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Detroit — Education Achievement Authority officials insist they have fixed management problems of federal grant money earmarked to reward high-performing teachers after the U.S. Department of Education accused it of having “a history of unsatisfactory performance.”

Veronica Conforme, chancellor of the state’s takeover district with 15 Detroit schools, explained during a Tuesday joint board of directors and executive committee meeting that she has put in place stricter measures to oversee the project. About $2.7 million of the $11.5 million grant issued in 2012 has been spent, she said.

When Conforme became chancellor in November, she reviewed operations and found “the EAA was not meeting the intentions of the grant since the launch of this program,” EAA spokesman Mario Morrow said.

In a May 5 letter, the U.S. Department of Education said the authority failed to document how it has adopted a districtwide educator evaluation system that is the basis for awarding teacher incentive pay as required under the five-year grant. It placed the EAA on “high-risk status” for losing future grant money.

The federal agency said it also remained unclear “how EAA will derive an overall evaluation rating for teachers to determine their eligibility for performance-based compensation,” according to the letter signed by Venitia Richardson, director of Teacher Quality Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.

The federal agency slapped two special conditions on the EAA that were to be met by early last month or it would be considered in “material failure to comply” with grant requirements.

They include requiring extensive documentation of how it will decide effectiveness ratings for teachers and communicating those decisions to educators. The authority also must show that it hired a contract evaluator through competitive bidding and did not reward the contractor for helping get the federal grant money.

In a June 19 letter sent to staff, EAA Associate Chancellor David Donaldson said pay rewards for the 2013-14 school year would be made around the July 15 payroll cycle to teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective.” The U.S. Department of Education approved of spending the money, Morrow said.

“We will provide even more information about the methodologies with the teacher award notifications that eligible teachers should expect,” Donaldson wrote. “Information related to 2014-15 school year awards will be shared with eligible teachers in the coming weeks.”

In other news, the authority’s chief financial officer said he conservatively budgeted for a 7 percent decline in student enrollment even though the takeover district expects the number of students to remain about the same as the past year.

SLewis@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2296

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