EAA

Opened in the fall of 2012, the idea was to create a bold new kind of school district that was run by the state and less restricted by administrative red tape, in order to do some radical turn-around work in some of Michigan’s worst schools.

The Education Achievement Authority district was envisioned as a kind of proving ground that could model education solutions that would later be repeated at troubled schools around the state.

But some critics saw it as a state takeover of local public schools, even though Detroit Public Schools weren’t doing a good job, either.

The initial legislation to create this kind of state-run turnaround district was passed under former Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, but critics say it’s an inroad for Republicans who want to privatize schools and erode unions.

Despite promises that the district would eventually pull up low-performing schools around the state, the 15 schools actually selected for the EAA are all in Detroit, leading to criticism that poor black kids were now going to be guinea pigs.

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The Education Achievement Authority has a permanent new leader. Some six months after being appointed interim chancellor, Veronica Conforme has been named to that permanent position. What has she seen in these first months, and what are her goals for the district?

*Listen to our conversation with Conforme below

Today on Stateside:

  • The EAA announces Veronica Conforme as its new chancellor after she spent six months as the district's interim chancellor. Conforme discusses what the EAA has done so far and what progress she hopes to make.
  • Legendary TV anchor Bill Bonds died this past Saturday at the age of 82. Dick Kernen of the Specs Howard School of Media Arts who had previously worked with Bonds briefly discusses his life and impact on broadcasting.
  • Is Michigan doing enough for its young entrepreneurs? Jeff DeGraff is here to talk about his thoughts on what Michigan can and should do to encourage economic growth and development through nurturing young entrepreneurs.
  • The border between Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park offers an eye-opening lesson in racial and economic disparity. Reporter Bill McGraw has written about the farmer’s market sheds in the middle of Kercheval at the Detroit border and what their construction says about the relationship between the two cities.
  • A new bar has opened up in Ann Arbor. The Brillig Dry Bar doesn’t serve alcohol. Its creator, Nic Sims, discusses why she decided to open a dry bar and the response she has received so far. You can visit the website here.
Jake Neher / MPRN

What is the Education Achievement Authority?

Opened in the fall of 2012, the idea was to create a bold new kind of school district that was run by the state and less restricted by administrative red tape, in order to do some radical turn-around work in some of Michigan’s worst schools.

user krossbow / Flickr

It's not every EMU Regents meeting that ends with students and community members staging "die-ins" and screaming "Black lives matter! The EAA is killing me!" as the college president leans over them, asking them to calm down and get up off the floor. 

But that's what happened Friday. 

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Michigan's Education Achievement Authority, formed in 2011, was created to help failing schools. It currently operates 15 schools in Detroit.

EAA Chancellor John Covington stepped down with one year left on his contract. What does this mean for the EAA and the students in its 15 schools?

Bridge Magazine education writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey covers the EAA extensively. She said there had been talk for months that Covington was going to resign.

Veronica Conforme was named the interim replacement. She’s from New York City, where she was Chief Operating Officer for New York City public schools. Pratt said it's unclear if they are going to keep Conforme at the helm or if they are going to hire someone new.

Pratt added that the EAA had to do damage control in the media and let everyone know that they are trying to do better.

“There were some misgivings about [Covington's] leadership and whether or not the EAA was going in the right direction,” Pratt said.

Pratt added that the EAA had problems since it was put together hastily in 2011. In its first year, it was supposed to be funded by donations, which has not been done for any school in the United States.

“The first year, the donations did not come in as expected. They get the kids the second year of operations, they don’t get the Title I money that they think they are going to get,” Pratt said.

The EAA had to borrow money, using the Detroit Public Schools as a conduit. They started to lose students. MEAP scores were lower than promised. Their online individualized education plan did not see the success people thought it would. State legislators even complained about a lack of transparency in the system, and that Covington had a lucrative contract.

Pratt said that the EAA needs to turn around their academics. Parents and teachers are saying they want results, not excuses.

“Do something, make it happen. Otherwise, what was the point?” Pratt said. 

*Listen to full interview above.

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

via Education Achievement Authority

The Education Achievement Authority’s new leader says that system has already “shattered the status quo” in some of Michigan’s most troubled schools.

But Veronica Conforme says EAA leaders also need to “take a hard look” at how the district is performing.

Conforme outlined her vision for the state-run school reform district Wednesday, one day after the EAA board named her interim chancellor.

Former Chancellor John Covington, who had led the district since it launched in 2012, stepped down Monday.

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the latest in the same-sex marriage debate, roads funding, whether Democrats can overturn the abortion insurance law, and a new controversy with the Education Achievement Authority.

via Education Achievement Authority

It’s only Wednesday, but it’s already been a very turbulent week for the Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA board met Tuesday, the day after former Chancellor John Covington announced he was resigning for personal reasons. Covington was not in attendance as board members accepted his resignation.

The EAA is a state-led “reform district” for Michigan’s lowest-performing schools.

It’s Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief education initiative, and Covington has been at the helm since it launched in 2012 with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

To the surprise of no one, John Covington resigned abruptly yesterday, with a year left on his expensive contract. He was the controversial head of Detroit’s controversial Education Achievement Authority, usually known as the EAA.

Both Covington and Gov. Rick Snyder insisted he wasn’t fired. This was clearly for appearances sake, and for appearances’ sake, both men are probably lucky they are not Pinocchio.

For the last year, there has been a steady stream of stories about problems with the authority, which was set up to run 15 of Detroit’s worst schools. Most recently, we learned that it has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, sending administrators and teachers to a lot of expensive conferences.

The Detroit News revealed the authority spent $10,000 on gas for Covington’s chauffeur-driven car, money that could have been spent on teachers, computers and the classroom. So he is gone, and the people I know there won’t miss him.

