison. Edison has run 20 schools for three years, with grade-level proficiency up from 6 to 21 percent of students.

'There was no cohesiveness. Many of the children were from elsewhere, and they didn't bond, which hurts education, especially in urban settings,' Collier said. 'We knew something had to be done better.'

Three years later, Collier said, Edison's curriculum, particularly in math and writing, has doubled the number of children who reach state proficiency levels and has unified her teachers. 'We still have a long way to go, but I can see already we are on the right track,' she said.

Uh, maybe not.

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