More Concerns Surface Over the EAA’s Past Experience

While the EAA has only been in existence in Michigan since October 1st (in terms of being accountable for the education of students), there is history of these same people using the same model in Kansas City.  The experience is shocking in how much worse student performance became, once these same folks were put in charge in Kansas City.  Perhaps this explains the language in the bill that removes any testing requirements – this way no one will know how severely they are failing our students.  But that’s ‘progress’, according to this legislative body.  We should trust them that they know what they’re doing and help them lay a path to take over schools state-wide, while systematically getting rid of local governance for all affected areas.

On November 19th, Maiyoua Vang (Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Michigan – Dearborn) gave testimony that she has given me permission to share on my blog.  Maiyoua is also helping to organize those in education that are concerned about the Governor’s current education reform efforts, which we are actively participating in.

Her testimony opens with:

“I speak today as a citizen who is very much concerned about the “learning platform” promoted by Dr. John Covington and which is currently in use in the 15 buildings delivered to the “Educational Achievement Authority” or EAA. I am alarmed that under HB 6004, not only will Detroit’s children continue to be subjected to this untested learning platform, but more children throughout the state as well will be subjected to this yet unproven intervention product.

As a researcher, what speaks to me is data, and I would like to share some data with you now. At the start of Dr. Covington’s second year as Superintendent of the Kansas City Missouri School District (academic year 2010-2011), he assigned a total of five elementary schools to pilot a new “Standards-based learning” product. This “standardsbased” learning product was eventually rebranded to the now familiar “Student-Centered Learning” platform or SCL. The plan was to pilot this “Student-Centered Learning” or SCL platform in a few select elementary schools, evaluate the results, and then roll out the implementation in another five elementary schools the following year.

What I’m going to share with you now are the before and after results of Dr. Covington’s SCL platform in Kansas City. According to state accountability test data from the Missouri Assessment Program or MAP, the first year’s results of Dr. Covington’s SCL initiative was mixed at best and disturbing at worst. To illustrate, here is the breakdown of third grade performance on Missouri’s state accountability test for Primitivo Garcia Elementary, the “Model School” that Dr. Covington used to showcase SCL implementation in the district. The first graph shows 2010 performance data for the Communication Arts (i.e., Language Arts) before the implementation of SCL. The second graph shows 2011 performance data for Communication Arts after the implementation of SCL. All data is publicly accessible from the Missouri Department of Education website.

We see that after SCL was implemented in this model school (Figure 2, second graph), the percentage of students scoring at both the advanced and proficient levels declined noticeably. Moreover, the percentage of students scoring in the lowest performance band, Below Basic, more than doubled.

As the following figures show, this backtracking also occurred in math, where after SCL implementation, 3rd Grade Math performance in the “advanced” performance band dropped dramatically from 12.3% to 0%. The percentage of students scoring “proficient” also dropped while the percentage of students performing in the “below basic” band more than doubled, from 8.8% to 19.8%. It appears that 3rd grade SCL implementation reduced the percentage of students scoring in the top two performance bands (proficient and advanced) at Primitivo Garcia School, increased slightly the percentage in the basic band, and more than doubled the percentage of students captured in the lowest band, or Below Basic.

(two tables omitted showing further poor performance)

Of the five pilot elementary schools Dr. Covington tapped for SCL rollout, two schools fared poorly (Primitivo Garcia being one), two performed modestly, and one school stayed relatively the same. The inconclusive and lackluster performance of SCL schools coupled with low test scores around the district hastened a school district press release that offered the following explanation:

The 2011 MAP [Missouri Assessment Program] scores posted by our students are lower than our 2010 results. This momentary dip in performance was not unexpected given the rapid and multifaceted changes the district has initiated…We’re neither pleased nor satisfied with the results…(Kansas City Missouri School District Press Release, August 4, 2011)

The press release goes on to cite the 2010-2011 launch of the pilot SCL schools, giving the rationale that these schools do not focus on “simply teaching to the test…” Even with the inconclusive data, five more elementary schools were scheduled to launch SCL in the 2011-2012 school year, but after Dr. Covington abruptly vacated his post as Kansas City Missouri Schools’ chief in late August of 2011, the district scrapped the SCL initiative and there were no plans to follow-up with test data.

For those reasons, I cannot emphasize enough my objection over launching an educational product, SCL, to be used on our most vulnerable of students in a proposed statewide school detention district. This intervention product was piloted, and very unscientifically, in a total of five elementary schools with dubious results. Furthermore, there were no middle schools or high schools included. There were no randomized trials, no longitudinal data, and thus no trend lines to scrutinize. We have but a year’s worth of data on five elementary schools that is scientifically inconclusive, and yet we are ready to launch this statewide for our lowest 5% of schools under HB 6004. Based on what little data is available of this SCL design, it is my contention that this intervention product, the cornerstone of the EAA curriculum, is unproven and again fails to merit statewide implementation with our most needy of schools. It is imperative that we avoid the kind of haphazard decision-making and unstable leadership that led to Dr. Covington’s former district, Kansas City, being stripped of its state accreditation following his abrupt departure, as reported by the New York Times (Sulzeberger, September 20, 2011)…..”

Maiyoua Vang’s testimony highlights past performance that should concern us all.  What is more concerning is how much further the Governor is willing to take this: no testing, no piloting, broad rights and a path to take over school districts state-wide.  We will never know how poorly our children are doing under the very same Dr. Covington’s leadership, as he will be accountable to no one but the Governor.  He will also not have any testing to show concerns.  But he will have the ability to quickly take over more and more districts in a Hotel California style: districts can be ‘acquired’ by the EAA, but they can never leave.

HB 6004 is dangerous for all of our students and education, generally, in Michigan.

3 thoughts on “More Concerns Surface Over the EAA’s Past Experience”

  1. One problem that dogs this whole endeavor is how the Governor views his role in the EAA. He keeps himself as the ultimate watchdog to this attempt, and we should trust him to make sure that all the concerns and problems will be pragmatically handled by him in a timely, if quiet manner. As much as I truly believe he intends to do so, it’s a very risky undertaking of children who don’t need risk, they need nuturing. Full transparency and much accountability needs to be built into any innovation in education.

  2. I’m sorry to say this but, I really don’t see much difference in the charts than what I have seen in my daughters MEAP scores since the changing of how they used to be scored to how they are currently scored. My daughter had always scored profecient to advanced and now scores basic to not profecient. That testimony did not seem to mention if the testing criteria had changed, I wonder if that was purposely omitted?. I honestly think our school districts need new leadership, i dont understand how vacant elementary schools that were once paid for by our tax dollars are benefitting the districts, Why not allow them to be used for private schools? Is there a fear of lost students to the districts? there should be. My district currently does not offer any preschool that is not income based or for a fee. It offers a four hour per week program split into 2 days that costs $220 to $250 per month. We have teachers that should have been gone long ago still there because of tenyure. I am considering allowing my middle school student to do online classes just because I am fed up with the whole system.

    1. The comparison is not quite apples to apples, as the State Board of Education in Michigan decided to increase the cut scores of the MEAP. This was done to align more closely with the NAEP (national equivalent of the MEAP, which districts will be moving to in 2014). We expected a decrease across the state due to this change in state policy. There was not an equivalent change in Missouri, however; making the year over year trend there a relevant one.

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