Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Illiterate Braggart to Take Over 15 Detroit Public Schools

Yes, I realize this is a rather bombastic headline, but it was hard to resist. Consider the following public statement by John Covington, Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, the agency that will be taking over 15 low performing Detroit Public Schools. In response to the agency’s plan to lengthen the school year he was quoted in the Detroit News saying:

"I don't know if people understand the magnitude of what just happened. . . This 210 days for students, it puts us at the highest in the nation, only second to Massachusetts."

Disregarding his inarticulate sentence structure and poor math skills, the fact remains that six DPS high schools and nine elementary-middle schools will be taken over by the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), created by Gov. Rick Snyder improve the state's failing schools.

The EAA was given the authority to lengthen the school year for students at its schools, from the current 170 days to 210 starting next fall. Students will have 52- to 54-day quarters and shorter breaks for the holidays.

The new rules will affect approximately 12,000 students at schools chosen because of their high percentages of at-risk children.

Covington reassured angry parents that they will be allowed to keep their kids at the affected schools or transfer to another DPS school, while students from other district schools will be permitted to enroll in the EAA schools. However, parents are unlikely to transfer their kids to a school branded as low performing unless they are already at a low performing school and want the extra days of taxpayer subsidized babysitting.

On the other hand, parents of children at the affected schools might have the right to transfer their children, but lack the means. For one, they will be expected to fill out additional paper work and jump through extra hoops, something that lower income parents are often unable to do because of their busy work schedules, difficulties communicating in English or because they lack the experience to navigate the bureaucracy confidently and effectively. Furthermore, their children could get placed at a school that is inconveniently located, preventing them from getting their children to and from school.

The Beatings Will Continue Until You Master the Content
In addition to taking away much of their vacation time and increasing the number of hours they are in the classroom, the EAA will no longer place students in classrooms with their peers. Instead, students will be placed in classrooms based on their instructional level. Thus, a child who is reading at the second grade level would be in a classroom with other students at this reading level, regardless of their age. 

The Teacher Beatings Will Continue, Too
It seems like the entire staffs at the affected schools will be fired, as Covington plans to hire roughly 600 new teachers, including 200 from Teach for America (TFA), a move that ought to make everyone suspicious of the true motives of this “reform.” If the goal is to help struggling students, then the solutions should be to hire experienced teachers with demonstrated skill and staying power. TFA teachers have virtually no training, poorer outcomes with their students, and a notoriously high attrition rates.

The plan to take over these schools and hire new teachers seems to actually be about union busting. TFA teachers, being young and inexperienced, tend to be more malleable and compliant than experienced unionized teachers, making them very appealing to administrators who want to push through unpopular reforms and squeeze more work from their employees. However, the new plan does not guarantee that EAA teachers will be covered by the collective bargaining agreement between DPS and the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), even though the schools were covered by the contract prior to the takeover.

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