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FlashBack Friday: Education All-Star Gaynor McCown Gone Nearly 10 Years

Just in case anyone's feeling a momentary lack of urgency (or has delusions of immortality), it's worth remembering that 1990s education all-star Gaynor McCown died nearly a decade ago, at 45 -- and that she's probably not as well-remembered as she should be.

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McCown was a big name in the Edison Schools fiasco, which would be a source of enormous mortification to the "reform" sector if it were inclined to engage in ethics or introspection. For the uninitiated, Edison Schools was a for-profit EMO (education management organization -- it took over schools and attempted to run them). Its shares were publicly traded on the NASDAQ for a few years, and it had political leadership in both parties and the entire national press showering it with admiration, with its peak around 2001. (For example, flimflammed public-education supporter Peter Schrag wrote a long tribute to Edison in the equally flimflammed Nation, of all places.) The notion was that Edison would bring the efficiencies of the for-profit sector to public education, while also making a profit for its shareholders. Edison failed on all counts; its client districts severed contracts at a rapid pace, its schools struggled, and its share price dropped from more than $38 to 14 cents (yes, this is correct -- from thirty-eight DOLLARS to fourteen CENTS). The company still exists in a shrunken, altered, largely invisible form, but it largely slunk out of the public eye and is no longer publicly traded. If McCown had further credentials in the "reform" sector, it would be interesting to hear about them, but if those are her credentials, it's just a sad embarrassment.

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