Education Achievement System

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

You don't have to hunt too far to find critics of our schools, of the way our children are learning, what they're learning and the achievement gap within our classrooms.

There are countless ways, countless statistics that try to measure the problems. Here's just one, centered on the achievement gap. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on 2007 standardized math exams, white fourth-graders performed better than black fourth-graders in all 46 states where results are available.

And we hear a steady drumbeat of criticism that students here in the U.S. are lagging behind their peers in other countries. When you look at standardized tests, American students rank 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, which puts them behind students in Poland and Slovenia.

How much pressure should we put on individual teachers to fix these problems?

Natalie Davis, Alistair Bomphray, and Martha Curren-Preis are teachers who are all earning their Ph.D.s in education at the University of Michigan. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

Monday was the last day for parents of Detroit Public Schools students to pick schools for their children.

The district has a citywide open enrollment policy this year.

Parents who want to send their kids to schools outside their neighborhood can rank their preferred schools. The district takes that into consideration when placing kids.

Sonya Smith, a DPS parent who also works at the Parent Resource Center at Osborn High School, says the district has made the whole process easier for parents this year.

user jdurham / morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan students over the past decade have fallen far behind their peers in other states when it comes to math and reading.

The "What Our Students Deserve" report by the nonprofit Education Trust-Midwest compares National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth graders around the country.

According to the report, Michigan now ranks near the bottom in most subjects and grades.

Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, says Michigan students have been stuck in the same place for the past decade, while students in other states have been improving.

She says it's like a marathon, where She likens it to a marathon:

"We can see the other runners in this race, they’re all going much faster and much farther than our kids are."

Michigan's African American students ranked last in 4th grade reading among the 45 states reporting in 2011.

But Arellano says it’s not just low-income, urban or minority children who are struggling. White students in Michigan ranked 13th in the country for 4th grade math in 2003. Last year, they were 45th in the country.

Leaders of a new statewide school district are looking for citizen input.

The Education Achievement System (EAS) is Governor’s Snyder’s plan to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools. The EAS held input sessions in Detroit and Kalamazoo Monday.

Plans for the EAS have been sketchy so far. It’s set to launch in 2012 with an unspecified number of Detroit Public Schools.

user Woodley Wonderworks / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The chancellor of Michigan's new Education Achievement Authority says his office has posted nine leadership positions that need to be filled before the start of the 2012-13 academic year.

John Covington met Tuesday with the authority's executive committee to review what he has done since taking the job last month.

The authority will oversee Michigan's Education Achievement System, announced in June by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The system will include the bottom 5 percent of public schools in Detroit. A few dozen Detroit Public Schools are expected to fall under the new system. It will expand statewide the following year.

Covington says his leadership team will include a deputy chancellor for Instructional Support and Educational Accountability, a deputy for Business and Fiscal affairs and a chief officer for Human Capital.

The board that will run the statewide district for Michigan’s lowest-performing schools met for the first time in Detroit Thursday.

Governor Snyder says the Education Achievement System will eventually take on the bottom 5% of schools across the state, starting in Detroit in 2012.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts is also heading the EAS. That’s a concern for some, including Detroit Federation of Teachers Vice President Mark O’Keefe.

Woodley Wonderworks / Flickr

Governor Snyder has announced the appointment of 11 people to the board of the new Education Achievement System. Back in June, Snyder announced the creation of the EAS which will take over and run Michigan’s lowest performing schools, beginning in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

Two members were appointed by the Detroit Public Schools, two by Eastern Michigan University and seven by the governor.

The Detroit school appointees are emergency financial manager, Roy Roberts and Detroit Parents Network director Sharlotta Buckman.

The Eastern Michigan appointees are American Electric Power chief Mike Morris and university regent Jim Stapleton.

The gubernatorial appointees are Detroit Medical Center chief Mike Duggan, Skillman Foundation chief Carol Goss, the Rev. Joseph Jordan of Hamtramck's Corinthian Baptist Church, Meijer president Mark Murray, VITEC chief William Pickard, New Detroit chief Shirley Stancato and Lansing Community College associate vice president Judith Berry.

The Education Achievement System will begin in the 2012-2013 school year.

flickr / iboy_daniel

Governor Rick Snyder outlined a plan to try to turn around the lowest performing schools in the state.

The Education Achievement System would start in the 2012-2013 school year with the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School System and would eventually spread out to underperforming schools across the state.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the potential pitfalls and benefits of the EAS plan. Watkins  is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

You can hear the interview here:

What is perhaps most remarkable about Governor Rick Snyder’s dramatic plan to save the state’s failing schools is that it has sparked essentially no opposition. Though it is being talked about primarily in terms of Detroit, the new Educational Achievement System is eventually meant to be extended statewide.

Here’s how the governor says it will work. Those individual Detroit schools among the lowest-achieving five percent in the state will have the coming year to clean up their act. If they haven’t shown drastic improvement by next June, they will no longer be governed by the Detroit Public School system.

Instead, they will move to a new authority, the Educational Achievement System, which will be run by what sounds like a state school board. It will be chaired, at least for now, by Roy Roberts, the Detroit Public Schools’ Emergency Financial Manager, and consist of eleven members. Seven will be appointed by the governor, two by the Detroit schools and two by Eastern Michigan University.

Eastern, which was originally a teachers’ college, will be heavily involved in both running the new authority, and in helping these failing skills get up to speed. It is suspected that some of them struggled in part because of difficulties dealing with the notorious and often corrupt or incompetent Detroit school bureaucracy.

Supposedly, the new Educational Achievement System won’t just replace one set of officials with another; it should give individual schools and teachers and principals more freedom to figure out and solve their own educational problems, using whatever works.

Within a few years, the plan is to extend the authority’s reach to other failing public schools around the state. Now, there are a lot of questions for which we apparently don’t yet have answers.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says the state will take a dramatically new to approach to its worst schools--starting in Detroit.

Years of turmoil and power struggles over the Detroit Public Schools have left a polarizing legacy in the city. That history has left many Detroiters absorbing Snyder’s plan with a cautious sense of déjà vu.

Eastern Michigan University has been picked to oversee the lowest performing schools in the state.

The “Education Achievement System” will assist the lowest 5 percent of performing schools in Michigan. The new statewide school district will start in Detroit and eventually expand across the state. 

Jeoff Larcom is with EMU. He says Governor Snyder chose EMU because of its strong education program and proximity to Detroit.