WMU News

WMU researchers to examine impact of Edison Project schools

Aug. 12, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The effectiveness and impact of schools managed by the Edison Project, one of nation's largest private school management organizations, will be evaluated by a Western Michigan University researcher.

Dr. Gary Miron, principal research associate in WMU's Evaluation Center, has been awarded $30,000 by the National Education Association to serve as project director for an evaluation of student achievement data that already has been gathered on Edison Project schools by a variety of sources. The study is expected to take about nine months.

Miron and his team will examine data on 12 schools in six states that have been in existence for three or more years. The overriding goal of the study is to assess the impact of Edison Project schools on student learning.

The Edison Project, founded in 1991, opened its first schools in 1995. It currently operates 51 schools in 12 states, enrolling more than 23,000 students. Edison schools include contract schools, which are operated under management contracts with host school districts, and charter schools, which are operated under contracts with an authorizing agency.

The Edison Project identifies its goals as moving students forward while operating schools for less money at the same time more services are provided. Studies of educational achievement in the schools have had mixed results. According to Miron, the intent of the NEA study is to provide an analysis of available statistics by an impartial third party.

"Our contract states that no matter what our findings are," Miron notes, "We will have the right to publish and disseminate the results of our study after we have given both the NEA and the Edison Project an opportunity to comment on those results. Even though the study is funded by the NEA, that move insures our independence."

To complete the study, Miron and his colleagues will review and assess existing evaluations of the Edison Project and examine the measures used in those evaluations. They will examine the nature and quality of standardized test results available, looking at Edison student achievement over time as well as their performance on tests in comparison with state and national norms and with control schools and schools in the local school districts. They also will develop an in-depth analysis of each of the 12 schools before arriving at an overall study conclusion.

"We will be very thorough in our work because we know our study will be carefully scrutinized," Miron says. "This is basically a secondary evaluation of existing data, but we intend for it to be done in a statistically rigorous way that will stand up to the expected scrutiny."

Among data that will be examined will be evaluation material gathered and published by Edison officials, data from host school districts, state data such as the results of required standardized tests and materials gathered by other evaluation teams.

Schools that will be examined in the study include two in Wichita, Kan.; two in Boston, Mass.; one in Worcester, Mass.; two in Mount Clemens, Mich.; one in Lansing, Mich.; two in Sherman, Texas; one in Dade County, Fla.; and one in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Miron has previously been involved in evaluating Michigan's 100 plus charter schools as well as charter schools in both Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

WMU's Evaluation Center enjoys an international reputation in the fields of school, program and personnel evaluation. The Center has attracted a $5.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve the performance and evaluation of teachers and administrators in America's schools. Center researchers also have been involved in personnel evaluation for the U.S. Marine Corps, the examination of a low-income housing project in the Philippines, a study of the entry year teaching program in Ohio, an evaluation of a nationwide environmental education project sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and work for the World Bank.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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