The Governor is out on Facebook hawking the success of the Educational Achievement Authority, presumably as a step to expanded authority. A word of caution may be in order.

I would feel a whole lot more comfortable if there were actual metrics attached to EAA success and not just press release. Really, improved attendance is not a sufficient measure of success — a start yes, but not the measure. In the meantime, the notion that “The EAA program is based on a proven learning platform and locally-based management style” is one that is undercut by the current HB 6004 that would expand EAA authority statewide. That bill, as you may recall Governor, authorizes the EAA to take buildings from current school districts and then dispose of them as the EAA sees fit — it is the very opposite of this locally-based management style.

What you have coming in your expanded authority is the inverse of the work you are trying to do in Detroit.

Breaking the zip code. Maybe

It sounds so innocent. In today’s editorial from the  Grand Rapids Press, Dave Murray writes

(Governor Rick Snyder) also believes that the quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be determined by his or her ZIP code.

Embracing an “any time, any place, any way and any pace” philosophy, the plan removes district “ownership” of a student, allowing them to take a course, some courses or all their courses from any districts. That includes the growing use of online courses.

While the Press has entered into the fray of  competing press releases perhaps it shouldn’t.  In a document of 300 pages there are bound to be some issues as well a host of potentially unintended consequences. The Press would better take its time fulfilling the duty of exploring what these issues and consequences might be.

First, there is the matter of online education. The emergence of MOOCs suggests the way that higher education and likely secondary education will be substantially transformed. But if this is the way, then the questions of accountability and outcomes necessarily follow. The real work will be in how such enterprises are structured, and that, I would suggest is the proper place for reporting and advocacy.

But that’s only a start. Just as critical would be the deal breakers.

For instance,  schools can opt out of the program. In fact with this option, zip code would still determine who gets what kind of education. Would non-participation and the resulting two-tier structure of Michigan education be a deal-breaker?

If education follows the student, this puts an emphasis on equal funding. Does this violate Prop A? Is this then a deal-breaker?

If local communities lose control of their school (see funding), then how do they escape being creatures of Lansing rather than local voters? Would local control be a deal breaker?

Lastly, with the expansion of educational services, what reporting mechanisms are to be installed, or should be installed? Without transparency we end up with self-dealing. Would lack of transparency be a deal breaker?

Finally, the question that should be aksed is how these efforts will produce the educated workforce Michigan needs in the next decade. The Press’s proper role is to ask such questions in order to clarify the legislation and to lay the proper foundation for reform and vibrant local schools.

Shopping Spree

Michigan’s Treasury is facing a a half billion dollar surplus, driven by the growing economy. This after years of financial strain. So what should be done? That was the Governor’s question.
Today’s budget recommendation is designed to deliver real results for real people. Where do you think Michigan should focus?
This is a one-time windfall from the older tax code — the new one will not be as generous to the state. So invest it in things that last, not in operations. As much as I really  to see the schools helped — they took a big hit in the last budget — it is wiser fiscally to put the money into infrastructure. This remains a significant need, not only with aging roads and bridges but with multi-billion dollar worth of needed repairs to our waste water systems.   Addressing infrastructure would  have the double benefit of driving job growth and of setting up Michigan industry for better (or at least smoother) connections.

Testing and Principals

Dave Murray | The Grand Rapids Press

Do principals need help evaluating teachers?
Michigan is one of several states planning to evaluate all teachers more often, and attaching great consequences for educators deemed not performing as well as they should

In a secondary school, leadership would seem to involve two very different managerial tasks. First, there is the principal as CEO, the public face of the school to its students, parents and community as well as the person who runs interference with the Board. And second there is the management of the academic operations. Are CEO and the COO the same? Sometimes, but often not. With the increased intensity of evaluations, it may make sense for high schools to develop a chief academic officer who undertakes these evaluations and oversees other aspects of the schools academic performance. The recommendations from the state thus probably mandate another layer of administrative costs.

Of course, that may be worth it. Other recent studies have highlighted the role of strong teachers, and the importance of feedback for educational success (see the recent NBER paper by Dobbie and Freyer. See also Suzy Khimm for more discussion and comments). This also suggests that graduate programs may eventually work to have two tracks of educational leadership, the academic officer and the building team leader.

The Governor and Education

He talked about the dismal state of education in MI… well that’s what you get when you gut educational funding. Hello? Doesn’t take a geek to figure that out.
I only heard bits of Gov. Snider’s speech. When I poked my head in I heard him at once talk about loosening standards in terms of removing caps on charters and going to cyber education, and then complain because the general schools are letting us down on standards. Slap me silly, but the whole point of innovation is that it’s supposed to deliver results, but it’s hard to see how that happens if you are  unwilling to do anything about actually demanding standards let alone transparency for such “innovations”.
More later, on Windmillin.