Monday, December 7, 2015

MI: Reformster District Meltdown

Michigan is one of several states to attempt an "achievement" school district, a special collection of the very bottom schools, run by the state. It was set up in 2011 by Governor Rick Snyder, but its continued existence is now in doubt.

None of the Achievement school districts have been successful (and "successful" is a relative word here, since "success" is often about taking weak schools and turning them into charter/turnaround business opportunities). The head of Tennessee's ASD resigned because the work was taking a toll on his health; his goal of moving the bottom 5% of schools into the top 25% has been a complete and utter failure.

But Michigan, which used its Education Achievement Authority as a blunt instrument to club Detroit schools into submission, has been spectacular in its dysfunction from the very beginning when they hired a chancellor who had lied his way out of his previous job.

Through it all, the messes have been chronicled by Eclectablog, an indispensable resource for Michigan folks. In fact, Eclectablog just collected up all its EAA coverage in one list of links, and it is quite a deep swamp to wade through. But if you want to see just how messy and dirty this kind of state takeover district can get, take some time and work through this "sad, predictable, outrageous and infuriating history."

But now things seem to have really hit the fan. After old chancellor John Covington departed under a cloud, the state brought in Veronica Conforme, who has not exactly cleaned things up. EAA awarded a $1.7 million contract to the eighth-highest bidder-- a company created only to go after that contract and run by Conforme's old buddies (the FBI is on that one). A former EAA principal admitted taking a bribe. EAA administrators have been caught using a ludicrous lie to avoid FOIA requests, which they were doing to hide the fact that EAA schools shove students with disabilities out into public schools. EAA got caught "colluding" with Detroit schools to get control of another sixteen schools.

And now tomorrow could be a Very Bad Day for the EAA.

The EAA exists by virtue of an authorizing agreement between Eastern Michigan University and the Detroit school district. The agreement has been costly to EMU. EMU's school of education has been shut out of involvement in EAA (because why would you want education professionals involved in your school-based money-making scheme), which is just one thing that has made the faculty grumpy about the whole business. The EAA has also angered teachers in Michigan, who have stopped taking EMU student teachers, putting some serious hurt on the EMU education program.

EMU was not feeling very friendly a year ago when EAA asked for a one-year extension. EMU said yes, but EMU also set four requirements for the continued partnership-- stronger partnership with EMU, demonstrated achievement in EAA schools, fiscal accountability, and complete transparency. EAA has failed in all four departments.

So now the very public question is, will the EMU Board of Regents pull the plug tomorrow?

On the one hand, the university faculty and student senate are putting pressure on to pull EAA's plug, and relations with the board are already rocky because of a super-secret president search. On the other hand, all but one of the eight board members are appointees put there by the governor, who loves EAA.

I'll go back to Eclectablog for the best last word on EAA.

The EAA is an unmitigated failure rife with corruption and incompetence, the exact things it was supposed to have fixed. Turning the schools over to charters is not the answer. Continued state control is not the answer. More experimentation is not the answer. The answer, as some of us have said all along, is a solid and meaningful investment in Detroit schools.

No comments:

Post a Comment