“The Education Achievement Authority is working for Detroit’s kids (guest column)”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader pointed out that on the same day that the Freep ran “Detroit’s children continue to do worse in schools under state control (guest column)” by Tom Pedroni, they also ran a pro-EAA guest column by EAA chancellor John Covington, “The Education Achievement Authority is working for Detroit’s kids (guest column).” Here’s a quote:

The Education Achievement Authority adopted a student-centered model of teaching and learning that allows teachers to personalize instruction to meet the needs of each child. Using this approach, we expect our students to make 1½ to 2 years of academic growth each year for the first several years, and reach grade level and beyond within three to five years, as measured by the state test. What’s most important about this approach is that it gives these students real hope of learning and progressing toward a successful future.

To date, EAA students have shown academic progress when compared to other students across the country and across Detroit. We assess our students’ progress four times per year using a nationally recognized test call Performance Series Assessment.

Of course, it’d be nice to read something from someone a little less biased on it all– of course the guy in charge of the EAA is going to say it’s working just fine!– but here’s at least something that represents a different point of view.

Student Center in blue for autism awareness


That’s kinda cool….

Hey Mr. President– how about giving Ypsi some love?

The Ann Arbor News/mLive is awash in news about President Obama’s three hour (or so) visit to Ann Arbor/University of Michigan today. (Note to self: probably best to stay out of Ann Arbor/U of M today).

That’s all fine and good and I support the basic cause here, to bring some sunshine to raising the minimum wage, but wouldn’t it be nice if Obama stopped off in a place like Ypsilanti where there are a ton more people actually trying to make ends meet working jobs (usually multiple jobs) where they’re getting paid the minimum wage? Wouldn’t it be nice if he visited a campus like EMU, where a large percentage of students really are working their asses off at crappy minimum wage jobs to put themselves through school, rather than one where somewhere north of 27% of the students come from families that have yearly income of $200K or more?

Just sayin’.

“Should We Rank Colleges Based on Their Graduates’ Earnings?”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me this piece from Slate, “Should We Rank Colleges Based on Their Graduates’ Earnings?” which is a follow-up/defense of that article about PayScale’s college rankings based on the earnings of graduates. Frankly, I don’t have the time or energy to explain once again what is wrong with this logic right now– lots of grading and such as we round the turn for the end of the semester– but I thought I’d share it in case anyone else wants to make the argument. Go ahead, dive in!

More EAA news

Two links/bits of information to pass along about the EAA and the general troubles in Detroit Public Schools. First, from the freep, “Detroit’s children continue to do worse in schools under state control (guest column),” which is by Wayne State University professor Tom Pedroni. A quote:

Students in DPS and EAA schools have declined precipitously relative to their state peers in every tested grade in reading, third through eighth. In third grade reading, the proficiency gap has widened by 7.3 points to 28.2; it widened 2.1 points in fourth grade, 1.7 points in fifth grade, 3.2 points in sixth grade, 3.8 points in seventh grade, and 4.7 in eighth grade.

In math, although students gained marginally on their state peers in sixth through eighth grades, students plummeted relative to their state peers in third, fourth, and fifth grade. In third grade, the math proficiency gap increased by 5.2 points to 26.6; in fourth grade it increased by 6.8 points to 29.2; and in fifth grade it increased by 8.0 points to 30.9.

For DPS and EAA students under state control, another year of educational possibility has been stolen.

And after the break comes a message from EMU professor Steve Wellinski, I think basically updates on College of Education actions in relation to the EAA.

By the way, I’d be happy to post something here that advocates for the EAA, but as far as I can tell, no one is really doing that. So why is this EAA thing still going on?

Continue reading

“Major Attack on Academic Freedom in Michigan”

Over at the blog “Academe Blog” comes “Major Attack on Academic Freedom in Michigan,” which is a post by Martin Kich. It’s a pretty short post, but here’s a quote:

In the Michigan Senate, the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee included in its budget proposal a penalty against any public college or university that teaches a labor-related course or offers a labor-studies program.


Specifically, SB 768 prohibits “the encouragement or discouragement of union organizing of employees, including, but not limited to, participating with any business or union, or group of businesses or unions, in hosting, sponsoring, administering, or in any way facilitating an academy, seminar, class, course, conference, or program that provides instruction, in whole or in part, in techniques for encouraging or discouraging employees in regard to union organizing.”

Oh, and apparently Michigan Radio has a story about this too and how it would specifically impact Michigan State: “MSU could lose $500k for offering labor courses.” Seems like an oddly narrow law to impact a specific course like this.

PS: There’s this article in mLive too– I guess I missed all this earlier.

“Student claims college instructor spent months teaching class the ‘wrong’ course”

I learned about this via InsideHigherEd:  “Student claims college instructor spent months teaching class the ‘wrong’ course,” as reported by KHOU in Houston, Texas. Here’s a quote:

HOUSTON — For college students, a straight-A average is a crucial building block on the road to success, but imagine having that average jeopardized because of a teacher’s mistake.

That’s what Lauren Firmin claims happened in her Fall 2013 semester at Lonestar College- University Park in northwest Harris County.

The class she had enrolled in and thought she was taking was an ‘Intro to Chemistry’ course, a study of the basics of the science.

Yet this student with a 4.0 grade average found herself unexpectedly struggling with the material.

“I was getting 40’s on every test,” said Firmin. “I studied as hard as I could, did everything in my power to try.”

Then, shortly before the class’ final exam, Firmin claims teacher Thao Shirley Nguyen admitted something.

“She told her mistake in class to all of the students,” Firmin told the KHOU 11 News I-Team.

