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Enrollment plummets in state-run Education Achievement Authority schools


Michigan’s attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools is bleeding students.

The Educational Achievement Authority is one of Governor Snyder’s signature policy initiatives. It launched in the last school year, with 15 former Detroit Public Schools.

State data now show the EAA lost more than 2,000 students since last school year. That’s nearly a 25% decline.

The EAA has been controversial from the start, and critics have seized on the enrollment numbers to bolster their contention that district is a failed experiment.

One of those critics is Detroit State Senator Bert Johnson.

“I think they’re going to have to scrap it,” Johnson said Friday. “I think there’s enough public awareness [it’s not working] and now scrutiny … and the worst kind of scrutiny is when parents take their children away from the system.”

But “scrapping” the EAA doesn’t appear to be on Governor Snyder’s agenda. His office issued a statement calling EAA schools “a success.”

“We’ve seen some outstanding academic achievement after just one full school year in buildings that have experienced persistent failure for a long time,” the statement read. “The schools have embraced a new approach to education and we’re seeing results, with more than half of the students making at least a year’s progress in math and reading during the school year.”

EAA officials agree, saying they’d expected enrollment to decline, and that these numbers aren’t yet “official.”

“The bottom line is that the academic gains of Education Achievement Authority students are real. This historic school turnaround effort is working, and this effort is going to continue,” district spokesman Terry Abbott said in a statement.

But critics question whether the EAA’s claims of academic gains and overall improvement match up with reality.

“It says to me that there must be something parents are very unsatisfied with,” says Wayne State University Education Professor Thomas Pedroni. “If the rosy picture the EAA was presenting were true, we would see the numbers go the opposite way.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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