From Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale, IL, March 24, 1999, P. 5A.
Private company hired for teaching in Peoria (IL) schools
PEORIA (AP) - Rhonda Hunt knew school boards across the state would be watching as she cast her vote for a contract allowing a private company to manage teaching in two schools in Peoria District 150.
It was the first time in Illinois that a for-profit corporation was hired to take over instruction in a public school.
"I want other parts of Illinois to see the progressive efforts here in Peoria," Hunt said before the Peoria school board approved the contracts Monday.
The Edison Project is now on track to take over the curriculum, teacher training and teacher management for Franklin and Northmoor elementary schools in Peoria.
The Edison Project began in 1994 with contracts to handle instruction in four schools. Since then, it has grown to 51 schools with more than 24,000 students in 12 states.
The company promises it can raise standardized test scores - long held as a tool to assess how schools are doing - with a curriculum heavily based on university research, including the Johns Hopkins reading program and the University of Chicago math program.
The Edison Project also claims it can raise those test scores without costing districts any more than what is already spent on classroom instruction. At the Peoria schools, that's roughly $4,500 a student annually. Each school currently has about 500 students.
The proposal of hiring The Edison Project raised a heated debate in Peoria. Parents at the Northmoor school, an elementary school in an affluent neighborhood, said they didn't want their children subjected to an experiment. They argued The Edison Project's four-year history isn't a proven track record.
Parents also objected to the longer school year and longer school day offered by Edison -- although Vincent Wieland, school board president, warned that state and federal efforts are already working to keep students in school longer.
********************************************* * Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org