Tests show Snyder’s EAA, a failure
Jim Crow district for ‘failing’ students pushes children further behind
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder’s experimental school district, the Education Achievement Authority, is a failure.
Release of test data by Michigan Department of Education reveals the EAA is failing not only the “failing” students it was created to serve, but it is failing students who previously were proficient.
Tom Pedroni, Director of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project and Associate Professor for Curriculum Studies at Wayne State University, analyzed the MEAP test scores released Feb. 28. His findings confirm what he and other educators and parents have said: The EAA experiment is a disaster for students.
“The 2013 MEAP cohort data show us, convincingly, most EAA students failed to make even marginal progress toward proficiency. The portrait is even grimmer for the small number of students who had entered the EAA already demonstrating proficiency. In math, 66 percent are no longer proficient. In reading, 37 percent are no longer proficient,” Pedroni wrote in his analysis.
Cohort data gives MDE the ability to track individual progress from year to year, Pedroni said. MEAP results provide the percentage of children who have reached proficiency and the cohort data provides “a picture of individual student achievement test growth even if students have not yet obtained proficiency.”
According to Pedroni, the majority of EAA students failed to demonstrate even marginal progress toward proficiency on the State’s MEAP exams in math and reading.
Among students testing this year who did not demonstrate proficiency on the MEAP math exam last year, 44.1 percent showed no progress toward proficiency and 34.2 percent declined in proficiency. That’s more than three-fourths of the EAA students in decline.
In reading, 58.5 percent of EAA students showed either no progress toward proficiency or actual declines.
“The portrait is even grimmer for the small number of students who had entered the EAA already demonstrating proficiency on the MEAP,” Pedroni said.
“During the 2013 administration of the MEAP math test, there were a total of only 56 test-takers who had scored proficient the year before. Of those 56 students, only 10 stayed at the same level of proficiency or improved (see Table I). That means that 46 of those 56 previously proficient students actually declined —became less proficient. Twenty-six of those 56 had what the MDE terms significant declines. Another way of saying this is, of those 2013 test takers who had scored proficient the year before, 82.1 percent declined in proficiency in just one year with the EAA. Only 7.1 percent of the students increased in proficiency, while 10.7 percent stayed the same. In fact, only 19 of the 56 students who tested as proficient in math in 2012 remain proficient now.”
Snyder, former DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts and Eastern Michigan University started the experimental EAA by taking 15 DPS buildings and contents. Most of the buildings were those improved or newly-constructed facilities with bond money that Detroiters will be paying off until 2039. Also two of the schools had just won federal grants worth millions to improve the education of struggling students.
The EAA hired former Kansas City School chief John Covington as chancellor, although Kansas City lost accreditation under Covington.
Snyder’s pro-privatizing politics have always been at the center of the EAA.
Carol Goss, then CEO and president of the Skillman Foundation, was named chair of the EAA board. Skillman also was a founder and funder of Excellent Schools Detroit. At its inception in March 2010 — a year before Snyder announced the EAA — ESD founders announced during a press conference held at Skillman that the goal of ESD was the “replacement, not reform,” of DPS.
Goss said at the time, “We need centers of excellence for every child. Every school must be held accountable no matter what. We will bring in new talent and great teachers, whether they are from Detroit or not. We want to open 70 new high-performing schools.”
In addition, Goss currently serves as chair of the three-member board of the Michigan Educational Excellence Foundation, where Snyder is an honorary chair, and which has funneled funds to the EAA from the privatizing foundations, Broad and Bloomberg, Pedroni said.
State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, who has fought to expose the EAA’s damaging practices, said in an interview with Electablog, it “is abundantly clear the Broad Foundation, and specifically Eli Broad, was and still is intimately involved in the creation as well as the carrying out of the EAA.”
Former Michigan Gov. John Engler is one of the founders of the Broad Foundation. Covington and former DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb are both graduates of the Broad Academy, which declares on its website the academy is dedicated to “identifying talented leaders and preparing them to lead urban school systems.” DPS elected-board member Elena Herrada called the EAA “the Jim Crow district, separate and unequal.”
The EAA school day puts children in front of computers working on the core of its curriculum, the “Buzz.” While the EAA began without sufficient computers for students, it also has come to light the Buzz was an empty concept.
There was no content, instead the teachers were asked to fill the online educational program with concepts for students to learn, policies and practices for fellow teachers to follow. Lipton said in a Michigan Radio interview that she talked with a Mumford student who called the Buzz, “a joke” and “not challenging.”
Creating a curriculum has proven difficult, since many of the teachers at the EAA are Teach for America students. They are recent college graduates from various disciplines with only five weeks of education training. They lack teaching experience, but come to schools in urban centers to pay off their student loans.
Lipton has revealed through information she paid for under Freedom of Information Act that the EAA has an excessive number of discipline problems and expulsions she connects to their disregard of the needs and legally-mandated policies for special needs children.
Pedroni and Lipton have not stood alone in their fight against the EAA. Six Washtenaw school districts are refusing to allow Eastern Michigan University student teachers into their classrooms for practice teaching. The districts are protesting EMU’s part in creating the EAA and continual support of the EAA.
The elected-DPS board has approved resolutions demanding an end to the EAA while seeking cooperation from the EAA and the emergency manager to begin a smooth transition of EAA students and buildings back to DPS.
Meanwhile, following Pedroni’s revelation of the EAA failings, Snyder wrote an editorial in the Detroit News praising the EAA.
“Results show that 12 percent of students who had previously failed state reading tests passed them in 2013. And overall, 38 percent of the EAA students tested on the MEAP made progress toward or beyond proficiency in reading, and 21 percent improved in math,” the governor wrote. “Many have made impressive gains, but might still fall shy of proficiency on the state exams at this point. The results are encouraging, but by no means where we want or need to be. We have much more work to do.”
In February, MDE Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced the EAA would no longer have an exclusive contract with the state to reform “failing” schools.