Like a bad penny, the "EAA bill" keeps turning up. Fresh from their success in getting two poor pieces of policy approved by the House
Education committee (bills to require a passing bubble test score in reading to advance to 4th grade, and to rate schools with letter grades based almost entirely on state test results), the Legislative leadership is now moving to bring HB 4369 on the EAA back to life. After being bottled up in the Senate for several months, we have learned that there will be a huge push to get this bill passed into law.
The Education Achievement Authority, or EAA, is charged with taking over and "improving" struggling schools. It has been operating 15 schools formerly part of Detroit Public Schools for a year and a half. At the moment, it exists solely as a joint venture between the board of Eastern Michigan Univ. and the Emergency Manager of DPS. HB 4369 would change this and make the EAA a permanent part of state government, under the control of the Governor.
As an experiment, the EAA has been pretty disappointing. Staff
turnover has been huge. EAA schools lost almost 25% of their enrollment from last year to this. Hundreds of children who had received special education services were suddenly and suspiciously found not to need those (expensive) services. Discipline and student safety have remained hot issues. While EAA officials claim their test scores show huge growth, they use their own tests and no comparative MEAP results are available yet.
If that were not enough, the EAA's annual audit reported continued problems with their internal procedures to track spending. Analysis of documents extracted from the EAA under several FOIA requests show that EAA officials hardly
blew their noses without checking first with officials of the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, the group founded by billionaire Eli Broad to further the "corporate school reform" agenda.
Most recently, the Dean of the EMU College of Education resigned from the EAA's board just last week.
But in my mind, the most disturbing thing is the sad comment of a student at EAA's Mumford High School: "I miss having books in our classroom," he said.
But why should all Michigan parents be concerned about the EAA? After all, it's only for those "failing" schools, right?
I think there are
two important reasons.
- If you think this won't affect you, think again. Expanding the EAA is a
central part of a larger effort to undermine local public schools, as we saw one year ago in the frenetic "lame duck" session.
- Most importantly, how can any of us stand by while state takeover, untested technology-driven "teaching" methods, and a laser-like focus on test scores are forced onto anybody's children?