Separate and Unequal 2.0 by Lorraine Richardson

Because of budget cuts, state departments of education seek less costly methods of educating students. Poor and minority students too often bear the brunt of such belt tightening. In urban schools across the nation, low performing school districts populated by the poor and children of color are being formed. They receive much of their instruction through technology (vendor capitalism) with such schools being staffed by underprepared and overwhelmed educators who receive few of the benefits and compensation packages of surrounding school districts.



Here in Michigan, the Educational Achievement Authority School District (EAA) was formed under the sponsorship of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) at the direction of the governor. I believe that the EAA promotes ethically and legally indefensible practices that uphold separate and unequal. It’s version 2.0.

Legally Indefensible?
In 2002, with the goal of improving ALL American schools, former President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). According to the legislation, students are to be tested and schools that don’t make adequate yearly progress each year are to be sanctioned. Another NCLB provision addresses inequitable distribution of the nation’s best teachers. Poor and minority children are not to be taught by the least experienced teachers at a greater rate than their peers in more affluent school districts. The legislation calls for equitable distribution of experienced teachers in our nation’s schools. Yet, the EAA has filled its schools with a revolving door of apprentices, beginners, novices (built-in attrition) primarily from the TFA pipeline which is against NCLB and legally indefensible. Where is the MDE equity plan to address teacher disparity? Who is monitoring this part of the legislation? How can we “Leave No Child Behind” without a stable pipeline of experienced teachers?

Urban Schools: A Farm System?
Sadly, many of these teachers use urban schools as a farm system, to learn the rudiments of teaching/running a school and then move on to greener pastures: Moving to a higher paying, wealthier school district; Building a resume to run for school board further disenfranchising local parents; Building credentials in order to create an educational for profit or non-profit to advise and/or staff urban schools. Michele Rhee is the most prominent example. After a two-year stint with Teach for America, she created The New Teacher Project to staff urban schools with new teachers. From there she went on to become the high-profile chancellor of Washington D.C Public Schools. And after that she formed the Students First nonprofit to champion urban “reform”. Unfortunately, so many of the “reformers” do not resemble the population they are “reforming”.

Still Separate and Unequal?
How can Detroit and other urban schools prepare students for a globally competitive, technology-based economy with a patchwork quilt of inexperienced and transient educators? In an April 22, 2014, Detroit News article, Dr. Thomas Pedroni of Wayne State University outlines how EAA scores are at the very bottom: EAA Test Scores Show District’s Weaknesses

Teachers hold the power to reroute the School-to-Prison Pipeline. How can a core of sorely unprepared and temporary teachers be responsible to divert or reroute students and their behavior away from suspensions and the school-to-prison pipeline? (April 5, 2013 Detroit News article: Student Behavior Not Making Grade at EAA Schools – chronicles over 5000 discipline-related infractions across 15 schools)

So I ask, beyond balancing the budget, why are experienced teachers REALLY being offered incentives to retire?

And so, in Michigan, is the EAA part of a dual system that further promotes inequities and disparities for poor children and children of color?
Sixty (60) years later, on the anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, how many urban schools are STILL Separate and Unequal? If so, what can be done to reroute this societal challenge?

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