No clarity yet on if county schools will fall into state emergency control

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 18, 2013

MACOMB COUNTY — Macomb County school officials are keeping an eye on the state’s new criteria for its Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) in case any schools in the county are absorbed into it.

The EAA was set up initially for the 2012-13 school year as what is effectively a statewide school district encompassing the lowest performing schools. According to the state’s website for the program, it was initially set up for Detroit schools and is now being expanded.

The district is set up to try and improve scores in schools that are failing to reach satisfactory results off an educational redesign plan or are currently under the control of an emergency manager.

Judith Pritchett, assistant superintendent for the Macomb County Intermediate School District, said state Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced up to 10 schools would be added to the EAA, but he has not yet announced what guidelines the Michigan Department of Education will be using to select those schools.

As Macomb County includes schools listed as “priority schools” under the state’s educational ratings, Pritchett said knowing what those guidelines will be is crucial. If the state only goes after schools making no progress at all, then she thinks much of Macomb County would be safe.

“It depends on criteria the state superintendent decides to use, and that’s the unknown right now,” Pritchett said. “Do we have schools in Macomb that are priority schools? Yes, we do. Are they making progress? Yes, they are.”

MDE spokesman Bill Disessa said the process of developing those new guidelines is ongoing and no timeline has been set, as of press time, for when that work will be completed.

“We’re not talking about months away, but beyond that, exactly when that would occur, we don’t know. It’s still under review,” Disessa said. “On the schools, there’s nothing we can know or say at this point.”

Pritchett said that, as the EAA district has been in place for about 18 months, it does not have any real results to show yet.

“We have been waiting for some solid results in a school district of that size with 15 schools of varying grade levels. I think it’s too soon to say if this is successful or not successful,” she said. “I do know they have lost enrollment.”

During the Roseville Community Schools Board of Education meeting Dec. 2, Superintendent John Kment said that attendance in EAA schools has dropped about 25 percent.

“There is no indication that this is a success, but he is now taking those (additional) school districts and placing them under the authority of the educational authority,” Kment said.

Disessa said the data is still incomplete, so he could not speak as to the EAA’s effectiveness.

Without more time and data, Pritchett said she does not see the value of adding any more schools to the EAA. She believes the state needs more information to decide if it’s the best course of action for those schools and their students before making any tweaks.

“I think that to move more schools into that system with only a track record of 18 months is premature,” she said. “It changes the variables.”

Kment could not be reached for further comment by press time.

According to the EAA website, the district seeks to spend as much money as possible on classrooms rather than on debt reduction and administration. It also seeks to lengthen school days and try to give greater support for struggling students. The local district is still responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the school building.

According to the current EAA rules, schools under the authority remain there for a minimum of five years, after which time they can be evaluated and either kept in the authority or moved to another district entity — or they can seek a charter to run independently.