Archives for category: Michigan

Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority has stalled in the legislature, in the face of questions by Democrats and Republicans about its effectiveness. The state-run district now has 15 low-performing schools. The governor would like to expand it to 50 or more schools.

It is ALEC dogma that local control must be replaced by state control. State control has not worked to improve education anywhere. New Jersey has districts that have been under state control for nearly 20 years.

Michigan will have a long wait to see improvements from its EAA. Maybe never.

It might be time to try research-based efforts to help children, families, and communities.

Eclectablog has been posting a series of interviews with teachers in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority. This is a statewide district intended to “save” the state’s lowest performing schools.

In this account, a teacher tells how he was suddenly fired without notice and describes what happens in the EAA.

It is dangerous for a teacher to spill the beans. He or she will be fired. Even after firing, it is dangerous because speaking out can mar future job prospects.

Over the past few days, I have posted some astonishing articles from Eclectablog, the Michigan blogger who has been following the story of Governor Rick Snyder’s misnamed “Education Achievement Authority.”

This is a special district set up for low-performing schools from across the state. The governor’s plan is to continue expanding the EAA under the leadership of John Covington, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy. In his previous job in Kansas City, the district lost accreditation shortly after Covington decamped to Michigan. Not a stellar record as a turnaround star. The Broad Foundation gave EAA $10 million to keep it afloat.

Eclectablog has printed the accounts of teachers who work for the EAA. All describe horrific conditions for teaching and learning. Neither students nor teachers are safe. The technology is ineffectual and experimental. The schools have no curriculum or discipline and poor leadership. They seem to be staffed mainly by inexperienced Teach for America recruits.

On February 13, the board of the EAA will meet to hear Covington explain and deny all that has been reported by Eclectablog.

Here is another disturbing account from a current teacher in one of the EAA schools. He or she is anonymous for obvious reasons.

One small part of that account:

Discipline and Safety at Henry Ford High School: It is a fact that the executive leadership of the EAA has dozens upon dozens of e-mails from Henry Ford staff outlining the serious problems at Ford. These include details of a complete lack of consistent discipline procedures since the beginning of last year, hallways jam-packed with up to a hundred kids in the middle of various afternoon class periods, and little to no consistent consequences for tardies, absences, etc. I can often look out into the hall during 5th, 6th, or 7th hour and see kids running everywhere however they please. There are no consistent procedures for clearing the hallways or disciplining truant / skipping students – sometimes a random hall sweep, sometimes suspensions, sometimes a brief trip to the office… But no student could tell you what the policy for being late or tardy is. It’s all random.

Discipline problems creep into the classrooms. I am cussed out by students literally every day. I don’t go to administrators much about it anymore because they never did anything about it when I did – the students would get a slap on the wrist and come back to class unpunished or, at the most, chewed out.

Last year, the smell of marijuana would regularly come into the classroom. Kids have openly smoke joints in the hallways. Prostitution, too, was a rampant issue in the school.

The EAA knows about all of this. It has repeatedly sent its executive leadership into our school in response to concerned e-mails from staff that date all the way back to September 2012.

The important point of this expose is that the EAA should not become part of the “reformer” narrative of “success” stories, which are all too common, where failed policies get dressed up in fancy clothes and sent out to the nation as models. Don’t believe the hype. The EAA is a model for failure.

Eclectablog reports that the children in the so-called (and misnamed) Education Achievement Authority were used as guinea pigs for experimental technology. 

Eclectablog writes:

“In the course of reporting on the tragic situation in Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (read all of my posts HERE), one of the things that I have learned is that the computer platform that is used to administer the EEA’s “student centered learning” model — known as BUZZ — is hated nearly across the board by teachers and students alike.

Instead of being a model for implementing a computer-based teaching model, BUZZ crashed regularly, had major content deficiencies, and was so hard to use that its benefits were all but overwhelmed by its flaws.”

Teachers are cited who describe the failure of BUZZ, and Eclectablog concludes:

“… instead of investing the resources necessary to accomplish the goal of turning around our worst-performing schools as quickly as possible, the EAA operated on the cheap, using an untested, unproven, beta stage software platform with the teachers and students the beta testing guinea pigs.”

