Former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson announced Monday he is partnering with a New York-based for-profit education company to help dropouts and at-risk students in failing schools in urban school districts across the country.
Magic Johnson Enterprises will join with EdisonLearning to set up dropout prevention and recovery centers for high school-age students who have already left school or are at risk of leaving and want to earn a standard high school diploma.
The partnership will be called "Magic Johnson-EdisonLearning Assist."
Johnson said he is getting involved because "improving the quality of life for people residing in urban areas is my life's passion ..."
"When just over 40 percent of students in Los Angeles, Houston and Baltimore are graduating from high school, and less than 30 percent of black males in New York, Detroit and Miami, steps need to be taken to recapture these students into the education system to better their opportunities in life," he said.
EdisonLearning markets itself as a school turnaround specialist for high schools in the most difficult inner-city areas in the country and abroad. The company operates at 391 schools in 25 states, the United Kingdom, and in the Middle East.
The company makes money by receiving a share of per-pupil funding from school districts when the company gets teens return to or stay in school, said an EdisonLearning spokesman.
At the centers, students will attend a four- to five-hour morning, afternoon or evening session. About two-thirds of the learning is done online, EdisonLearning spokesman Michael Serpe said.
The curriculum is intended to get students back on track to earn a high school diploma, not a GED certificate.
Johnson is not paying for the centers, according to Serpe. The basketball Hall-of-Famer is, however, lending his name to the centers, which will be branded "Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers."
"Obviously the attachment of his name, as well as his presence in some cases, will create a greater awareness (of the centers) and boost participation by the students," Serpe said.
Last year, EdisonLearning opened eight Bridgescape Centers in Ohio, four each in Columbus and Cleveland. This month, it plans to open three new centers in Cincinnati.
EdisonLearning is in talks with officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District about opening centers here, Serpe said
"The education professionals at EdisonLearning have established a solid record for improving urban and under-performing schools," Johnson said. "The work they have done on behalf of children in some of the most challenging schools and communities in the nation is the reason I chose to work with them on this effort."