July 2, 2008

Goodbye, Edison Schools

A few days ago, I was invited to a phone conference with Edison Schools, the former Chris Whittle/Benno Schmidt operation that would be an "educational management organization" and operate hundreds of schools by the end of this decade. A few years ago, the state of Florida's pension fund bought a stake in a private-equity firm that purchased Edison, a move that rubbed public-school teachers the wrong way given that the strategic goal of Edison was to take over public schools. Given the recent rejection of private management in Philadelphia's public schools, I wasn't sure if this was going to be a defense of private management or an attempt to distract bloggers from the bad news.

I wasn't feeling well enough to participate in the phone conference yesterday afternoon, and I was intensely curious. It turns out that, according to Thomas Toch, Edison is rebranding itself as edisonlearning, and it will focus on virtual schooling. So I suppose this counts as both distraction from the failures of Edison's private school management in Philadelphia and also an attempt to get into what Edison's managers must hope is the next growth market in education.

The practical problem for Edison is that the field is already pretty crowded, and I suspect Edison (or maybe edisonlearning) will have to rely on political connections to get vendor contracts in an environment filled with other companies (including the higher-ed giant Blackboard). I'm surprised that Dean Millot hasn't yet chimed in on this...

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Posted in Education policy on July 2, 2008 2:14 PM |