Why would the state of Michigan be so indifferent to the well-being of its neediest children? Why put commercial interests ahead of the children? Why are the children treated as rejects and discards by public officials? When will there be a lawsuit to stop this charade or a public investigation?

What an exhaustive investigation!

After Eclectablog published reports of abuse of students, poorly trained TFA teachers, bulging classes, and other problems in the state’s Educational Achievement Authority, the EAA investigated itself and declared that all was well. Well, that is reassuring!

The EAA was created by Governor Snyder to take over low performing schools and turn them around. From the initial report, it sounded like a stop in the school-to-prison pipeline.

Eclectablog of Michigan continues its invaluable reports on the stste’s disastrous so-called “Educational Achievement Authority.” This one contains the testimony of a special education teacher.

Governor Snyder has created a streamlined version of the school-to-prison pipeline.

It is hard to choose which state has done the most to undermine public education: Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin come to mind, but Michigan is right up there as a state whose Governor Rick Snyder is working hard to crush public education. There is the fact that some 80% of the charters in Michigan are run by for-profit operators. And note too that entire low-performing districts have been given to for-profit corporations.

But the worst of Snyder’s inventions is the deceptively-named Education Achievement Authority. Here the governor has gathered the state’s low-performing schools for special treatment.

Eclectablog, a Michigan blog, decided to go behind the claims of success and manufactured data, and instead to talk to teachers who work for the EAA. The stories are harrowing, including accounts of physical abuse, drugs in the schools, and an atmosphere of fear. Some teachers are afraid of violent teachers in schools where there is no discipline.

“Over the past couple of years, Republicans and the Snyder administration has attempted to resolve the problem of urban school districts that are failing to provide even the bare basics of a good education for their students by grouping them all together into a single “school district for misfit schools” called the Education Achievement Authority or EAA. As has been well-documented (see my interview with State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton HERE), the EAA has been a catastrophic failure. Instead of providing these disadvantaged children with the resources and environment they so sorely lack, the EAA has attempted to educate them on the cheap. They have resorted to “teaching by computer” but, rather than providing the students with the cutting edge technology that you might expect a school district like this to have, instead there are too few computers for the students, the software was nonfunctional for much of the school year, and the system crashes regularly.

“Worse yet, special needs students are woefully neglected, very possibly in violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Special plans for these students, called Individualized Education Plans or IEPs, are frequently not provided to the teachers which prevents them from making the accommodations needed for these students, accommodations required by law.”

Conditions for teaching and learning are abysmal:

““It’s dangerous for kids to come to school,” one teacher at an EAA elementary school told me. “We’ve found drugs in the school. We’ve found weapons in the school. We have a metal detector that doesn’t even work, nobody checks anyone on the way in.”

“The security problems are exacerbated by ridiculously large classroom sizes, something that’s only getting worse due to teachers leaving in droves. According to one teacher I spoke with, the classroom they teach in is about to go to almost 50 students. This is despite the fact that a quarter of the students have left the EAA system, a dramatic drop that reflects the dissatisfaction of the students’ parents with the education their children are receiving.

“One of the things that really has pushed me to speak out is that I learned from another teacher recently that I’m about to get another ten students in my class which will take me to almost 50 kids,” the teacher said. “Another teacher quit and, instead of hiring someone to replace them, they are just redistributing their students to all the other teachers. So, it’s just me and all these kids with no help, no paraprofessionals. It’s just dangerous. Beyond being able to educate that many kids at once all by myself, I’m not confident I can keep them safe from each other. They don’t fit in the room, there aren’t enough chairs, it’s not okay. I have this knot in my stomach and I’m worried sick and stressed out because of it.”

“Alone in a class of nearly 50 students with no student teachers, no paraprofessionals, and little support from school administrators when children act out violently. And many of these teachers are in their early twenties. The ones from Teach for America — roughly a quarter of the teachers in the EAA — had a scant five weeks of training before they were assigned to a classroom full of kids.”

Constant turnover damages morale:

““The bottom line is that the EAA is really bad for teachers and, more importantly, it’s really bad for students. The way they treat the teachers is causing them to leave. I would leave if…I’m almost there, to tell you the truth. The turnover rate is horrible for the kids. Any educator worth their salt knows that a lot of what you do every day and the success of it is dependent on the depth of the relationships that you form with your students and parents. And, for a lot of these students, school is the most stable thing in their life, especially in these high-risk, urban areas.

