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EAA unveils curriculum

Christina and Eric Hobson, Jr. accompanied their father, news photographer Eric Hobson, to the EAA’s media teach-in Aug. 17. MARCUS WRIGHT PHOTO

Other educators say EAA misleads and parents still in dark

By Marcus Wright
The Michigan Citizen

The Educational Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA) unveiled its computer learning model to the media Aug. 17. Computer learning is a key component of the new district.

The EAA representatives say “the new computer learning model will be a critical part of the learning system at all 15 EAA schools in the new school year.”

Critics have questioned this mode of learning for Detroit students, saying it is akin to putting young people in front of a computer all day.

The media teach-in was held at Central Collegiate Academy, the old Central High School.

EAA Chief Accountability Officer Mary Esselman said a computerized learning system is central to the EAA’s student-centered learning model. Esselman said each student will have their own customized learning plan that will allow them to work at their own pace until they master a subject. Advanced students will be able to move onto new subject matter while students who need more time to learn will not be penalized.

Esselman unveiled the curriculum with a presentation. The computer learning model benefits include:

– Students are grouped (and tested) by level, not by age

– Students create and assume ownership for their own personalized learning path and are able to communicate their progress relative to their personalized learning goals

– Students advance at their own pace based on mastery, not age or seat time

– Students provide evidence of mastery through relevant performance tasks and common assessments

-Continuous feedback is provided to students, teachers and parents

The media event touted the benefits of computer-based learning but did not offer an actual lesson-based demonstration.

Many have questioned the EAA’s approach.

Wayne State University Associate Professor Tom Pedroni said EAA erroneously calls their learning program student-centered, because each student progresses through the software at his or her own pace.

Pedroni said student-centered has a particular meaning in learning theory and curriculum theory. “It is used in distinction to teacher-centered and subject-centered,” Pedroni said. “Advocates of a true student-centered approach argue that learning should begin with the child/children rather than with the teacher’s knowledge of a particular subject area.”

According to Pedroni an effective teacher knows his/her students — their knowledge, their cultural dispositions, their systems of valuing, the concerns that motivate them, etc. “(Student-centered learning) emphasizes the fact that children are neither blank slates nor uniform, but rather that they have knowledge and identities that are rooted in particular historical and cultural experiences,” Pedroni said

“Urban citizens are used as guinea pigs. It is not a statewide district. Detroit has been targeted,” said Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) President Keith Johnson. “Why aren’t the lowest-performing schools in other districts included? A large number of us are offended other districts are not offered the opportunity to give up local autonomy and become schools in the EAA district.”

Johnson believes it is disingenuous for the EAA to promote itself as statewide when it only has Detroit schools and students.

Johnson also questions the EAA’s computer-based model and lack of certified teachers in the classroom. “Those who left DPS are certified,” Johnson said.

Esselman said Teach for America corps members, who will teach in the EAA, receive their state teaching certification through a program run by The University of Michigan.

“Teach for America teachers have a proven track record of helping students to achieve remarkable academic success,” Esselman said. “In fact, an Urban Institute study found that high school students taught by Teach for America teachers outperformed their peers, even those taught by fully certified teachers.”

Johnson also believes parents are hesitant to send their children to the new district. Johnson pointed to the latest report regarding student enrollment. The EAA’s initial projection was 11,000 students. The latest report shows 6,200 students enrolled.

Juana Torres is a lifelong Detroiter who attended Southeastern High School and was employed by DPS. She currently works for the EAA. Her children attended Southeastern.

Torres said she has become increasingly concerned about the EAA denigrating DPS. She said the EAA should be more concerned with educating students than bashing DPS. “They hold the parents in contempt just as they hold DPS in contempt,” Torres said. “They don’t ask the parents anything. Who’s talking to the parents? EAA is not.”

Torres described the transfer of Southeastern from DPS to EAA as a “malicious” transition. “The EAA administration at Southeastern will have a difficult, if not impossible task,” Torres said. “(There will be a) culture shock for both teachers and students. White administration, Black student population. What message are they trying to send?”

Shakira Brown, former DPS Parent Liaison and volunteer cheer coach shares Torres concerns. “There’s no parent involvement,” Brown said. “The EAA administration is not communicating with the parents.”

Brown said, several months ago, parents were told students would get new uniforms and the EAA would provide the first shirts. Last week, the parents were told they would have to buy the shirts, Brown said.

Some parents feel pressured. A parent who wishes to remain anonymous said schools in the area have been closed or converted to EAA: “EAA is changing uniforms. Why? I don’t know. But it means parents will have to purchase new uniforms. I hope we get the DPS back. I am working with those who are working to get the DPS back.”

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