Detroit, Education — June 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm

More heartbreaking proof that the EAA is failing Detroit kids


This morning, I lit into MLive reporter Khalil AlHajal for his atrocious “journalism” regarding Governor Rick Snyder’s failed experiment on Detroit kids, the Education Achievement Authority. As I was publishing that post, another article about the EAA was published by Bridge Magazine which was also posted at MLive. In stark contrast to AlHajal’s piece, this one by Chastity Pratt Dawsey, titled “F is for frustrated – disorganization at Detroit EAA schools leaves students scrambling to graduate”, is exemplary.

Dawsey’s piece shows how high school students in the EAA are being thwarted in their efforts to graduate and get into college. Here are some excerpts that will break your heart. I highly recommend reading the entire piece.

It will piss you off.

Juan Torres plans to leave behind Detroit’s Pershing High and nasty Michigan winters to study to become a nurse at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.

The 18-year-old senior paid the registration deposit and said the college is ready to award him financial aid. There’s just one hold up: For weeks Juan has not been able to find out when his Pershing transcript will be sent to the college. Records at the school have been a mess – students were given third quarter report card just last week, nine days before Graduation Day. […]

Torres is among an unknown number of graduating seniors who complained of unavailable or inaccurate transcripts from state-run, EAA high schools, with some telling Bridge they were told only days before commencement that they lack the necessary class credits to graduate. EAA leaders acknowledge the delays, blaming much of it on working out the kinks of a new district data information system. […]

“Am I missing out on financial aid the longer they take to give me my grades? I don’t know,” Torres said. “If I don’t get the financial aid, I think my chances of going to the school I want to go to is slim to none.”

The article details not only how transcripts are not being sent but how students often weren’t notified that they were short a small number of credits needed to graduate until graduation day was upon them. Even the issuance of report cards was botched.

The heartbreaking part of this is that these particular students have beaten the odds to succeed academically. They came up through a school system that has been failing students for years, both before and during their time in the EAA, and have still managed to come through it and graduate. Considering the graduation rate in Detroit schools is less than 2 out of three kids, these students have succeeded when the deck was entirely stacked against them. And, now that they have done this, they are STILL being held back due to incompetence they have no control over. Incompetence that the EAA was supposed to fix.

It’s deeply ironic that a school district that is based largely on computer-based education is now blaming its failures on computer systems.

The EAA administration is bringing in a new person to run the show, hoping that a fresh, cheerful face to replace the dour, scowling John Covington will somehow distract us from what is now absolutely, indisputably obvious: the EAA is a failed experiment. It has NOT improved educational achievement. It has not made things better for the students in its schools. And, rather than admitting this and cutting its losses, the Snyder administration is continuing to paint a smile on the pig and lauding its “accomplishments”.

One more bit of news that is worth noting: the EAA’s budget is being slashed by 25% due to a massive decline in enrollment. They are also about to experience a very predictable mass exodus of teachers as the Teach for America teachers fulfill their two year contracts and leave to teach in districts that don’t treat them with the contempt they’ve experienced from the EAA:

[At] Tuesday’s board meeting … the EAA unveiled its proposed budget for the upcoming school year. It projects that revenues will drop almost 25% – from more than $112 million to just over $86 million.

Harry Pianko, deputy chancellor for financial affairs, said previous budgets included private grants and donations to cover start-up costs the district no longer has.

But Pianko said the new budget also reflects the decrease in state funding that comes with declining enrollment.

“It is lower because, while we are expecting to have an increase in students, we are budgeting conservatively,” Pianko said. “So we are budgeting a 9-10% decrease in students from where we are now.”

Pianko said there will be “appropriate” staff cuts as a result.

A number of EAA employees, mostly support staff and special education instructors, came to the board meeting to challenge non-renewal notices they had received. […]

“We have a school that probably has 50-60% of our teachers leaving this year,” [Greg Galperin, a reading intervention specialist at Henry Ford High School] said. “And the students know this. So when they ask, and I can’t give them an answer of whether or not I’ll be there (next year), it’s very difficult.”

It’s hard to see how supporters of the EAA would support cutting the budget of a school district that is designed to create dramatic changes and improvements in the educational lives of Detroit kids. I am personally ambivalent. In my opinion, the sooner the EAA is shut down, the better, and anything that speeds up that process is good. That said, the last thing we need to be doing to these kids who have been denied a good education for so long is to take even more resources from them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now: what Detroit schools need is an “Educational Surge” where we bring in the best resources available, hire the best teachers in the state, support them with an administration with a proven track record, and use proven, cutting-edge educational models.

Instead, we’ve done the opposite. The school buildings and other school resources like the computers their entire model is based on are inadequate. They’ve had to go hat-in-hand to get outside funding, often from anti-public school groups eager to shift to a for-profit educational model. Half of the instructors are first-year teachers and half of those are Teach for America teachers who have no education background other than a few weeks of TFA training. The district was run by a group of people who left their previous school district in Kansas City in shambles, a district that lost its accreditation shortly after their departure. The “student centered” model they use is based on a computer platform called BUZZ that’s never been used anywhere else, essentially turning EAA students and teachers into beta testing guinea pigs. And now their meager funding is being cut.

Instead of an Education Surge, the EAA is designed to educate poor kids in Detroit on the cheap and for a profit.

It’s our state’s most shameful legacy and, despite this, our Governor and his Republican colleagues continue to promote it.