“The impact of for-profit management on math performance is really quite large. Average scores jumped by roughly two-thirds of a year of additional learning over the four-year period of time,” Peterson said.
At the request of the state in the summer of 2002, the School District of Philadelphia asked for-profit and non-profit managers to participate in a substantial restructuring of its lowest performing schools under the overall direction of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC). Initially, the plan was to involve only for-profit firms but the SRC later decided to place some schools under non-profit management in order to ascertain which form of management was most effective. The School District also restructured a number of its own schools and gave sixteen others (known as the “sweet sixteen”) extra resources.
In contrast to the positive impact of for-profit management, the performance of students at Philadelphia schools managed by non-profit organizations generally fell below what would have been expected had the schools remained under district management, though the differences were not statistically significant.
No significant impacts were observed on student performance in either reading or math from giving extra resources to the “sweet sixteen” schools or from the restructuring undertaken by the School District itself.
Earlier this year, I wrote a commentary on the Philadelphia private managers that drew on another study by the Harvard group; that study examined school-level data, not on individual student data, as the new report does.