City lawmakers and taxpayers will get their chance tomorrow night to question leaders of Education Alternatives Inc. and Superintendent Walter G. Amprey about the company's work in a dozen Baltimore public schools.
nTC A 3 1/2 -hour hearing on the city's school-privatization venture, the object of increasing criticism in recent months, is scheduled for 5 p.m. tomorrow in City Council chambers. The hearing is to be broadcast on Baltimore City cable channel 44.
John Golle, EAI chairman and chief executive; Dr. Amprey; and other school system leaders will be allotted a half-hour for a presentation before City Council members and others are allowed to testify and ask questions.
The hearing was called by Carl Stokes, chairman of the council's Education and Human Resources Committee, who said he expects testimony and questions to focus mainly on EAI's finances and its claims of success.
EAI, which holds more than $180 million worth of five-year city contracts, has suffered a series of setbacks here in the past few months.
In October, newly released figures showed that overall average standardized test scores had declined for the eight "Tesseract" elementary schools, while rising districtwide in EAI's first two years.
Coming after the city boasted of test score gains at EAI schools in June, the later revelations fueled critics' claims that the experiment is a failure that diverts at least $9 million a year from other schools in a cash-strapped district.
And average attendance gains at the Tesseract schools during the experiment's first two years fell short of improvements made citywide.
But in November, less than a month after Baltimore's school system reported the declining standardized test scores at EAI elementary schools, the company presented a much rosier view and questioned the "integrity" of the city results.
A panel of eight educators commissioned by the for-profit Minneapolis company released an analysis of EAI-run schools, as well as those in the entire school system, that eliminated the scores of the lowest-scoring students over the past two years.
Citing an inexplicably large proportion of students receiving the lowest possible score, including some who had done well in the previous year, the review panel questioned the validity of results released by EAI's employer, the city school district.
Some City Council members, civic leaders and the head of a citywide PTA group called for a halt to the experiment after this school year. Then, last month, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told the company that its future here depends on improving student performance. Mr. Schmoke said he will await the results of an independent evaluation of the experiment before deciding whether to proceed with it.
Minnesota-based EAI began running the nine Tesseract schools in 1992 and has since taken on a more limited role at three others.