Thursday, November 15, 2012

Michigan Legislature Taking Action on Some Bad Education Legislation This Month

Christine Stead, AAPS school board member and avid watcher of the state educational policy scene, has a couple of stellar posts on some Michigan legislative action that is happening during the lame duck session. . . in a rush. . . and nearly under cover of darkness.

I thank Christine for highlighting these bills.

First up--let's discuss the Educational Achievement Authority, which has the authority to take over school districts. (And you thought we took care of that by overturning the Emergency Manager law. Sadly, no.)

Let's start with a Diane Ravitch post, because she explains the roll of the Educational Achievement Authority rather clearly.

Diane Ravitch writes:
Last week, voters in Michigan repealed the state’s draconian emergency manager law, which allowed a hand-picked appointee of the governor to abolish public education in financially stressed districts. In two of those districts, the emergency manager turned the children over to for-profit charter chains.
To compensate for the repeal, the Legislature in Michigan plans to expand the powers of the Achievement Authority Chancellor. The Achievement Authority is a non-contiguous district into which the state will cluster all low-performing schools. It is currently headed by John Covington, who was trained by the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. Covington previously served as superintendent of Kansas City, where he proposed to close half the district’s public schools but resigned on short notice to take the higher-profile job in Michigan. Soon after his departure, Kansas City lost its state accreditation.
Under the new law, if it passes, Covington will have a free hand with the state’s lowest performing schools.
 Read the rest of Diane Ravitch's post here.

Now, on to Christine Stead (Christine's blog), who was actually at the most recent hearing and has a lot to say. She writes:
While there is still substantive GOP control of all houses of government, here’s my recent experience at the House Education Committee meeting yesterday [November 13, 2012].  By the way, please read HB 6004 here:
This bill seeks to hurry up an codify the Educational Achievement Authority, which has been functioning since October 1st.  This bill will give the EAA sweeping authority to take over local schools, render all local government moot, among other things (my concerns are listed below in bullet points)...
Through the course of witnessing testimony, new concerns arose for me.  These include:
  • The EAA can be much broader than the bottom 5% of schools.  In fact, since they exclude participation in state standardized tests AND only the chancellor determines when they have made progress, it is quite possible that they can expand to eventually encompass many schools in Michigan.
  • The Chancellor could not articulate how they were governed – now or in the future (although this is part of the bill he was there to testify on behalf of).
  • The Chancellor could not articulate how they were funded (I think they get the foundation allowance of the school they took over, plus some additional funding from the state of $35M and philanthropy from ‘other organizations’ that want to see this work).
  • The Chancellor, nor anyone else in the audience – including Bill Restum – did not know what would happen to a school that failed to make progress after 3 years.
  • The EAA can take over all assets of a school without the approval of the local school board.
    But wait, there's more. Read the rest of Christine's post here.  
    As if that were not enough, a few days ago Christine wrote about HB 5923. 
    Republicans are pushing through two more major changes to public education in lame duck sessions: the kinds of changes that a reasonable person might want to do a bit of thinking about and research on before slamming through more massive changes with very little concern and understanding of the consequences.  They both risk decimating public education...
    HB 5923 will allow any ‘thing’ (employer, municipality, etc.) to become a school.  There are no quality controls that they will be held accountable to.  Schools today will become focused on accounting: tracking where each child goes to school, accepting all credits, tracking GPAs from a myriad of programs, etc.
    Many issues need to be worked out – or even thought of – for this bill.  Clearly our legislators aren’t thinking about the impact on our students and our families.  If they were, they would be including academic goals, ensuring robust programs that also provide a framework for social and emotional learning and growth that is a foundation for so many other characteristics that seem to determine success more than grades: curiosity, tenacity, empathy, etc...
    Please review the language of the bill:
      Read Christine's full post here.

    I am hoping Michigan Parents For Schools will have an action alert out soon.

1 comment:

  1. My daughter's intro to high stakes testing came in first grade. They had "timed math" and she wasn't doing well. When I tried to help her at home by setting the timer to practice, she burst into tears crying "I can't win". Turns out she could solve the problems but not fast enough. By second grade, she and her best friend had enough of it and came up with a clever way of cheating. That got them through 2nd grade until the teacher caught them 2 weeks before the end of the year. We parents were called to a conference and my only question was....why does a child believe she needs to cheat (in second grade)?