Do Schools Exist For Adults Or Students?
May 3, 2013
Once again, when it comes to providing the education that our children need and deserve, not merely to survive — but to THRIVE in our hyper-competitive, disruptive knowledge economy, where ideas and jobs can, and DO move around the globe effortlessly – the focus has deteriorated into adult power, control, and politics.
It was the desire to focus on TLC which prompted Gov. Rick Snyder to create the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), reconfiguring Michigan’s most dysfunctional schools that are failing students, into learning centers of excellence.
EAA Chancellor Dr. John Covington and his team are currently transforming 15 formerly under-performing Detroit schools. EAA students are now learning at their own pace using individualized educational plans rather than standardized grade-level curricula.
Covington and his team are not miracle workers. The work required to turn around a failing institution, especially one as complicated as an urban school, takes dedication, focus, talent, energy and persistence – all of which Covington and his team have in abundance.
Education reform is hard work – NOT for the faint-of-heart. Will there be challenges and setbacks along the way? Absolutely.
Yet, as FDR once said during the Great Depression, ” Do something. And if that does not work — do something else. But, for God’s sake — DO SOMETHING!”
Gov. Snyder is to be commended for doing something in addressing the needs of Detroit children who, for far too long, been trapped in failing schools. This option should be expanded to other areas in the state with historically failing schools.
Leaders from statewide traditional educational associations argue, disingenuously, that the initial round of test scores for EAA students in the fall “didn’t show the results that were expected.”
Guess what? These test results are NOT reflective of the EAA, who only had the students a few short weeks before the tests were administered. They are reflective, instead, of the failing schools from which they were rescued.
Many in the education establishment protest that the EAA is an “unproven experiment”. Yet the establishment has been experimenting and failing kids for much longer. They are correct in asserting there is ‘limited proof”‘ that the EAA in operation for a few short months is “successful”. Yet, Michigan has years of ‘proof’ from the schools that have failed these kids all along. Where is the protest about this?
EAA board chair and Skillman Foundation President Carol Goss is absolutely right when she says, “Real education reform takes five to seven years to show success. The first 15 DPS schools now under the auspices of the EAA have been failing students in Detroit for generations — something had to change.”
What is equally troubling is that while the educational establishment opposes the expansion of the EAA as a solution, they have not offered alternative plans.
Inaction is not a plan, and is unacceptable.
Governor Snyder spelled out his educational policy initiative in April 2011, identifying the problems he saw in our educational system and the solutions to address them: www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/SpecialMessageonEducationReform_351586_7.pdf
Two years later, House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) announced that the Michigan House Democrats have formed a task force (http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-democrats-task-force-seeks-education-reforms-that-work) that will find “real solutions for Michigan’s struggling schools”. While commendable, they need to act with a sense of urgency, as though THEIR child was trapped in these schools. While the Dems are drawing up plans our children are falling behind. Ever year adults don’t get it right children suffer.
There are a wide list of Lansing-based educational associations in Michigan. I have heard from many of these groups that they dislike what the governor is, “doing to public education”, however, I have yet to see their alternative realistic solution.
Pointing to islands of excellence in local school districts around the state even while other children are drowning in a sea of despair is not a plan.
Lawmakers are right to be taking steps to codify the EAA into state law. The bill is a top priority for Gov. Rick Snyder. The legislation has passed the House and the Senate should carefully review changes made to the original bill that water down needed reform.
For those that say the governor and legislature are “moving too fast,” ask yourself this: “If this were your child trapped in a failing school – in many cases a decade or longer – would you come to the same conclusion?”
The EAA could take over the management and educational responsibility of additional failing schools –phased in 12 at a time starting in the 2014 academic year, with the number of schools capped at 50.
The educational establishment across the state are lobbying hard to protect the status quo in the name of “local control”. Let’s be clear: This is a power struggle, more about adult control and politics than about Teaching, Learning and Children.
Out With The Old-In With The New
The EAA requires a longer school day — 7-1/2hours, an hour longer than a traditional public school. The school year is also longer — 210 days, compared with 170 days in traditional public schools.
The old system was not working for students. Without bold leadership and change, it may well sink – not only the children trapped in these schools, but the entire state.
The stakes are high. Much has been made of Michigan’s “brain drain” — students with a college education fleeing our state for other opportunities.
Perhaps the greater problem is those we fail to educate who stay behind. An uneducated child doesn’t just disappear – they will eventually come to your place of business. As a potential customer, an employee, or perhaps maybe with something more nefarious in mind. They are not the foundation upon which Michigan can be rebuilt.
Holding onto the past to protect the status quo is not a prescription for competing on the global stage in the 21st century.
As the second decade of the 21st century knowledge economy unfolds, Michigan is going to be dependent at every level on bold leadership – those with the courage to cast off the anchors of the past and set sail for a new future.
Niccolo Machiavelli, centuries ago in his famous book, “The Prince,” offered his analysis to the political theater we are witnessing today as “education reform” is once again on the political front burner he said:
“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this ‘lukewarmness’ arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”
As policymakers consider the EAA bill and other changes to our educational system, they need to come down on the side of teaching, learning and children, NOT adult power politics.
The governor is right in acting to create this educational life raft. It is now in the legislature’s court to act responsibly to expand this educational model to other communities across the state experiencing failing schools.
We can no longer ignore the needs of low-income and minority students who populate far too many of these failing schools. If Michigan is to prosper, ALL our children must prosper.
The Michigan Senate needs to proceed as though our collective future depends on their action – because it DOES.
Failure is not an option.