Education — February 26, 2014 at 6:55 am

EAA grab bag: Job posting for EAA preschool in a “Christian setting”, Chancellor Covington in spin mode, and more


Yesterday, the ACLU of Michigan sent Education Achievement Authority Chancellor John Covington a letter asking about this job posting (archived HERE.) The job posting is for preschool teachers at Law, Bethune, and Brenda Scott elementary schools, all part of the EAA. The job description says that the, “teachers are responsible for implementing a developmentally appropriate early childhood education curriculum in a Christian setting.”

Here’s a screenshot:

Click for a larger version

In his letter (PDF), Michael Steinberg, an attorney for the ACLU, reminded Chancellor Covington that EAA schools are true public schools in Michigan which decidedly may NOT be described as “a Christian setting”.

There is no principal more fundamental to American public education than the requirement that schools be welcoming of all students and teachers regardless of religious or racial background. Our Constitution wisely requires schools to remain neutral in matters of religion.

So, really? A “Christian setting”? It appears that what has happened here is that the chronically unprofessional folks at the EAA plagiarized a job posting for the St. Mary Child Development Center in Troy, Michigan which reads:

Job Description:

St. Mary Child Development Center is seeking a highly qualified Lead Preschool Teacher. Teachers must have professional standards in working with children, parents and staff. Candidates should be familiar with State of Michigan Licensing Rules. Teachers are responsible for implementing a developmentally appropriate early childhood education curriculum in a Christian setting.

(Screenshot HERE.)

It appears that they couldn’t even be bothered to write their own job description and just plagiarized one they found online.

Aye, aye, aye… Like I said: chronically unprofessional.

In other news, Chancellor Covington is doubling down on his claim that he is “supportive” of state Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s move to end the state’s exclusivity agreement with the EAA even as he refuses to let the state out of the contract for a full year. He polished up the letter that he sent to a selection of EAA teachers and administrators and had it printed as an op-ed in the Detroit News.

Once again, Covington extols the virtues and claimed successes of the EAA but fails to explain why he won’t let the state out of the contract, a move he says he “supports”. He is, however, taken to task for that in the comments on his letter.

The Detroit News editorial staff wrote an op-ed of their own suggesting that Gov. Snyder show some leadership (they call it “guidance”) with regard to the EAA. Their op-ed completely ignores the reporting done here and other public statements by EAA teachers about the lack of professionalism in the EAA, the poor learning conditions, and the abusive treatment of teachers and students. Neither does their op-ed ask why Covington refuses to let the the state out of the exclusivity contract. In reference to student achievement, they say “school leaders report students are making marked progress”. It has been the case all along that student progress is reported by EAA leadership, but the claims do not appear to be supported by facts.

The News op-ed ends with this:

[S]ince this is an effort Snyder spearheaded, he shouldn’t leave education leaders and lawmakers wondering where to go from here. The governor should offer more direction.

They don’t seem to realize that Governor Snyder HAS given them direction. In fact, he’s given them the green light and wants them to pass the expansion bill as quickly as possible. Just a couple of weeks ago he said, “If you talk to teachers and students in these schools, you’ll see there’s real learning going on and these were schools that had a terrible track record for learning. It’s dramatically improved.”

A counterpoint op-ed by Steve Cook of the Michigan Education Association spells it out:

The lack of transparency or accountability for its academic or financial track record has only compounded the suspicions about the EAA and its corporate takeover of these schools. Included in the legislation to expand the EAA is language that would reduce transparency even more by limiting information available through the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act.

While underperforming schools and challenged students need help, the computer based educational delivery system employed by the EAA has not proven effective in achieving results for these schools or their students.

Nor is it effective to put new, inexperienced teachers in schools and expect them to achieve results with students who have difficulty learning — which may explain the extraordinarily high teacher turnover rate in EAA schools.

If the EAA had a proven track record as a successful model to turn around failing schools and help students succeed, then HB 4369 which would expand the model to an additional 50 schools across the state would be justified. But the experience with the EAA in Detroit shows just the opposite.

I have heard that Republicans are short at least twelve votes for passing the bill that would expand the EAA. If you haven’t already, be sure to contact your state Senator and Representative and ask them NOT to support HB 4369 and to end this failed experiment on Detroit students.