NOTE: My reporting on the Education Achievement Authority involves multiple posts. You can read all of my coverage of the EAA by clicking HERE.
In the aftermath of the explosive allegations that have arisen in the course of my reporting on the situation in the Education Achievement Authority, the EAA has gone on the attack, writing them off as “anonymous” allegations on a “political blog” as if to suggest that I am making these stories up in an elaborate ruse for political reasons or, worse yet, that the teachers themselves are all lying. It would be an amazing coincidence for the now 15 different teachers with whom I have communicated to all be independently corroborating each other’s stories in order to concoct a false illusion about Governor Snyder’s failed experiment at educating children in our most challenged school districts on the cheap.
Today we have an interview from a teacher who is willing to go public. Delbert Glaze is a veteran teacher who started with the EAA when it first opened in 2012. Like the others, he describes a district in chaos, run by administrators desperate to prove the success of their “Student Centered Learning” (SCL) even as the evidence was mounting that the experiment was a catastrophic disaster. Imagine an education model where the students sit in front of computers for the entire day with a teacher serving essentially as a babysitter. No group instruction. No teacher-led discussions. Just children glued to laptops working on their own. Except in this scenario, there aren’t enough computers for all of the children, many children are acting out, sometimes violently, and teachers are being held accountable for not succeeding though they lack the resources, training, and support they need to succeed.
This is the EAA as described to me by well over a dozen teachers.
Here is Delbert Glaze’s story.
You are a former EAA teacher? Is that correct?
Yes, at Nolan elementary school.
And when did you stop teaching there?
Actually the story is that I was told by my principal in June, then again in July, and again in August that I was going to be renewed because she wanted me to be the technology teacher for K-8. So, I left thinking that I was coming back until my wife and I applied for a mortgage to buy a new house and they called the EAA. The EAA told my mortgage company that I wasn’t employed by them.
Yeah, exactly. Seriously, it was a surprise to me. I texted my principal, Ms. Angela Underwood, and asked what was going on. “I’m trying to get a mortgage and you’re saying I’m not employed. What’s going on?”
She said, “I’ll take care of it.”
A week later, I still hadn’t gotten a response so I called her again. All of a sudden she said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. Dr. Covington won’t approve it.”
Wouldn’t approve WHAT? Allowing you to keep your job?
Yeah, I guess. She basically told me it was out of her hands because he wouldn’t approve it so, I wrote a letter to Dr. Covington asking why I was not be allowed to come back. I had nothing on my record, my record was spotless. To this day, I still have no idea why they fired me. I still have never gotten a response back from him.
[NOTE: You can read Delbert Glaze’s letter to Chancellor Covington HERE. In it, he tells Covington, “If I no longer have a position, I will not be able to go through with the purchase of my home and will have lost over several thousand dollars if my contract is not renewed. Had I not been promised this position earlier, we would not have bought a home or I could have been looking for a new position. If I had not gone through the loan approval process, I guess I would have found out that I did not have a job when I showed up for my first day of professional development. It is now less than 3 weeks before school starts and most teaching positions are now taken.”]
So they basically fired you and didn’t bother to TELL you they were firing you. Is that how you see it?
That’s exactly how I see it. I’m a certified elementary school teacher. Ms. Underwood had a teacher who was going to teach English in middle school and she backed out so she asked me. I told her that I wasn’t secondary certified at all. I had never taught middle school in my life. She guaranteed me that I would have full support from her, my assistant principal, my curriculum coaches, all of this. They looked at my certificate. Dr. MiUndrae Prince the assistant Chancellor even approved it. So, I believe that I was set up to fail from the beginning. I left my position to teach middle school, I didn’t have any support — this Student Centered Learning, SCL, curriculum that they have, nobody knew about using this — they gave me a little bit of training and then expected me to teach middle school with SCL.
So, I wasn’t performing as well as a middle school teacher should be and I think that, at the end of the year, they knew that I shouldn’t have been teaching middle school, that I wasn’t certified in it, and instead of risking get caught, they just decided to just release me.
Unbelievable. What’s your background in teaching?
I’m a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and a certified teacher.
So you’ve gone through the whole teaching program, done student teaching, and all of that stuff?
And had you taught before or was this your first teaching assignment?
I had taught before in Detroit for the four years before I got to the EAA.
So you had already been in the school system then. Were you teaching at Nolan before it became an EAA school?
No. I went through the initial interview process which was eye-opening because I went through four interviews, they had Harvard Graduate School interview me, I went through all of the interviews and then got hired by them during the initial roll out.
So, you’ve read some of things that other teachers have said on my site. Why are you reaching out to me? Did you see some of the things that they talk about? And, if so, which specific things would you point to?
