Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan: Disrupting education in persistently low achieving schools
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder created the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) in June 2011 with a mission to turn around failing schools. At the time, the college readiness rate across the state was 16%, and according to Governor Snyder, over 60% of students who had received a high school diploma needed to take a remedial course in order to enter community college. Clearly a new approach to K-12 education was required.
The EAA initially focused on fifteen Detroit schools representing the bottom 5% of persistently low-achieving schools across Michigan. Across the selected schools, only 12.5% of third graders were reading at grade level and 0% were at grade level in math. The EAA wanted to turn the existing system on its head and move away from an obsolete approach to learning.
“The mission of the Education Achievement Authority as a catalyst for change is to disrupt traditional public schooling and provide a 21st century prototype for teaching and learning.” John Covington, Ed.D, EAA Chancellor
The EAA’s goal was to implement a Student-Centered Learning (SLC) model based on five principles:
Students are grouped by readiness, not by grade.
Students create and assume ownership for their respective personalized learning paths and are able to communicate their progress relative to their individualized learning goals.
Students are allowed to work at their own pace using a blended delivery system to master rigorous standards aligned to next generation readiness.
Students provide evidence of mastery through relevant performance tasks and common assessments.
Continuous feedback is provided to students, teachers, administrators and parents.
This revolutionary approach required both an organizational restructuring as well as a technology infrastructure to support a truly mastery-based individualized learning model.
In partnership with EAA and the School Improvement Network, Agilix was tapped to deliver the technology infrastructure to support EAA’s ambitious goals. At a high level, Agilix needed to build a platform that allowed students to be able to select and manage their own personal learning plans, demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge in a teacher-graded activity as well as by completing a common assessment to advance to the next unit, and provide instructors with the ability to monitor their students and provide strategic intervention quickly and effectively. The Agilix team developed a custom implementation of the Buzz Personalized Learning solution built on Agilix eXtensible Learning Infrastructure (xLl) to deliver the following core functionality:
Student Selected Learning Path: The system organizes the curriculum into 18 levels as opposed to by grade, allowing for more accurate performance grouping among students. Each unit or learning level is populated with core content mapped to local, state and common core standards. New students are placed at appropriate learning levels based on initial assessments, and can be at different learning levels for different subjects. For instruction, students are directed to select a learning path that suits their own interests, and learning objects are pulled from a rich digital content repository of open source, licensed and teacher created resources which may include videos, online text or other types of materials. Once students have chosen a path, they can largely set the pace at which they learn new material, however teachers and curriculum specialists also have the capacity to accelerate learning in a given area by finding and directing students to other content or activities.
Mastery-Based Progression: To advance to the next unit, students must demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge in a teacher-graded activity as well as by completing a common assessment. Students see the options for rubrics that will be used to assess their application of their learning – an application might mean completing an assignment online, creating a diorama, writing an essay, or participating in a project. When students feel that they have mastered the skill in the unit, they ask for a conference where teachers formally assess their work to determine if they are proficient and ready to move on to the next unit. Students must present three forms of evidence for each learning target. A 1-4 grading system is used for this mastery-based system. Students are required to score a 3 (proficient) in order to move to the next unit. Students scoring a 4 (advanced) are eligible for peer coaching other students.
The system allows teachers to know where students are on their learning progression. Rather than a paper grade book, teachers have a radar report that allows them to track students’ progress and pace across the learning targets in each unit. Clicking on a student in the radar report allows teachers to deep dive into the student’s learning path, content choices, progress, and community wall. A selector tool allows teachers to easily group students and send notes or assign resources or activities.
Rapid Intervention and Response: Teachers are able to identify opportunities for immediate intervention with students who are struggling using both progress tracking data and daily student self-reporting on their comprehension, effort and interest level. Teachers can pinpoint students who may be having difficulties on their radar screen and respond quickly by editing or authoring new content for specific students, redirecting them to other materials or types of content, and sending notes and explanations of why they included the new content.
Peer-to-Peer Coaching and Mentoring: Cognitive understanding of any subject is strengthened by explaining concepts to others. The system allows students who have exhibited mastery in a given unit to be identified as available to mentor other students who may need additional peer coaching.
During the 2012-2013 school term, 59% of students achieved 1.5 or more year’s growth in Reading (64% 1+ ) and 58% of student achieved 1.5 or more year’s growth in Math (68% 1+). All six direct run K-8 schools ranked in the top 20 out of 124 K-8 schools across governance models in Detroit (Detroit Public Schools, Charter, Archdiocese and EAA schools).