The Notebook blog about Philadelphia public schools linked to my Edison coverage in an entry that goes on to describe the company's woes there.
Early this decade, Edison made a pitch to privatize the entire Philadelphia school district. Instead, it got a contract to run 20 schools. The post notes that, in securing that contract in 2002, Edison touted its work in Baltimore "as a model of its ability to turn around struggling urban schools." Last year, schools chief Arlene Ackerman ended contracts at four Edison schools and put another dozen on one-year probation. The writer counts 62 schools nationwide that Edison is now managing, down from more than 100.
UPDATE: I got this e-mail from Edison spokesman Michael Serpe:
First off, Helen Gym is not a reporter; she is the head of a parent group she founded. While she is provided a forum by The Notebook, and has every right to express her opinion and continued dislike for our organization, she in no way should be considered an objective journalist.
Second, the number of schools EdisonLearning partners with nationwide is not 62, and Philadelphia does not represent one-fourth of the total. Earlier this week I provided you a full detailed listing of our work nationwide – 120 schools in 24 states, with 35 of those schools located in Hawaii.
Obviously, these totals for the current school year do not reflect the coming change in Baltimore. However, they also do not reflect the addition of 2 new charter schools – 1 in Denver and the other in York, PA; with a number of others awaiting final approval. These numbers also do not reflect the new online high school in South Carolina that will open this fall, or the online high school to open in Colorado in 2010, that together will offer a new educational option for 1,500 high school students.
One final point of misinformation, this organization does not provide “online consulting” as Mrs. Gym speculated. “Online education” is the accurate description.
This email is in no way designed to counter one’s opinion of our organization, or any organization that seeks to offer a different approach to public education – be it for-profit or not-for-profit. EdisonLearning has its critics – as does The Sun; and we have supporters – as you saw at the recent School board meetings. All I am asking is that people get the basic facts right.
UPDATE, 3/31: Here is a reply from Notebook editor Paul Socolar:
It looks like Serpe is charging "misinformation" based on two items in Helen Gym's post and one in your post.
He goes on at length about the number of schools Edison partners with.
In Philadelphia, what we focus on is school management contracts because that's what Edison came to Philadelphia to do and still does here - run schools. Edison's website indicates that you are correct in your statement that Edison manages 62 schools, which is down from more than 100 (when they first came to Philadelphia). Those are the numbers Helen quoted in her blog. Now that what used to be ancillary services for Edison have become a major part of their business, Edison may now be more interested in citing how many schools they have contracts with, including contracts for "achievement services" and "extended education".
But it's accurate to say the Philadelphia accounts for about 1/4 of Edison's school management contracts.
I won't dispute Serpe's point that "online education" may be a better term to describe what Edison does than "online consulting." I've changed that word in Helen's post. But I hardly think that qualifies as misinformation.
Serpe is also correct that Helen Gym is not a Notebook reporter, nor does she claim to be ... a majority of our bloggers are regular online guest columnists. However, as an editor, I make every effort to ensure that our bloggers are factually accurate. Serpe or his colleagues are free to challenge the accuracy of this post and our coverage of Edison in Philadelphia on our site, and to date they have not.