A reader writes to describe what happened in Kansas City as a warning to other cities (John Covington left the superintendency of Kansas City on short notice to head the Michigan Education Achievement Authority, which was created to oversee low-performing districts across the state):
Learn from Kansas City’s mistakes. You spoke – in another blog, that the superintendent of a southern system fired teachers and replaced them with 150 from Teach For America. The same happened in Kansas City – we fired 150 teachers without cause and replaced them with (drumroll) 150 Teach for America teachers at a cost of $3,000 per head. So it was with dismay that I discovered that a Teach for America sits on the board of Broad Institute. Is that not conflict of interest?
John Covington, when in Kansas City, created new graduation requirements so low that no competitive college would take a student with those minimal courses. He didn’t know basic college requirements stats, or the range of college placement scores to achieve acceptance.
He ruined a successful college prep program but closing the more modern of the two buildings (the one with wireless internet, a pool, two gyms and a larger cafeteria) and slamming 1200 sixth through twelfth graders in an antiquated with lacking those amenities.
In the other college prep campus, he bussed over a thousand at risk, low performing students into the building. In the first semester, the school at 1400 suspensions in the first semester (with only 1200 students in the building), 51 fires/fire alarms, and three principals. Covington’s last principal had only elementary school experience. In the principal’s defense, Covington was quoted in the paper saying “I don’t have urban experience and I think I’m doing pretty good.”
He cut the budget for a successful debate program that served hundreds of students claiming he didn’t have the funds, but then commissioned a massive $28,000 trophy out of his own discretionary budget which didn’t require board approval. KC didn’t want him, and weren’t told that Broad was likely funding part of his salary. He killed what little progress we’d made, interviewed on the basis of improvements that were actually accomplished by his predecessor (such as rising test scores for tests taken before he was hired), and then left abruptly – weeks before the State was ready to announce that under his leadership we had passed fewer benchmarks towards accreditation than when he was hired.
So read it an weep. We were conned. So are the residents of Michigan. The goal is not to improve a district – their goal is to break already struggling ones so they can enrich Private Schools, Charter Schools and Teach for America.
Our struggling district was on the mends, Covington came in and left us with a mess to clean up. Kansas City’s average ACT score is 14 to 16 out of a total of 36 possible points.
And one last thing – do you not find it suspicious that there were other candidates who dropped out only days before he arrived for his interview? And do you not find it suspicious that he lied to break his contract with KC knowing he had another job lined up?
Your governor knows more than he is telling. Which is why he wouldn’t initially explain which private foundation was helping to fund Covington’s salary. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Been there, done that. Notice no decent school district will have him. They can see through his obfuscation better than failing districts can.