Monday, December 9, 2013

The bills to flunk third graders and change school rating system are slowing, but still moving

As we reported a month ago, a bill has been introduced in the state House which would require third graders to be held back, or flunked, if they fail to hit a benchmark on a standardized reading test. House bill would require schools to flunk third graders, Okemos Parents for Schools, November 9, 2013. We also discussed in a recent Action Alert a bill to change Michigan's school rating system to an A-F scheme. These bills have moved out of committee but their progress is apparently slowing in response to strong state-wide opposition.

HB 5111, the read or flunk bill, passed out of committee on a vote of 10-3 with Representatives David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) and Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge) voting against. Provisions have been added to allow limited exceptions for third graders failing the test.  But despite adding components of the kind of decision making that now goes on a the local level, the core of the bill remains the same, removing this quintessential local decision away from those best situated to make it in favor of a state-wide law.

HB 5112, the school rating bill, passed out of committee on a vote of 11-4 with Representatives Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills)Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center) Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) and Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge) voting against. Sometime after our Action Alert we learned about a troubling new aspect of this bill - it also contains a provision to begin feeding schools into the Education Achievement Authority.
Lawmakers in the Michigan House are slowing down on plans to change the state's school accountability system and create a literacy requirement for third-grade students after opposition from teachers and administrators.  
"We listened to educators, and we have some more homework to do," House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said Thursday. "We want to make sure this is an 'A' grade when we're done, so we're going to continue to work on the issue."  
The House Education Committee approved revised versions of both proposals Wednesday after hearing extended testimony from teachers, parents and school administrators, some of whom expressed concerns about how the proposals would work. [3rd grade reading guarantee, school grading bills on pause in Michigan House,, December 5, 2013.]
We brought you a Q and A with Deputy Superintendent Patricia Trelstad explaining why the read or flunk bill is quite simply terrible policy which demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of both how kids learn to read and how they are taught in Michigan schools today. Q and A: OPS Deputy Superintendent Patricia Trelstad, Okemos Parents for Schools, November 16, 2013. The strategy has been tried in other states and is failing:
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have instituted some form of read-or-flunk policy for third graders. “More and more of our governors are turning to this,” said Susan Neuman, a professor of educational studies at the University of Michigan and an expert on early literacy. “They like the get-tough policy. But it’s a terrible strategy. It’s blaming children when you should be blaming the system.”
Neuman agrees that third grade can be a turning point for students, but said that retaining kids can do more harm than good. Making children repeat third grade because of struggles with reading is treating the symptom rather than the cause, and is “an expensive intervention that leads to middle school malaise and high school dropout.” [Newly-proposed 'read-or-flunk' law for 3rd graders would have held back more than 39,000 students last year,, December 5, 2013.]
Maybe even more troubling is the hidden provision in HB 5112 to feed schools into the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA).  As we discussed in our Action Alert, even without this provision HB 5112 was a problematic bill that ensures the majority of Michigan schools will be labeled as failing or mediocre.  A wide range of non-partisan groups which advocate for public education came out in opposition to the bill including the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Parents for Schools, the Michigan Association of School Administrators and the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.  Groups supporting the bill include Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a charter school lobbying arm, the Michigan chapter of StudentsFirst, a corporate education advocacy group, and Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax group affiliated with the Tea Party.  But, besides rating schools, the HB 5112 also contains a provision which funnels schools into the EAA:
The legislation mandates that schools with an “F” letter grade under the new system with low test scores twice in three years be placed under control of the state school reform office.
That office has the contractual power to place failing schools under the control of the EAA, a fledgling school system that operates 15 schools formerly part of Detroit Public Schools under an agreement with DPS and Eastern Michigan University.
Critics of the EAA say the letter grade legislation is a “Trojan horse” for expanding the EAA, which has seen its enrollment plummet by 24 percent after one year and faces questions about its long-term financial viability.  
The EAA’s operations have been heavily subsidized by private donations raised by supporters of Gov. Rick Snyder.
“This is a back-door way of getting schools into the EAA without passing the EAA legislation,” said state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods. [Critics rip school grading bill, Detroit News, December 6, 2013.]
We will try to take a comprehensive look at the EAA soon, but suffice it to say the takeover district has been plagued with problems. So much so that faculty at Eastern Michigan University has petitioned the university to end its relationship with the EAA. Faculty wants EMU to drop out of Education Achievement Authority state reform district, The Detroit Free Press, November 18, 2013. The EAA, as a kind of charter district, uses EMU as a "authorizer" though, as the faculty has said, the faculty has no real role in the EAA.  Additionally, public schools are beginning to boycott education students from EMU in protest of the university's involvement with the EAA. Union calls for boycott of Eastern Michigan University student teachers, cites EAA partnership,, October 23, 2013.

We'll keep you apprised of developments with this legislation.

No comments:

Post a Comment