Let’s stop protecting the educational status quo

Apr 22, 2013 by

handsinrope-300x217By Tom Watkins –

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 teaching, learning and children that prompted Gov. Rick Snyder to create the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), reconfiguring Michigan’s most dysfunctional schools into learning centers of excellence.

EAA Chancellor John Covington and his team are transforming 15 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 system, takes dedication, focus, talent, energy and persistence. Education reform is not for the faint of heart.

Snyder is to be commended for doing something in addressing the needs of Detroit children who have been trapped in failing schools. This option should be expanded statewide.

Leaders from 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? Those test results are not reflective of the EAA, which only had the students a few weeks before the tests were administered. They are reflective 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.

But Michigan has years of proof from the schools that have failed these kids all along. Where’s the protest about that?

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.

Two years later, House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills announced that the Michigan House Democrats have formed a task force to find “real solutions for Michigan’s struggling schools.”

It’s a commendable thought, but while the Democrats are drawing up plans, our children are falling behind. Every year adults don’t get it right, children suffer.

For those who say Snyder and the Legislature are moving too fast, ask yourself this: If it were your child trapped in a failing school, would you come to the same conclusion?

The EAA requires a longer school day — seven and a half hours, 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 stakes are high. Much has been made of Michigan’s “brain drain,” young adults with college educations fleeing Michigan for other opportunities.

But the greater problem is those we fail to educate who stay behind. The Michigan Senate, which is considering EAA expansion, needs to proceed as though our collective future depends on its actions — because it does.

Tom Watkins was state superintendent of schools from 2001-2005.

via Let’s stop protecting the educational status quo | The Detroit News | detroitnews.com.

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