“So, when they constantly have instability at home and also instability at school with this revolving door of teachers…they’re in and they’re out because the district is treating them like crap. That’s horrible for kids. Not to mention the fact that class sizes are huge, the things that they feed them in the cafeteria are not nutritious, they have very minimal security.”

Governor Snyder plans to expand the EAA.

State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton has bravely fought for public education and for the children of Michigan in a hostile environment, in a state where free-market fundamentalists control the governorship and the legislature.

She has been unable to hold back hostile legislation and anti-civic policies, but she has actively resisted those who encourage the plundering of precious taxpayer dollars for corporate benefit, to the detriment of children.

In this interview, conducted by Eclectablog, she describes how the legislature created the so-called Educational Achievement Authority and how she was stonewalled when she tried to get information about what was happening to children in the EAA. She filed a Freedom of Information Act to get the information the EAA refused, and after a long delay, it released nearly 2,000 pages. That is called a data dump, where they give you so much information that they hope you can’t figure it out.

The state boasts about the EAA, but what Rep. Lipton discovered was appalling. This is the way Eclectablog described EAA:

“What has become increasingly apparent is that the administration of the EAA is in complete disarray. They have incredible discipline issues, special education kids are being summarily removed from the program in violation of state and federal law, and they appear to be manipulating testing to both make their outcomes look better than they are and also to justify taking over schools. Instead of being a model for educating kids, classroom instruction is being handled by inadequately trained graduates from the Teach for America program which gives “teachers” five weeks of training before sending them into the classroom. Text books and other teaching methods appear to have been tossed aside in favor of software programs where the student interacts with a laptop computer rather than a teacher.”

The interviewer for Eclectablog writes:

“On the forefront of this effort to hold the EAA accountable and to make sure they are actually achieving the results they say they are before we take the system statewide is Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods). She has been repeatedly rebuffed by the administration of the EAA as well as the Department of Education, forcing her to pay several thousands of dollars out of her own pocket for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) data that should have been provided to a three-time elected state legislator for the asking. She and Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) have, through their FOIA requests, been given over 2,000 pages of information in what amounts to a data dump intended to overwhelm them with so much documentation that they couldn’t find the information that they are looking for. They have, however, begun the process of organizing the documents and have them on a searchable website called InsideTheEAA.com.”

Then follows a fascinating conversation, and you realize that Rep. Lipton “gets it.” She sees that what is happening in Michigan is the same as what happened in Louisiana. she sees a national pattern. She sees that Broad, Walton, and Gates don’t like democracy. It is too messy. They like organizations where one person runs everything, and what he does fits their mold.

This is part of the interview:

Q. “He [a state senator] got something like 880 documents in mid-August. How many did you get, you got more than that, right?

A. “Yeah, I got about 1,700 pages.

Q. “It’s like drinking from a fire hose. I was on your site and it’s clear what they’ve done: they want to make it so that it’s impossible to analyze it, basically.

A. “Yeah, that’s sort of the game plan. But there are certain threads that you can definitely glean from the documents. One thread that is abundantly clear is that the Broad Foundation, and specifically Eli Broad, was and still is intimately involved in the creation as well as the carrying out of the EAA.

Q. “How are they doing this?

A. “The Broad Foundation, before the EAA opened, contributed something like $25 million and I believe they’ve made a subsequent grant to the EAA. It appears that he was instrumental in, if not the hiring of John Covington, he was certainly…

Q. “Who was a Broad Fellow, correct?

A. “That’s right, a graduate of the Broad Superintendent’s Academy. There are some emails that suggest that the Broad Foundation put his name forward and there doesn’t seem to be any other names that you can find. There doesn’t seem to be this sort of extensive interview process. Some of the emails from that time are sort of, “This is the person that it’s going to be”.

Q. “What’s interesting is that, when you look at this in a broader context, in terms of what the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation, to name a few, have done in other states, there are similarities. The money that they spend, it sort of follows a very interesting trend line. They will go into states with opportunities for state take over districts or where there is mayoral control. So, you’ll see the Broad Foundation in the Louisiana Recovery District, for example.

