Philadelphia Outsources High School Curriculum

Joanne Jacobs reports on Education Week’s story on Philadelphia outsourcing a new standardized high school curriculum to Kaplan K12 Learning Services Group. The company was given a $4.5 million, one-year contract to develop the college-prep curriculum in 10 core courses required to earn a Pennsylvania diploma: 9th grade physical sciences and world history; 10th grade biology, U.S. history, geometry, and world literature; and 11th grade chemistry, social science, Algebra 2, and American literature. That money also covers related assessments, materials for 9th grade transition classes, and student preparation for state tests. A second $4.5 million contract this year includes revisions to the curriculum as well as scoring the related tests. Kaplan already had a track record in the district as the provider of the 9th grade transitional English and math courses. Results from the spring 2004 TerraNova, a commercial test taken by Philadelphia students, found significant increases in the percent of 9th graders scoring at or above the national average in reading, language arts, and math, and a significant decrease in the percent of 9th graders in the bottom quartile, following introduction of the program. Ninth grade improvement outpaced that of any other grade level.

Lisa Snell was the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.