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Changes underway at EAA

The Education Achievement Authority, the controversial state-run system for some of the lowest-performing schools, is making some changes.

EAA chancellor Veronica Conforme announced the “restructuring” at a board meeting this week.

Conforme said that instead of having all EAA schools work off a common software platform, schools will get more direct control over curriculum.

“It’s a little bit of a departure from the past, where there had been a program that everybody had to adopt,” Conforme said. “We want to empower people to make the critical decisions about instruction in their schools.”

Conforme says the system is also exploring turning more of its schools over to charter operators. Currently, the EAA directly operates 12 of the 15 Detroit schools in its system, with 3 run as charters.

Request for proposals are out right now. But Conforme said there are no current plans to expand beyond the EAA’s current 15 schools.

Also among the proposed changes: a Leadership Institute that will “produce principals and assistant principals for our schools moving forward,” according to Conforme.

The district will also develop a “transparent and equitable accountability system” that includes metrics like suspension rates, attendance, and teacher retention.

That last item is particularly important because the EAA has had at least 50% teacher turnover in its first two years, according to district data.

“The teacher retention rate for the EAA has not been very strong,” Conforme said. “This is something we should value and measure.”

Conforme said some of these changes are already underway, but all should be in place by the start of next school year.

The EAA launched in 2012 as Gov. Snyder’s effort at a statewide turnaround district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools.

However, it’s been dogged by controversy since the start, and has failed to expand beyond Detroit. Last year, state schools superintendent Mike Flanagan revoked the EAA’s contract as the exclusive entity in charge of turning around failing public schools statewide.

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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