May 11, 2013

Michigan's Education Assistance Authority

In 2012 the state of Michigan formed the Education Assistance Authority to take over the operation of schools that were in the lowest 5 percentile regarding student achievement. They are presently operating 15 schools in Detroit and potentially will be operating another 40-50 schools in Michigan over the next few years. Below are some observations.
  1. It is too early to expand the EAA beyond the existing 15 schools. A track record needs to be established before doing so. For the sake of the children, time is of the essence and hopefully an informed decision can be made over the next 12 to 24 months.
  2. Some individuals are calling the EAA a failed experiment. It is an experiment in progress and the old way was not working. The status quo always resist change. It makes sense to seek a better alternative.
  3. The concept of John Covington, Chancellor of the EAA is "to implement the education platform where we use time as the variable, learning is the constant...." is a good one. At the end of the day, it is what you learned, not how long it took to learn, that is important. 
  4. That same concept should be applied to improving our school system to meet the needs of our young citizens. We should not rush to judgement.
  5. Disclosure is important so citizens become comfortable with what is being done. State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton request for information is not unreasonable. Here is her website with the documents she received from the EAA so far.
  6. Group decision making and critical thinking skills are difficult to teach with a computer program. The EAA needs to further develop and implement a plan to instill these skills in the children.
The Governor is doing what he believes to be in the best interest of the state and its citizens. Sometimes the nerd lacks tact. He needs to understand that democracy works slowly, but so far no one has been able to come up with a better alternative to replace it.

Critics claim the system does not work and the state of Michigan is averting the standard democratic method of establishing and operating a public school. Further, its opponents claim that the EAA is circumventing the rights of teachers to belong to a union and participate in collective bargaining.

“The idea is put it in place, and then let’s begin a process of carefully constructing the EAA over time to give these kids a chance,” insists Governor Snyder’s chief strategist Bill Rustem. They argue that any start-up needs time to succeed. It is also true that many start-ups fail and in this case we are dealing with our children's future. Keep the experiment small and get it right before opening it up to the entire state.

Mr. Rustem indicated the state has the ultimate responsibility to educate students. He maintains that locally-controlled schools are given lots of time and options to turn things around before they will be moved into the EAA.

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