Q. “Challenged places, in other words.

A. “Mmm hmm. In Philadelphia, places like that. Instead of — and, again, this is my opinion — instead of using their money to fund initiatives that we know work, you have them spending an enormous amount of money to create an infrastructure like an EAA — in Louisiana you have the Louisiana Recovery District — that aggregates control in a single person.

Q. “You begin to wonder, “Why is that?” and then you begin to look at the broader context of corporate reform in education, you see that that seems to be the M.O. Why have to work through all of the messiness of this thing called ‘democracy’? Oh, my heavens! School boards can be so insufferable! I mean, we actually have to work with our community!

A. “You have this sense of this sort of disdain for the democratic process. Because, think about the local school board. That defines democracy for a lot of people, right? I mean, people will say to me, “I’m not political. I couldn’t care less about politics.” And I’ll ask them, “Do you care about your schools?” and they’ll say, “Why heavens yes, my children are in school.” “Do you go to school board meetings?” “Absolutely!”

Q. “So they are involved.

A. “Absolutely. And the concept that these corporate “reformers” loathe is that very concept. So, how do you get around that? Well, first of all, you convince people that the current system is rotten. And you spend a lot of money to do that. And they can, right? These are organizations…”

Q. “That are super-wealthy.”

I have posted several articles about Governor Rick Snyder’s all-out assault on public education, most recently, this one earlier today. Some 80% of charters operate for profit, fiscally troubled districts have been handed over to for-profit charter corporations (with poor track records) that extract as much in profit as the district’s deficit (this happens only in majority African-American districts), schools and districts are incentivized to poach students from each other to get the money they need to function (and waste millions of taxpayer dollars advertising for students from other districts). In addition, the governor created the ill-named Education Achievement Authority, a super district made up of the state’s lowest-performing schools and overseen by John Covington. Covington, trained in the unaccredited Broad Academy, previously was superintendent of Kansas City, which lost its accreditation under his leadership. Tomorrow, I will post an article containing interviews with teachers who work in the EAA and describe it as a dangerous environment, unsafe for teachers and students alike.

Governor Snyder is achieving his goal: dissolving public education as a civic obligation and turning it into a free-for-all marketplace.

In response to a post about Governor Snyder’s actions, the blog received this comment from the president of the elected Michigan State Board of Education. The state board is dominated by Democrats (like Austin) but seems unable to slow the governor’s wrecking ball. The most outspoken critic of the Snyder assault on public schools is State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton. In a few minutes, I will post an interview with Representative Lipton about the EAA.

John Austin writes:

John Austin, President of Michigan State Board of Education here. We do have an unfortunate proliferation in Michigan of new charter and cyber schools, both good, mediocre and truly bad at educating children. The legislature’s, and to date the Governor’s unwillingness to insist on quality control in new school creation, to ensure they educate kids, and the fueling of a wild-west free market of largely for-profit new school creation is doing damage both financially, and educationally to all our schools and children.

The EAA was an effort, well-intentioned, to create a functional and effective state turnaround district to improve performance in our worst schools. Unfortunately, it too was tied up in knots, when legislation to codify it was loaded up with ornaments of the unlimited new school creation policy being pushed last year. It also has had real growing pains, problems and transparency issues.

However, different from the account my friend Ellen Cogen Lipton seemed to suggest in the Electabog article, the State Board of Education twice asked Dr. Covington to come and discuss progress or lack thereof with us, and he certainly did so, and we had as recently as last September a useful and robust public discussion of all the issues– hopefully towards helping the EAA work better, and do better with the legitimate concerns raised by Rep Lipton and many others.

One of our readers brought this sad article to my attention.

Under Governor Rick Snyder, more school districts have collapsed into emergency status than during the time of any of his predecessors. Failing districts get taken over by the state and put into its Emergency Achievement District, an oxymoron. Once in the EAA, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy arranges to dissolve democratic control and turn the schools over to for-profit charter chaplains.

Snyder encourages charters and loves for-profit charters.

80% of Michigan’s charters operate for-profit.

What a racket!

How much longer will Michigan voters tolerate the plundering and sacking of public education?

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