Charter School of Science and Technology

The academic year is off to a rocky start at the Charter School for Science and Technology, the state's largest charter school. Earlier this month it announced that it was dropping its 9th- and 10th-grade programs for this year, forcing 122 students to scurry to find other schools. The beginning of classes has been delayed by nine school days, to Sept. 4, to give teachers and administrators more time. The science tables have not been installed for laboratory work. The job of principal remains unfilled.

The school and its management company, Edison Schools Inc., are trying to rebound from a year of disappointing test scores, classroom behavior problems and turnover of students and teachers. The school and Edison hope that by delaying the high school programs and sharpening curriculum, they can improve academic performance in kindergarten through eighth grade...

A strong showing in Rochester is increasingly important to Edison, whose stock price has plummeted in recent months after a series of setbacks. Last week, officials in Georgia voted to end Edison contracts for two elementary schools in Macon. The Dallas school superintendent has said he wants to cancel his district's contract with Edison. In Philadelphia, the company received a contract to run only 20 city schools rather than the 45 it had hoped for.

The Philadelphia experience has led Edison to redouble its efforts to run large charter schools like Rochester's, said John Chubb, Edison's chief education officer, who met with board members and teachers today to outline plans to improve achievement. ''We're more than happy to do large clusters in urban areas,'' he said, ''but the politics of that is very challenging.''

Signaling Rochester's importance, H. Christopher Whittle, Edison's founder and chief executive, visited last week. Performance is critical this year, its third, since Edison makes the review of its five-year charter depend chiefly on a school's performance in its third year.

''By your fourth year, you have to look like you've created a school that deserves to stay open,'' Mr. Chubb said. ''You want to create a model school, not just a school that can hold onto its charter.''…

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