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The EAA has failed Detroit children

Jeffery D. Robinson, Ph.D.

Jeffery D. Robinson, Ph.D.

By Jeffery D. Robinson, Ph.D.

Webster’s Dictionary defines failure as the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.

Failure is the description that in no uncertain terms describes the state of Michigan’s vain attempt to educate children in the city of Detroit. For the past 14 years, children in the city of Detroit have been the victims of the most egregious case of educational malpractice ever perpetrated in these United States.

In 1999, the state of Michigan under the direction of Governor John Engler declared a financial emergency in the Detroit Public School System claiming among other things the Detroit Board of Education had failed to properly manage the school district both academically and financially and the state was stepping in to ensure that the children of Detroit would receive the quality education the local school board had failed to deliver.

Now, in retrospect, it can be unequivocally stated that it is the state of Michigan that has failed and is no better at educating children and in some cases has done an even worse job than any local school board. Instead of realizing its failure and learning from its colossal mistake, two years ago the Michigan Department of Education under the direction of Gov. Rick Snyder proposed the institution of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) as its answer to address the needs of the state’s lowest achieving schools.

At the expense of every democratic principle citizens of the United States have come to hold dear, the state of Michigan began the systematic hijacking of the finances and property of Detroit Public Schools in the name of educational reform. In the aftermath of Detroit citizens authorizing billions of dollars to improve the infrastructure of Detroit Public Schools, the state of Michigan began commandeering newly renovated, and newly built schools in the contrived interest of the EAA. The EAA all but forced parents to enroll students in EAA schools, making what we now know to be false claims — children would receive a better education than Detroit Public Schools were able to provide.

To add insult to injury, the initial rollout of the EAA was supposed to be comprised of all low-achieving schools in the state, yet as the initiative made its way through the legislature the only guinea pigs targeted were the students in the urban districts with the “hope” that the state could exact this same dictatorship across other districts. Since then, however, there has been significant resistance in the effort to supersede local control. Seasoned educators representing years of experience and knowledge on how to educate children were cast aside for individuals of little experience and even less interest in providing a beneficial educational experience to

Detroit children and likewise, while suburbanites stood silent on this urban imposition until the intrusion met their borders, suddenly it was in their interest to make taxpayer-funded education and local control an issue.

From its inception, the EAA’s practices and procedures called into question the educational validity of the mandate beginning with the appointment of a chancellor with a jaded educational past, and a cloud of controversy pertaining to academic achievement that occurred under his watch. Claims of rising test scores and student achievement were found to be false and in certain instances statistically improbable. Propaganda instead of progress reports was provided to parents with concerns about the education of their children. State legislators who inquired about the progress and procedures of the EAA were met with resistance and refusal to release pertinent information. Eastern Michigan University professors publicly denounced the EAA as being “politically motivated and pedagogically unsupportable.” Teacher unions and local school districts boycotted teachers from Eastern Michigan University for its affiliation with the EAA. Students left the EAA in droves and re-enrolled in Detroit Public Schools with many parents being unsatisfied with the education their children were receiving in the EAA. These events would signal failure in the mind of informed individuals, yet Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Education continue to plan and promote the expansion of this failed educational experiment by adding additional schools.

At some point, the citizens of Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan area must ask why? Why have the governor and certain special interest groups continued to promote an educational system that countless studies have found underperforms the public schools system?

The answer to these questions are insignificant when juxtaposed with the reality that

Detroit children are worse off educationally than they were 14 years ago and now other children are in imminent danger with the proposed expansion of the EAA. Educators know that it takes three to five years for a child to recover from one year of bad education; unfortunately, Detroit children in the EAA have two years of bad education to overcome.

Educators know the key to achievement is not in large but small class sizes, they know that before you can educate a child the total needs of the child must be addressed i.e. poverty, hunger and health. When a school district is in crisis, educators know that it is not the time to put inexperienced teachers in place, but for experienced teachers and proven educational strategies to be implemented. These concerns bring into question as to whether trained educators are involved at all in the decisions of the EAA.

The governor and the Michigan Department of Education have failed to educated Detroit children and have no proof of academic achievement that would suggest that the EAA has fulfilled the purpose for which it was designed and is in any way ready to be expanded. It is the responsibility of every educator, legislator, parent, and concerned citizen to call for the EAA to be abolished because it has failed! This is a time for citizens to put self-interest aside come together and demand that children be educated and not subjugated to conditions that author Jonathan Kozol referred to in his book “Shame of a Nation.” If the EAA is not abolished, it will soon be referred to as the shame of Michigan.

Rev. Jeffery D. Robinson, Ph.D. is pastor of Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, 4741 Iroquois Detroit.

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