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New forms of governing and managing public schools have proliferated in recent years, spawning the establishment and growth of companies contracted to operate public schools. Among these education management organizations (EMOs), the largest and most visible is Edison Schools. In 2000, Edison asked RAND to analyze its achievement outcomes and design implementation. RAND designed an evaluation to address the following research questions:

  • What are Edison’s strategies for promoting student achievement in the schools it manages?
  • How are Edison’s strategies implemented in those schools?
  • How does Edison’s management of schools affect student achievement?
  • What factors explain differences in achievement trends among Edison schools?

The resources and accountability systems that constitute Edison’s design represent a coherent, comprehensive, and ambitious strategy to address key elements relevant to providing high-quality education. The best-functioning Edison schools demonstrate the promise inherent in Edison’s model, but this monograph reports considerable variation in the extent to which the schools realize the Edison ideal.

Average rates of student proficiency in Edison schools improve over time. On average, gains of Edison schools during the first three years of Edison operation do not exceed the gains of matched conventional public schools, but Edison results improve in years four and five. Edison’s average long-term gains are comparable to or better than those of matched conventional public schools.

Analysis of a number of case-study Edison schools suggests that schools that effectively implement the wide-ranging Edison curriculum, establish Edison’s professional environment, and operate with strong instructional leaders under limited constraints have positive achievement results. Given that Edison’s results have not been uniformly positive, this monograph suggests some actions that Edison and its current and future clients can take to promote greater consistency of results, in terms of both implementation and student achievement.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    A Brief History of Edison Schools and a Review of Existing Literature

  • Chapter Three

    Inspiration: Edison’s Strategies for “World-Class” Education

  • Chapter Four

    Perspiration: The Edison Model in the Schools

  • Chapter Five

    Methodology for Examining Academic Achievement in Edison Schools

  • Chapter Six

    Time: Effects of Edison Management on Academic Achievemen

  • Chapter Seven

    Inside the Black Box: Differences in Achievement Among Edison Schools

  • Chapter Eight

    Conclusions and Implications

  • Appendix A

    Causal Inference in the Analysis of Academic Achievement in Edison Schools

  • Appendix B

    Analyses in Which Each Edison School Was Included

  • Appendix C

    Calculating Standard Errors for Estimated Effects

  • Appendix D

    Comparison of Traditional and Rank-Based Z-Scores

  • Appendix E

    Comparison of Gain Score Method to an Alternative Approach Using Predicted Level Scores

  • Appendix F

    Comparison of Schools with Large and Small Enrollment Change Between Y0 and Y1

  • Appendix G

    Changes in Demographic Characteristics of Edison Students Through Years Four and Five

  • Appendix H

    Comparison of Results for Philadelphia Schools and Other Schools

  • Appendix I

    Comparison of Recent Change Analyses Using District Versus State Comparison Schools

  • Appendix J

    Comparison of Y1 and Y0 Results Using District Versus State Comparison Schools

  • Appendix K

    Supplemental Analyses to Explore the Y0 Results

  • Appendix L

    Comparison of Y1 and Y0 Analyses Using a Common Set of Edison Schools

  • Appendix M

    Differences in Z-Score Changes for Edison Schools That Were Managed by Edison for at Least Four Years

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education for Edison Schools, Inc.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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