Pretty much everything. The things that the teacher from Henry Ford talked about I have witnessed myself. Some people may think that I’m doing this because of what they did to me at the end of the year but I can say that I’ve been teaching in inner city schools for awhile and I grew up there and what they are doing is actually hurting kids in Detroit and that’s the reason why I wanted to say something. I’ve actually spoken out at Eastern trying to get the regents to end their relationship with the EAA and I got a lot of positive feedback.
I actually had a student who was in my class at Nolan who is at my new school in Highland Park and I saw a lot of kids being mistreated and that made me really want to speak out.
You’re teaching now at Highland Park? Aren’t they under an Emergency Manager now?
So you went from one challenged district to another, didn’t you?!
Well, I did. But, it’s interesting. They don’t have a lot of money, they don’t have a lot of resources but I’m actually teaching my grade level. I’m teaching 3rd AND 4th grade and I’m still appreciated more than I was at the EAA. I’m not there for the money. I just want to be appreciated, ya know?
Sure. Absolutely. ALL teachers should be. They should be held up as examples of people doing the right things in society, in my opinion.
It’s interesting. You taught in Detroit schools prior to this. There’s no question that a lot of the schools in Detroit, especially the ones in the EAA, they are struggling. How would you contrast your previous experience with your experience with the EAA?
Right. They took over the 15 lowest-performing schools in Detroit and Detroit is already as low as it is. And then they introduce this new model but they really never had a real curriculum, even to this day. In August, when I got to the school, what did we do? We threw out all of the text books. We literally threw them away or sold them to other companies for cash.
A perfect example is that, when I was teaching in middle school, I was trying to teach them how to work with informational text because when they get to college or university, that’s what they’re going to be reading a lot. But I had no textbooks to teach them with so I had to bring in my own magazines and newspapers.
It’s ridiculous. And they gave these kids laptops without blocking any sites at all. I had a class of 40 middle school students and they could go on any site they want. Facebook. Instagram. Youtube. None of it was blocked. They’re supposed to be on this cartoonish BUZZ system which is for like a third grader or a second grader and then expect teachers to put curriculum into it. They actually had teachers on the weekends putting curriculum in it because they couldn’t write it themselves. To this day, they’re doing the same thing.
Nolan is one of these schools where they bring philanthropists and people with money to show them that the EAA is working. What my principal did was, to make it look so quiet and normal when visitors came, she would send all of the teachers an email telling us that we were not allowed to let students in the hallway when visitors were in the school. She would threaten us with being written up and told us, “If you don’t want to teach here, you can just go. Teachers are a dime a dozen.” There was a total lack of respect.
[NOTE: You can read an example of the emails that Nolan principal Angela Underwood sent to teachers HERE.]
Then, when she wanted the kids to do a rap or a song or dance about the curriculum, THEN she’d talk to them and walk them into her office and give them treats and then send them back to the room.
This is Angela Underwood?
So she was manipulating things to make the school look better than it was and bribing the kids with treats…
Right. I eventually got to the point as a teacher where I realized that the SCL model was not working. I actually had one of my students come to me and she asked me, “Mr. Glaze, could you please give us a lecture so I can take some notes?”
I was at a loss for words and I had to tell her, “Unfortunately, this is the curriculum that the EAA has and that I have to follow. I’m sorry.”
You weren’t allowed to, right?
Yeah. As an educator, what you want for your kids is that they grow up to be critical thinkers who can think for themselves. That’s my philosophy. Once when we had visitors come, they asked one of my students what she thought about the EAA and the BUZZ program. She honestly said that it wasn’t helping her. She said, “Why are we doing this? Why are we on the computer all day?”
What happened after that? I was told that, when we have visitors, she’s to stay in her homeroom with me.
So they were hiding her from the visitors!
Exactly. This is their “go to” school. Most of the visitors came to Nolan elementary. It was almost every other week. It was ridiculous.
One of the things that I’ve heard from a lot of teachers is that there was this culture of fear that was put in place by the administration where teachers were constantly afraid of speaking out or saying anything negative or pushing back at all or challenging them.
Absolutely. The year that I taught, 15 teachers that year either transferred or left because they were speaking out. The administration was breaking special education rules. I had two of my friends who were in special education who left because of it. The stuff they are doing is ridiculous.
Did you experience the situation where you didn’t have IEPs for your special education students in your classes?
Definitely. There were classrooms with lots of special ed kids and when the data came out about how many special ed kids they had, all of sudden they said, “Oh, they aren’t special ed any more. They’re fixed.” Or they kept some students homebound and gave them a laptop at home to do their work on.
So that they didn’t have to accommodate them?
Exactly. And, of course, she made the homeroom teachers monitor their progress. So, I did and, surprise, surprise, they weren’t doing anything at home on the computer. You can just give a kid a laptop at home and expect them to do the work with no teacher, no instruction, no modeling.
As an English teacher, I would sometimes spend the first 10 minutes of my class working with the kids, something called a “do now”. When I got evaluated by Ms. Underwood, I got written up because I was doing “whole group teaching”. Ten minutes of a “do now” and I got written up for whole group teaching.
