Education Achievement Authority

On today's program, we explore the idea of secret work groups crafting public policy in Lansing, and how transparent Michigan's government should be.

And we look at whether expanding the lottery to the internet is a good idea.

We'll also hear how new technology being developed here in Michigan might be able to help authorities identify potential threats in airports or in large crowds.

How do we rescue and turn around schools that are failing?

That's one of the biggest challenges concerning the education system in Michigan. Governor Snyder and many in the Legislature - especially Republicans - favor the EAA as a solution.

The education Achievement Authority is a new school system for Michigan's worst-performing public schools. Since last fall, 15 Detroit schools have been run under the EAA, changing the educational experience for nearly 10,000 students and 400 teachers.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lawmakers try to block referendum to wolf hunt

"The state Senate has approved legislation that would make a voter referendum on wolf-hunting in Michigan irrelevant – even before the question has been formally approved for the November ballot. The measure would name the wolf and 38 other animals as game species. That’s despite a looming voter challenge to a new state law that allows wolf hunting," Rick Pluta reports.

Education Achievement Authority in financial trouble, borrows $12 million from DPS

The state run school district meant to turn around the lowest performing schools has been found to borrow $12 million from Detroit Public Schools.  The Education Achievement Authority took over 15 former Detroit Public Schools this school year.

Unemployment rate down statewide

"Michigan says that the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate is down statewide and in all 17 major labor markets. The lowest rate in the March report was for Ann Arbor at 5.1 percent. The highest was for the northeastern Lower Peninsula at 13.1 percent," the Associated Press reports.

A state Representative says newly released documents are raising some serious flags about the state’s Education Achievement Authority. On today’s show: we talk with Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton about what she found out about the EAA through a FOIA request.

We check in withe Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes about recent Ford earnings reports. And Mayor Dave Bing has announced he'll run for reelection.

We also talk about the changes to arts education in Lansing public schools.

Later in the show, we speak with Art Prize founder Rick DeVos about another venture of his: Start Garden.
And finally, Ann Arbor is on the verge of a championship - a bowling championship. We hear more about tonight's game from WWII vet Mel Shannon.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Education Achievement Authority is up and running right now in 15 Detroit schools.

Michigan’s state-run “reform district” for the lowest-performing schools is already controversial.

In the eyes of Governor Snyder and its champions, the EAA is the best way to assure that schools don’t linger in failure for years on end.

In the eyes of critics, it’s already a failed experiment that threatens the very heart of public education in Michigan.

Ellen Cogen Lipton is a patent attorney who was born in Philadelphia, grew up in Alabama, and ended up in Michigan 20 years ago, after marrying a fellow law student from Southfield.

But she also comes from a family of educators, was a chemistry teacher herself, and has two kids in public schools in suburban Detroit. That’s a fairly interesting biography to begin with, but there’s more. She is also completing her third term in the state legislature.

Lipton wasn’t very political, until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and felt it was urgent that Michigan approve a constitutional amendment allowing embryonic stem cell research.

Five years ago she won that battle, and got herself elected to the legislature that same year. Learning is important to her, and she knows that the Detroit Public Schools have not been doing the job.

You might think then that she’d be supportive of the experiment Governor Rick Snyder launched to try to fix our lowest-performing schools, the Educational Achievement Authority, known as the EAA.

If there’s a school near you that’s been deemed “persistently low-achieving,” it could soon come under the control of a new regime.

Governor Snyder is leading a controversial effort to create a statewide district for those struggling schools. Right now, that district—formally known as the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA--is doing a kind of pilot year in Detroit.

How well is that working out?  The answer to that question depends very much on who you ask.

Debate is underway in Lansing on bills that would expand on an educational experiment now underway in Detroit.

It's called the Education Achievement Authority, and its aim is to turn the lowest-performing schools—with changes like a longer school year, and more online learning.

In this first of a three-part series, Michigan Radio takes a look at the Education Achievement Authority - which could be coming soon to a school near you.

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

Lawmakers in the state House have approved an expansion of a state-run authority to run struggling schools.      