But this has more importance than the usual story of one free-spending administrator running amok. And that is because Gov. Snyder wants to expand the EAA to at least 50 schools statewide. A bill that would allow that has passed the state House of Representatives, but hasn’t yet made it through the Senate. It should now be clear that they need to go slow.

Three years ago, when I first heard about Governor Rick Snyder’s plans to create a special district for Detroit’s failing schools, I was enthusiastic.

I knew Detroit’s schools were a mess. I knew that the bureaucracy, the teacher’s union, and obstinate refusal to change were all part of the problem.

Something different was worth a try.

And so they invented and chartered the Education Achievement Authority, and gave it 15 of Detroit’s worst schools. The experiment began two years ago.

Nobody really expected miracles. At least nobody should have. These were schools with terrible records, and students with terribly disadvantaged backgrounds.

Since then, there have been possibly some small signs of improvement, at least as measured by test scores. Governor Snyder now wants to expand the EAA statewide. The state House of Representatives has passed legislation to do just that. The proposal is before the state Senate.

But it is clear that expanding the EAA now would be a colossal mistake.

The EAA is a total failure in terms of administration, honesty, transparency and staying within a budget.

Its chancellor, John Covington, probably needs to be fired immediately.

An investigation published in today’s Detroit News confirms rumors I’ve been hearing for a year.

Covington, who is driven around by a chauffeur in a special vehicle, charged nearly a quarter of a million dollars on district credit cards, largely so that he and his staff could jet around the country to a series of pricey conferences.

David Schott / Flickr

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he hopes there will be a final vote this week on a bill to expand the state’s controversial Education Achievement Authority.

That’s the state-run authority meant to turn around some of Michigan’s lowest-performing schools. Right now, the EAA runs 15 schools in Detroit. The bill would pave the way for it to expand up to 50 schools statewide.

Michigan Public Radio Network’s Lansing reporter Jake Neher joined us to talk about the EAA.

Listen to the full interview above.

kconnors / morguefile

  A vote is expected on a final version of a bill that would expand the Education Achievement Authority into a statewide district. 

The EAA was created by the Snyder administration to initially oversee the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School system where it currently oversees 15 schools. Supporters say the EAA will give troubled schools the opportunity to turn things around, but critics say the EAA hasn’t proved that its model for education is a successful one. 

Brian Smith, the statewide education reporter for MLIVE.com joined us today. 

Thetoad / Flickr

The state House has approved a measure to expand the controversial Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is the agency that is supposed to turn around some of the state’s most struggling school districts.

A final version of the bill could be voted on as early as this week by the state Senate and sent to Gov. Snyder for his signature.

The legislation passed the House last week by just one more vote than was needed.

Critics of the EAA, mostly Democrats, say student test results don’t support putting more schools into the authority.

Supporters, mainly Republican, say the legislation allows for more tools to be used to turn around failing schools.

Kathy Gray has been covering the EAA for the Detroit Free Press, and she joined us today.

Listen to the interview above.

There aren’t many who are neutral about the EAA, or Education Achievement Authority. That’s the entity formed to improve Detroit’s worst public schools.

For some, this experiment is an abject failure. Last year, through dogged persistence, State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, turned up lots of disturbing information about the EAA.

That includes news that the authority borrowed millions of dollars from the cash-strapped Detroit school district, loans the authority then seemed determined to hide. Today, Lipton, a former teacher, calls the EAA “education deform.”

There have been revelations that at least one-quarter of the kids in EAA schools have left. There have been wildly conflicting reports as to the learning atmosphere in the 15 EAA schools, as well as whether kids in them are making better progress.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

The state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

State School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options that the State might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

The Michigan Department of Education will end its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee some of the state's lowest-performing schools.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has sent a letter to the EAA notifying it that the contract will be terminated a year from now.

The MDE says it still intends to use the EAA to turn around struggling schools. It says ending the contract will simply open up more options to other entities that can oversee the schools.

The EAA currently runs 15 schools in Detroit. 

Martin Ackley is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education.

"There are situations where a struggling school may be better served by a neighboring school district or the local intermediate school district as opposed to the EAA."

Ackley says the state still intends to use the EAA to help oversee struggling schools. He says ending the contract will simply give state education officials more options.

"Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of alack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most struggling schools."

Critics of the EAA say it's struggling with declining enrollment, finances, and school safety. Lawmakers are considering legislation that would bolster the authority and allow it to expand it statewide. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Despite a renewed push, expansion of a state turnaround entity for failing public schools beyond Detroit remains in trouble in the Legislature.

Some majority Republicans say it's too early to know whether the 15-school Education Achievement Authority is working.

Others contend a version of legislation floated this week doesn't guarantee a role for local intermediate school districts to run the worst schools instead. Critics also say there's no promise schools can return to their home districts once being improved.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Open enrollment events are scheduled this week at nine Education Achievement Authority schools in Detroit.

Enrollment is going on for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with welcome programs set to begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Phoenix, Burns and Nolan schools.

Parents can tour the school buildings and classrooms, and meet staff.

Events at the district's six high schools will begin at noon on Thursday.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the state of child well-being in Michigan, and look ahead to Governor Rick Snyder's energy plan he'll announce Thursday. They also take a look at legislation likely to be taken up in early 2014.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

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Support for teacher Brooke Harris Facebook Page

One year ago, Brooke Harris made headlines when she was fired from her teaching job in Flint for helping students create a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin.

Now, Harris is in trouble with another employer.

Earlier this month, she was fired from her teaching position at Detroit's Mumford High School. That's one of the schools under the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). It's a new state-run district that oversees the lowest-performing schools in Detroit.