And the mistake: “She was teaching general chemistry, another course, all semester.”

I’ve had students who came to the first day of class and realized they were in the wrong place, but I’ve never seen that last longer than about 24 hours. Teaching weeks of the wrong class seems like a new low-level of epic fail.


“These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money:” What does this mean?

A couple of loyal EMUTalk.org readers have sent me a link to this The Atlantic article (or maybe just web site post), “These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money.”  I’m not sure I am understanding the argument here, but to point out the part where EMU’s name surfaces:

Here are the degrees (i.e.: specific majors at specific schools) with the lowest 20-year net return, according to PayScale. They are all public schools: Bold names are for in-state students.

A couple of semi-random observations:

  • This doesn’t mean that EMU is overall a “bad deal” and/or that all majors are in this $120K hole that they’ve calculated. In fact, if you see this entry on the payscale.com web site about EMU, it’s not that bad.  It’s probably not surprising that on average EMU alumni make less money than U of M alumni, but it’s not horrible by any stretch of the imagination. And I think it’s likely a better deal than people with just a high school degree.
  • Mark Maynard has a good post on his blog about this; given the headline, “EMU makes the Atlantic’s list of “U.S. Colleges and Majors that Are the Biggest Waste of Money”… and it’s total bullshit,” you can probably suggest his take on this. Among other things, it seems like kind of goofy to talk about this in relation to an art major since there aren’t a lot of people coming to major in art who are in it for the money.
  • I think what’s more troubling here is that the way that this kind of dubious and/or highly skewed research gets reported by the lazy-assed mainstream media as “fact nuggets” easily consumed and often repeated. So for example: of you look at this page on the “return on investment” on the PayScale site, you’ll see that all of the top schools on that list are essentially institutions where engineering and related fields– the number one school is Harvey Mudd College, which is a very competitive institution where most of the 784 or so students are majoring in stuff like engineering. In other words, what this report really suggests that students who major in stuff like engineering and computer science and technology-oriented fields make a lot more money on average than students who major in art or education or social work. Like people didn’t already know that.
  • I have degrees from both Virginia Commonwealth University and Bowling Green State University (though not in Education), and I teach at EMU. I guess I’m a three time loser!

Northwestern football team allowed to unionize; what comes next?

There was a ruling yesterday by the National Labor Review Board that (basically) ruled that a group called the College Athletes Players Association and/or football players at Northwestern are allowed to unionize. There’s a long piece about it in Inside HigherEd, “Football Players Win Union, for Now.” Here’s a long quote from the beginning of that piece:

In what could be a landmark case, a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday backed a bid by football players at Northwestern University to unionize.

“I find that all grant-in-aid scholarship players for the Employer’s football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are ‘employees’ under” the National Labor Relations Act, Peter Sung Ohr, director of the board’s Chicago regional office, wrote in his ruling. Ohr said walk-on players — those without scholarships — do not qualify as employees.

The ruling cites multiple factors in concluding that the scholarship football players at Northwestern are employees: that they perform services for the benefit of their employer and receive compensation (in the form of a scholarship) in exchange, and that scholarship players are “subject to the employer’s control in the performance of their duties as football players.”

Ohr also differentiated the case of Northwestern’s football players from those of graduate teaching assistants at Brown University (in which the NLRB ruled for the university in 2004) because “the players’ football-related duties are unrelated to their academic studies unlike the graduate assistants whose teaching and research duties were inextricably tied to their graduate degree requirements.”

“The players spend 50 to 60 hours per week on their football duties during a one-month training camp prior to the start of the academic year and an additional 40 to 50 hours per week on those duties during the three or four month football season,” the NLRB ruling said. “Not only is this more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs, it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies.”

The decision is historic in its own right, but coupled with controversies surrounding head trauma, lawsuits regarding athletes’ rights (or lack thereof) to profit off their own image, and a new challenge to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s antitrust exemption, some experts believe it could contribute to the mounting assault on the underlying viability of the NCAA’s century-old amateur model.

Now, this is far from over– Northwestern and the NCAA and everyone else will certainly appeal and this will probably get settled at the U.S. Supreme Court– but it might be the beginning of something pretty dramatic.  A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me a link to this in Esquire, “The Earthquake in College Sports is Here.”  As Charles Pierce says in this brief commentary, “The whole system of college sports is going to have to change or collapse. The problem is that, in their shortsightedness and their greed, the NCAA and the college presidents it represents almost have guaranteed that the process will be sudden and bloody.”

Buckle in, sports fans– it might get bumpy!


“Eastern Michigan University students protest school’s involvement with EAA”

One more mLive post this morning: “Eastern Michigan University students protest school’s involvement with EAA.” I was walking to campus the other day and I saw/heard these protesters outside of Welch Hall; had it been warmer and had the event been publicized a bit more, I suspect it would have been a bigger crowd. Anyway, a quote:

“As we’ve been saying, Eastern Michigan should cease and desist all action with the EAA immediately,” EMU faculty leader Howard Bunsis told regents during the public session of the meeting.

Regents did not directly respond to protesters.

“I have none,” EMU Board of Regents Chair Francine Parker said of a response, after the meeting.

“I think right now we have an agreement, an inter-local agreement that expires at the end of the year. We’ll evaluate it. We’re usually committed to our contracts and we’ll be looking at it.”

I think that non-statement from Parker actually says a lot.  Seems to me what she’s saying here is she feels like EMU has to at least “ride out/wait out” the current EAA deal. Whether or not that’s soon enough is the problem, but I’m not exactly getting a lot of “let’s renew this deal” vibes.