The Education Achievement Authority already oversees 15 schools in Detroit.  Under the measure, the EAA would be able to take over schools with state test scores persistently in the bottom five percent.

It could oversee up to 50 schools at a time. 

Opponents of the expansion say the EAA has not been proven to work in Detroit. They say it would strip control from parents and communities.

The Education Achievement Authority says new data show students in that school district are making progress.

The EAA is a state-run district for the lowest-performing schools. It launched just this school year with 15 former Detroit public schools.

The district gave all students a Scantron Performance Series benchmark test at the start of the year, to establish baseline skill levels. Students in grades 2-9 were just tested again in late January and early February.

Results show that 27% of students have made what the district counts as one year’s worth of progress in just a few months. 22% have made the same level of progress in math.

Overall, the district says 48% of students are “on track” to achieve at least that much progress in reading, and 43% in math, by the end of the school year.

EAA Chancellor John Covington says in the district’s eyes, those numbers equal success.

“It takes time for all of us to learn this new way of doing things,” Covington said. “And so with that being true, we were thinking at least 50% [making grade-level progress] in the first year. And we’re getting pretty close to that.”

Covington says these results show the EAA computer-based curriculum of “student-centered learning”-- based on “meeting students where they are" at “instructional levels” rather than typical grades--can help even the lowest-performing students improve.

This is the first real batch of data to come out of the EAA.

MEAP tests for grades K-9, administered last fall, showed “minimal proficiency levels,” Covington said. High school students won’t be tested until March.

The state’s attempt to create a “recovery district” for Michigan’s lowest-performing has been controversial for various reasons.

Many are leery of the idea of the state seizing locally-controlled schools—especially Detroit Public Schools, which have a troubled history of state intervention.

The district isn’t currently operating under state law, but rather an interlocal agreement between the Detroit Public Schools and Eastern Michigan University.

Governor Snyder says codifying the district into state law—and expanding its reach statewide—is one of his priorities for this legislative term. An effort to do so in last year’s lame duck session failed.

flickr user Motown31 /

Governor Rick Snyder says expanding a state-run district for struggling schools is one of his top priorities for 2013.         

The Education Achievement Authority is designed to turn around schools with persistently low student test scores. Right now, the authority oversees 15 public schools in Detroit.      

Snyder wants to expand the district across the state. The EAA would be able to take over schools that fall in the bottom 5 percent.

Bills to expand the system did not move in the final weeks of the legislative session.        

Snyder says more lawmakers would come around to the idea if they saw the state-run schools firsthand.          

The EAA has been operating for just four months. Opponents of the expansion say it’s too early to tell if the system is working.

Michigan's education overhaul: What does 'college-ready' really mean?

Dec 14, 2012
MI SHPO / flickr

On Wednesday, we heard Gov. Rick Snyder's chief education advisor say this:

"We have over 230 schools where zero children were college-ready when they got their high school diplomas," Richard McLellan.

McLellan was talking to Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra who reported on proposed changes to Michigan’s education system.

EAA schools miss out on Race to the Top award

Dec 12, 2012
user BES Photos / Flickr

Michigan's new statewide district for low-performing schools was not a winner in a national competition to share a $400 million prize. 

The  Education Achievement Authority was launched just this year in an effort to turn around 15 of the state's lowest-performing schools -- all of them in Detroit.  

So it came as a surprise to Sandra York when the EAA was named a finalist in the federal government's  Race to the Top competition.

York is executive director of the Michigan PTA.

Jake Neher / MPRN

State lawmakers are mulling over a number of bills that would overhaul public education in Michigan.

One measure would expand a new state-run district meant to turn-around schools with test scores in the bottom five-percent.

The idea has many public school officials pitted against each other.

Schools like Detroit's Denby High school are at the center of the debate.

Last year, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the Detroit Public Schools system. Now, it’s one of 15 Detroit schools the state oversees through its Education Achievement Authority.

Michigan PTSA /

For the first time, Michigan could get a piece of President Obama’s Race to the Top prize money for education.