They have this fascination with not doing any traditional teaching. Everything has to be student centered learning.
This is just the first ten minutes of your homeroom class and you’re speaking to the whole class and you got in trouble for that?
Yeah, it was my English class. I got in trouble for doing something with the whole class together as a “do now”. It was a total disrespect and total disregard for any teaching concepts that I learned. I loved the education that I got from Eastern Michigan. I loved my professors. That’s why I supported them when they were trying to convince the regents to break off from the EAA. They would give TFA teachers — 21, 22 year old kids – perfect evaluations because they were following the model exactly and giving experienced traditional teachers bad reviews for stuff like this.
I had a good friend who taught fourth grade at one school where they had this TFA “golden child” who, when they had students who were giving them trouble, they would send those kids to my friends class so, when visitors came, those kids wouldn’t be in there.
So it was a sanitized classroom they could use to show how well TFA teachers were working out?
Exactly. The whole atmosphere was nothing but negativity. And it even affected the kids. When they spoke up for themselves, they’d get punished for that.
Another of the things that I saw that made me want to speak out was how all of a sudden the discipline reports went down. The first year, we had so many students who were suspended, kicked it, there were fights all the time. All of a sudden we get a memo from Covington to Ms. Underwood and to us say now we’re not supposed to send kids to the office.
That came from Covington?
That came from Covington down to all of his principals.
So you were supposed to just deal with it yourselves?
Oh, yeah. We were supposed to deal with. I saw a teacher in tears because a kid was threatening her and cursing at her but she knew she couldn’t send him to the office because they would just them right back which they did plenty of times. And the kids who were really just too far gone that they had to be suspended, technically they were out of the school but they still counted because they gave them laptops at home and they still counted them even though they weren’t in my class for three months until the end of the school year.
So, they didn’t count them as being suspended, basically.
And the test scores… The kids got tested in September but by December, a lot of those kids who took it were gone — suspended or kicked out — and then new kids would come in in January, February and they’d get tested. If the scores were good, they kept them. If they weren’t good, they didn’t keep the scores. And then in June, the last scores where they got their information from about growth, by June a lot of those scores from the September kids aren’t valid because those kids aren’t there any more. New kids came in in February and you can’t count that.
They were testing different kids and calling them the same kids.
The first week when the kids took the test, Ms. Underwood didn’t like the scores so she made us give them the test again.
I’ve heard that from other teachers, that they would retest kids that got bad scores because they “had a bad day”.
So for Covington to go public with those test scores was the biggest absolute lie I’ve ever seen in my life.
Discipline seems to be a big issue and I can see why. It doesn’t surprise me. A lot of these kids are in pretty bad situations any way.
That’s the thing. I don’t think they realized what they were getting into. What they didn’t do was to actually get to know these kids and their parents. You can’t just give them a new laptop and a new way to learn without getting the kids to know them first and buy into the system. They just kind of forced this situation on these kids and, of course, they fought back.
Do you feel like you were given the right resources to deal with the disciplinary issues? Where you given the support you needed for that?
Absolutely not. I’m not an inexperienced teacher like some EAA teachers but I was basically thrown out there to the lions and left to fend for myself. I didn’t get any support, like I said, when I was teaching middle school. And, this is the ironic thing, when I asked for support, my assessment coach, here’s what he did. When I asked for support he went up to this storage room where they actually kept some books. They had actually kept some of the books that DPS had in that school. And he said, “Here ya go” and he gave me a couple of books and said, “Try this.” And that was my “coaching.”
I had two curriculum coaches and I asked I don’t know how many times, “Can one of you come to my class and show me how to do SCL work?” Did anybody come in? No. My principal? No. My assistant principal? They didn’t know how to tell the teachers how to use SCL because they didn’t know it themselves.
How about computers and stuff? Did you have the physical resources that you needed to do your job?
Absolutely not. We were told to create evidence to show that the kids were learning. So, basically my middle school class was like a kindergarten room with construction paper, markers, and crayons so that they could make diagrams about what they had learned. And we were supposed to put it up in our rooms or in the hallway. So, every month we were asking for construction paper because that’s what they wanted and, if I didn’t do that, I’d get written up and I’d get in trouble. So, I’m like, “Am I teaching kindergarten or middle school?”
One of the good things that I had was a smart board in my room. I was one of the rare ones. But I would rather they had spent that money on textbooks. When I’m teaching English, I need novels and books. You have to have books.
And with homework, parents were complaining that we weren’t giving out homework. But I told them the reason I couldn’t give them homework every day because they limited us on paper. Every month we had a limit on how many copies we could make. They told us, “We don’t want worksheets…”
But a lot of these kids don’t have access to the internet at home, right? So they can’t access this stuff from computers at home?
Exactly. They didn’t think about that, did they? A lot of kids don’t have that at home so how can you give them that stuff and send them home to do it?