Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Understanding the Education Achievement Authority (EAA): An Activist's Guide

Are you confused about what the Education Achievement Authority is, and what some people want it to be? If so, join the club.

The Okemos Parents for Schools blog (which, by the way, is on my blogroll in the right-hand column) has just done an excellent three-part series on what the EAA is. I highly recommend that you take a look at it!

Part 1: Methods and Results

What is the EAA? Part 1, Methods and Results

To whet your appetite, here is a small excerpt from Part 1:
The EAA was created in 2011 by an interlocal agreement between the Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, Roy Roberts, and Eastern Michigan University.  An "interlocal agreement" is one of the methods of creating a charter school.  See What are "charter schools?", Okemos Parents for Schools, June 28, 2013.  The EAA is essentially a charter district. Originally, the EAA was tasked with taking over 15 schools from the Detroit Public School district.  Before the EAA had even finished one year of operation its proponents were trying to expand it statewide with a measure which would allow the EAA to capture 5 percent of Michigan's public schools every year, with no mechanism to return them to local control. 

Part 2: Management and Finances

What is the EAA? Part 2, management and finances

In Part 2, you learn some information about who is running the EAA and how they are managing financially. For instance:

The Chancellor of the EAA, John Covington, came to the EAA after heading up a public school district in Kansas City. One Michigan blogger wrote that Covington "faked a conflict with his former employer to get out of his contract" in Kansas City and "could make as much as $1.4 million in four years" at the EAA.  New Education Achievement Authority leader’s former school district loses its accreditation,Eclectablog, September 21, 2011.  Covington's tenure in Kansas City was a rocky one.  Covington oversaw closure of nearly half the schools in the Kansas City district.  Board strips Kansas City schools' accreditation,, September 20, 2011.  As he was leaving, the district he oversaw was flailing on almost all measures of performance, "the district met only three of the 14 standards in the state's annual performance report, down from four in 2010."  Id. Less than a month after Covington left, the Missouri state board of education voted to strip the schools of its accreditation.  Id.  Recently, the EAA board "voted to hire Interactive Learning Systems LLC of Columbia, S.C., as an 'executive coach' for" Covington.  EAA collapsing, The Michigan Citizen, December 12, 2013
(And that's not all...)

Part 3: Widespread Opposition

What is the EAA? Part 3, widespread opposition

In Part 3 we learn about teaching and learning conditions, and we also learn about the local connection. As you may recall, EMU is the chartering institution.
Remember that the EAA is structured like a charter district, and so requires an "interlocal agreement" with an "authorizing institution" to receive state funds.  Eastern Michigan University is the EAA's authorizer.  We've discussed before how authorizing institutions like state universities give charters a feel of credibility, but in practice the authorizer has almost no involvement with the charter.  What are "charter schools?", Okemos Parents for Schools, June 28, 2013.  The EAA's colossal failure and the faculty's complete lack of oversight has proved too much for the EMU faculty to stomach. The faculty are protesting and their efforts have made national news:
And Part 3 ends with this:

In sum, outside the small circle of those politically and financially invested in the EAA, there is almost no one in Michigan advocating for expansion of the EAA. (Emphasis added.)

Ellen Cogen Lipton, a Michigan House
Democrat, has been a key point person on
getting the FOIA'd documents and putting
together the Inside the EAA website.
Photo taken from her state representative website.

More Information from Inside the EAA

After you've taken a look at the "primer" on the EAA, then you might me interested at reading some FOIA'd source documents and lots of other news articles at Inside the EAA.

And why is all of this important in 2014? Expansion of the EAA is one of many terrible educational initiatives we can expect to see back in the legislature...

Interviews with Teachers in the EAA

Just an hour before this post was set to "go live" I found out that today Eclectablog published an important piece about the EAA that has interviews with real live EAA teachers. Serendipity? I think that really it just highlights the fact that this is really important stuff! Read on.

As Chris Savage writes,

I spoke with several teachers, some of whom came to the EAA through the Teach for America program. What follows documents the outrageous and frightening situation in the EAA schools. I am keeping the gender of the teachers, which schools they work in, and any other identifying information hidden so that these teachers will not be fired for speaking to me. Every quote and statement, however, are real and the teachers represent both elementary schools within the EAA as well as high schools.
While much of what I learned from these courageous teachers I had heard about at least in part before, the most shocking thing I discovered was that school administrators have been seen physically abusing problem students. In addition to this, the teachers themselves are put in danger by violent students that the administration appears unwilling or unable to deal with.
It is critically important that these stories be told now because Republicans, including Gov. Snyder, are determined to expand the EAA statewide. The failure of the current EAA “experiment” shows in vivid and frightening detail what a colossal mistake that would be. I encourage you to share this information and this post with others you know so that all of us can contact our legislators and encourage them to stop the failed experiment before it is expanded even further. (Emphasis added.)

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