But not everyone’s celebrating.

The Education Achievement Authority was the only Michigan district to qualify as a Race to the Top finalist.

The new authority runs 15 of Michigan’s lowest performing schools in Detroit, but legislation at the state Capitol would expand the district statewide and cement it into law.

More than 100 Parent Teacher Association administrators, teachers and parents signed a letter this week asking Mr. Obama to reconsider his choice.

(courtesy of KQED)

The Education Achievement Authority (EAA), Michigan’s new reform school district, has been selected as the state’s only finalist in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competition.

The EAA is one of 61 finalists nationwide, competing for close to $400 million in federal funds.

Tyrone Winfrey is the Chief of Staff for the EAA. He says he's optimistic about snagging the funds.

"I think we were chosen because it's not a one-size-fits-all model," he said, "and it's basically educating students where they are, individually, within those classrooms."

If awarded the top prize, $40 million, Winfrey says his district would fund professional development and leadership training for the schools' staff members in order to better prepare students for jobs and college.

The awards are meant to support locally developed plans to personalize student learning, prepare college-ready students, and close achievement gaps.

From the Department of Education:

“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

“This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts, but no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists.”

The EAA was instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state.

It began this school year with 15 Detroit schools and is expected to expand statewide. New legislation would cement the reform district into state law.

It's part of an education overhaul being promoted by Governor Snyder.

Opponents call the new district “impersonal,” saying it would erode local control of schools districts.

The Department of Education will select 15 to 25 districts for four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Award winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

- Jordan Wyant and Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sorting out Michigan's proposed education overhaul

Nov 21, 2012
James F Clay / flickr

In recent days there has been much made of a proposed overhaul to Michigan’s education system.

The overhaul consists of three parts:

  • two bills currently working their way through the state House and Senate,
  • and one draft of a bill that has yet to be introduced.

The bills are part of a package devised in part by Governor Rick Snyder’s education advisor Richard McLellan in an attempt to achieve the Governor’s goal of providing an “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model.

flickr user Motown31 /

Last night, the Detroit Board of Education voted to break their contract and pull out of the Education Achievement Authority.

The Board’s decision will greatly affect the EAA, whose initial goal was to provide educational care to struggling schools throughout Michigan.

Don Heller, Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, insists the Detroit Schools’ exit will greatly disrupt the EAA.

“If the Detroit Public Schools pull out of the EAA it will be a major blow,” said Heller.

Michelle Richard, who specializes in Educational Policy at Public Sector Consultants, echoed Heller’s remarks.

“My biggest concern is in the short-term and in lending legitimacy to the EAA’s effort, this just causes more confusion. The legislature is currently looking at codifying the EAA and are looking at how they could continue to expand this effort state-wide,” said Richard.

Listen to the audio above or to our podcast to hear more about the state of the EAA.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

A statewide reform school district could become the largest in Michigan over the next five years.

The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA)—the district instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state—may add as many as 45 schools reports Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press.

From the Free Press:

A Wayne County judge ruled Tuesday that the Education Achievement Authority can launch as scheduled.

That statewide district for the lowest-achieving schools is set to open with 15 former Detroit Public schools next month. The elected Detroit school board had voted to reverse that decision.

School districts with emergency managers have been plunged into uncertainty, now that the state’s emergency manager law has been suspended.

In Detroit, the Michigan Attorney General is suing to make sure the elected school board doesn’t take power back there.

Detroit’s elected school board went from having very little power, to no power whatsoever when the state broadened the powers of emergency managers under Public Act 4.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week parents and educators have one last chance to weigh in on the state’s plans for the new Michigan Education Achievement Authority.

The authority is a new school system that’ll try to help turn around the state’s lowest performing schools. Roughly 100 public schools across the state make that list. The system starts in Detroit Public Schools next fall.

The new statewide school system for the lowest-performing 5% of Michigan schools faces growing criticism over transparency.

The Education Achievement Authority will formally start with a few Detroit schools in 2012. That means the district doesn’t have any students or any money yet—except for private donations.