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.