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EMU faculty fights EAA ties

Dr. Jann Joseph

Dr. Jann Joseph

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

YPSILANTI — In the cold, wet snowfall Dec. 3, at the break of dawn, nearly 100 demonstrators picketed the Education Achievement Authority board meeting on the campus of Eastern Michigan University and conducted a day long teach-in that drew hundreds to learn more about Gov. Rick Snyder’s education experiment.

Faculty and students from the EMU School of Education were joined by teachers from southeastern Michigan school districts, parents and education activists in the continuing struggle to shut down the EAA.

The governor created the EAA in 2011 through an Interlocal Agreement between Eastern Michigan’s Board of Regents and Roy Roberts, former emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools. Fifteen DPS schools — many of them newly built or rehabilitated with Detroit bond funds — pupils and building contents were taken to make the EAA.

“Our regents created the EAA with no input from the faculty, no reliance on the expertise of educators or research from the College of Education Faculty Council,” said Steven Camron, EMU associate education professor and chair of the council.

The EAA promotes its use of computers to provide individualized instruction and uses Teach for America recruits in the classrooms. Despite EAA Chancellor John Covington’s claims students are making “tremendous progress,” no one knows for sure. The EAA tests are not standard for Michigan schools. EAA scores cannot be compared with the MEAP scores of all other state students, according to Wayne State Associate Professor of Education Tom Pedroni. There is no way to measure EAA student progress, he says.

“The EAA is destroying the teaching profession,” Camron said. “The integrity of this institution that trains teachers should not be traded. In no way should the EAA be associated with our institution.”

Walking the picket line, Taylor school district teacher Heather McPhail said the EAA was  “the privatization of education.”

The EAA replaced the certified teachers in the 15 DPS buildings  with Teach for America recruits. TFA teachers are college students who pay off their student loans by working in urban districts.

EMU faculty members opposed to the EAA stepped up their opposition to Snyder’s experiment this fall after six school districts in Washtenaw County refused to accept student teachers from Eastern’s education department to show their opposition to the EAA.

“Why get a degree at Eastern? I don’t need one for EAA,” read the sign carried by one protestor walking the picket line, summing up the anti-EAA sentiments.

Over 30 members of the EMU education faculty have signed letters asking the board of regents to break the ILA and all ties with EAA.

Jann Joseph, dean of EMU’s College of Education, who has served on the board of the EAA since its inception, resigned from the board Dec. 1, apparently feeling the pressure from the faculty. Joseph issued a brief statement saying she was resigning effective immediately. However, EMU issued a clarification, Dec.3 saying Joseph was being replaced.

According to a Dec. 3 report by Electablog, Joseph sent this letter to EAA Board Chair Carol Goss on Nov. 27: “Please accept my resignation from the EAA Board of Directors effective Nov. 30. As you know, the escalating conversations about the EAA have been impacting my college in so far as teachers and school districts boycotting our students. My faculty are also deeply engaged in this conversation from a social justice perspective. I am caught between the untenable position of being a dean of the faculty and serving on the board. EMU has selected another representative to serve beginning Dec. 1.”

No EMU representative was present for the EAA board meeting Dec. 3.

EDITOR: See story of Dec. 3 EAA board meeting at or in next week’s issue.

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