Firm running 9 schools erred on progress

June 07, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Education Alternatives, the Minneapolis company that manages public schools for profit, says it has overstated the academic progress of students attending the schools it manages in Baltimore.

In an admission that is sure to fuel the debate over the privatization of public schools, Education Alternatives said yesterday its error in reporting the Baltimore test scores had been "completely unintentional." It corrected the error yesterday; the mistake was reported last weekend by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Last August, the company reported that the 4,800 students attending nine public schools had advanced an average of nearly a full grade level in three months under the company's highly personalized form of education. The company has since added three more schools to the number it manages in Baltimore.

But the company said yesterday that the level of academic progress reported was accurate for only 954 underachieving students in five of the nine schools. The company said it did not have complete test results for all students.

A company spokeswoman, Lory Sutton, said the error was made by employees who tabulated the test results last summer. They thought the results were for all students and all schools, rather than for a smaller group of students in five schools, Ms. Sutton said.

The company has raised money by selling stock to investors, although the stock price -- an indicator of investor confidence -- plummeted yesterday after Education Alternatives acknowledged its error in Baltimore.

Since trading at a 52-week high of $48.75 a share on Nov. 15, Education Alternative's stock has plunged to $13 to $15 a share in recent weeks.

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