Detroit, Education, Teachers — February 17, 2014 at 7:15 am

Another EAA teacher talks about the failure of Gov Snyder’s education experiment: “I am more of a glorified babysitter than an educator”


Today’s interview is with a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous because they still work within the EAA. Like some of their colleagues in the EAA, veterans who are certified teachers with experience educating kids, this teacher sees the model as flawed. More importantly, they describe the system as run by administrators who do not know what they are doing. From instituting a computer program with no curriculum to a complete lack of support for teachers in how to deal with the disciplinary issues in the EAA schools, EAA administrators have shown time and again that they are out of their league.

When this teacher was hired, they were told the BUZZ computer program was a fully implemented curriculum. Once they got to the job, and this is the second year the EAA has been in existence, there was no curriculum for them to use in some subject areas and teachers are expected to upload their own, even though half or more of them are first year teachers with no experience creating curriculum on their own. This bait-and-switch when hiring teachers seems to be common based on the conversations that I am having.

NOTE TO EAA ADMINISTRATORS: I know you are reading this and I know there is a witch hunt on to find and punish the teachers who are speaking out. I don’t know how you live with yourselves, treating educators in this way. I wish you spent as much time and energy trying to resolve the many problems that are being uncovered here as you do intimidating teachers into being silent. I find it shameful.

So you are new to the EAA this school year and teach at one of the middle schools, is that correct?

Yes, that’s right. Before this I taught several years in urban schools in other states and other schools, too. I was looking for a new teaching position I mistakenly took the one with the EAA.

What is different about teaching in the EAA from the other schools that you taught at?

The lack of leadership in the building. There’s a lot of leaders but they have no freaking idea what they’re doing. I’ve not been trained in this Student Centered Learning model which is BUZZ. I’ve had the equivalent of three hours of “here’s where you go, click here, do this there, put this here…” But, there’s no real curriculum involved. We have to find our own.

The problem is that when I interviewed, they told me BUZZ was full of all of these wonderful things. “It’s a fully-loaded curriculum. All of it’s online and you’re just the teacher as the facilitator. You will have all of these resources. We have all of these great coaches who will coach you…”

And I got nothing.

So you haven’t had the support that they promised you in terms of how to execute what they are trying to do, their teaching model?

I have no idea what I’m doing.

My understanding, talking to other teachers, is that if you don’t follow their model exactly, they literally are threatening to write them up if they don’t toe the line. Have you experienced that?

There are certain teachers who are allowed to do their own thing and others who are not. There’s no consistency in my building. But I have heard from my own colleagues’ mouths that they put things into BUZZ to make it look like their using it but, when the doors are closed and no one is in their classroom, they teach them however they can.

Because they think that’s a better model for teaching children, basically?

Yeah. BUZZ is a joke! Here’s the thing: they told me that BUZZ already had the curriculum in it when they hired me. I’m afraid that because they now want us to develop our own curriculum that all of a sudden I’m going to be judged as a poor teacher and I’m not.

In your experience is creating curriculum out of whole cloth something that is normally expected out of teachers?

No. We normally have guidance from the district level people. I served on a committee for a district where I worked where we helped to design teaching guides and curriculum. We worked on Common Core stuff. So, I have a little bit of background in curriculum design. But the bottom line is that the job description didn’t state that there’s no curriculum and you have to come up with your own. And it’s not just for one content area. It’s for all four that I teach.

So, you’re experience is that it’s something that is not just left up to the teacher? Curriculum is something that is done at a district level and there’s agreement at the local level about what the curriculum will be? Has that been your experience? Because I’m not a teacher so I don’t know how it normally looks compared to how the EAA does it.

Yes. That has been my experience.

I can tell you this much: they’re inconsistent. The EAA recently purchased some curriculum from a neighboring district and are looking to have it uploaded in its entirety by May. But, there’s no solid curriculum in there right now for social studies.

There’s one EAA school where the principal is not even a real principal. He does not have a principal certificate. He came in and got rid of all of the textbooks and all of the teachers’ curriculums and all the resources. They have literally nothing.

Some of these teachers all up in arms. They have no paper. They have no pencils. They have no supplies. They have no curriculum. And they were told that those are decisions that are made at the district level and there are procedures to go though so they’ll just have to wait it out.

I’m sorry but if you are truly acting as the principal of the school and care about the students’ learning, you would find some way to get your teachers the resources.

You wouldn’t just throw your hands up.

Yeah. Exactly.

I read what Terry Abbott, the EAA spokesman, wrote on Diane Ravitch’s blog. I read it and nearly everything he said was nothing but a lie. I didn’t receive the training that he talked about. I have never had any formal training since coming into the EAA. So that’s an absolute lie. I was just thrown into a classroom and told to make them behave.

Have you had any interactions with any of the first year teachers or the Teach for America teachers? I’ve heard that half of the teachers in the EAA are 1st year teachers and half of those are from TFA.

There are a couple of veteran teachers in the lower and upper elementary school who took the job somewhat disillusioned like me. But the rest of them are first years or TFA. I’ve worked with TFA teachers before. But in the other districts I’ve worked in before in other states, there was a better support system.

Do you feel like they are qualified to come in and create curriculum like this?

Absolutely not. Oh, no. I wouldn’t want… I wouldn’t put my own child in the EAA schools. If I had kids I wouldn’t put them in an EAA school just for the simple fact that there’s no curriculum.

I know of one department head has just started her second year teaching. I was in leadership in previous schools and the typical department heads there had at least 5 or more years teaching experience. But here in the EAA there are veteran teachers taking directives from someone who has only been in the classroom for not even two years. That makes no sense to me. The same school has a guy not certified as a principal. And that would apply to more than one school in the EAA. The fact that they bring them in to do this job and pay them over 120 grand to do it just blows my mind.

It’s interesting, the EAA had open houses at several of the schools, open enrollment sessions. At one of the schools, at least, they had nobody show up.

Is that right?!

Yup. Nobody showed up. And I’m personally losing students; I’ve lost three students in the last two weeks. People are coming and pulling their kids out and nothing is being said about it.

We have Count Day coming up soon and we all got an email from the attendance clerk at our school this week that said she wanted the names of kids who haven’t been in class for three or more days, since Christmas. So, I jotted down a bunch of names that hadn’t been there since Christmas and, all of sudden, they all were back today.

What about computers that kids use to access BUZZ and the other programs? Do you have enough for all of your students?

The computer situation, oh my gosh, that’s a joke. I have 29 students and 14 computers.

Everybody I have talked to has said that they have half the computers they need. Every kid is supposed to have their own computer so that they can work on their own individualized pathway but half of them don’t have computers.

Right. And what do middle school students do when they don’t have anything TO do? I am more of a glorified babysitter than an educator.

So, it’s miserable there. Morale sucks. Nobody trusts anybody…

Let me ask you this, I haven’t heard from any teacher who are really positive about the EAA. Are they out there? Are there some teachers who think, “Hey, just give it a chance, let’s make this work”?

None that I know of.