The Philadelphia Experiment

All eyes are on this city's public schools, which have become a national laboratory for reforms by for-profit managers. TIME tracks three players

Marla Blakney's fifth-grade classroom is the front line in the nation's largest experiment in privately run public schools. And on a muggy fall morning in Room 308 at Harrity Elementary School, the troops are doing the Macarena. Arms crossing, hips swiveling, 24 Philadelphia schoolchildren are shouting a mantra--"Wisdom! Justice! Courage!..."--that is supposed to create the lively but respectful classroom environment that can elude even good teachers. And to their skeptical teacher's amusement, it seems to be working. "When Edison taught us this, I thought, 'This is so corny. My kids won't go for it,'" says Blakney, whose building was taken over...

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