Comments on: Column: Good Ideas, Flawed Process at AAPS it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Donna Estabrook Donna Estabrook Thu, 27 Feb 2014 23:36:15 +0000 Ruth – thanks for a great article. John @7 – my thoughts exactly. There is a good, succinct article about the effect of charter schools (ie private schools using tax money)on public schools in this country in the current (Spring 2014) issue of Yes! magazine. The downtown library carries it.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Thu, 27 Feb 2014 02:54:21 +0000 @4 Having zero data, it still seems deeply unlikely that the main targets/choosers of A2′s Schools of Choice effort will be charter school students. I think you are grasping at straws.

In any case, all Schools of Choice does is take resources away from whomever is left. If those kids left behind are in charter schools, they are not hurt less than kids in a conventional district. It’s not OK to hurt kids in charter schools, just because you don’t like charter schools. The point is, the kids matter, not the grownups, whatever organizational side they are on.

Better to consolidate districts in one fell swoop, rather than spend several years short-changing children from less-agressive families.

It’ still a great article.

By: Ruth Kraut Ruth Kraut Wed, 26 Feb 2014 02:26:52 +0000 Re:[5} Cynthia–and any others who share her concerns and want to know more about the plans for the Northside K-8 STEAM program–there will be an open house, at Northside, on March 6 from 6:30 to 8:30. I’d encourage you to go and ask some hard questions.

By: Cynthia Bostwick Cynthia Bostwick Tue, 25 Feb 2014 21:03:46 +0000 Thank you for a very good article, Ruth, and thank you for your continuing efforts regarding assessments. While I am very excited about the news for Northside’s, my son’s school, I am also worried that the rich diversity of Northside, including our self-contained EI room, our economic and racial diversity, and our special needs and challenged students will fall away from Northside’s core. I am anxious to hear Dr. Swift’s plan for melding these populations with STEAM, and not setting up a back door only specialty school that neglects the neighborhood. Thanks again for your great explanation and commitment to our AAPS.

By: Ruth Kraut Ruth Kraut Wed, 19 Feb 2014 00:22:02 +0000 Re: [1] Dan: I think you are right, it would be a good idea for there to be a clear process where parents/community members/teachers with concerns about a teacher, principal, or other staff person could have a clear path/process to share information with an ombudsman or ombudswoman.

Re: [2] Liberal Nimby: Yes, it’s worth pointing out that school board get paid almost nothing and put in hundreds of hours every year. I do appreciate their hard work and service. State law has restricted school board elections to Novembers of even years, which means that now would be a good time for people who might be interested in running for school board (in any district, not just Ann Arbor) to start investigating options.

Re: [3] John Floyd: This is a very astute point about schools of choice and I thought about discussing it a little bit in this column but decided it was getting too complicated! There is no doubt that you could think about recruitment of students for “schools of choice” as a “battle” between districts and that, until last year, Ann Arbor had essentially chosen to stay out of the fray. There’s also no doubt that–for example–in the former Willow Run school district, many of the best students chose to go to the Washtenaw International High School, the Early College Alliance, or one of the local charter schools. And with the best students gone, that ended up negatively affecting the overall test scores, graduation rates, etc. of the Willow Run schools.

On the other hand, if you think that with schools of choice you will be recruiting students who have already defected from local public schools, and gone to the for-profit charters already, then AAPS will in no way be harming other local public school districts. I’d like to hope that is the case because I’m not a big fan of the for-profit charters, but I’m not sure it will be true.

And yes, yes, yes: the real issue in schools of choice is the lack of state funding.

By: John Floyd John Floyd Tue, 18 Feb 2014 07:05:10 +0000 Great report! Thank you for such a thorough review of the issues. When I pay attention to local issues/politics, it’s generally about Ann Arbor city government. Without work like yours, I would be mostly ignorant of the Mount Olympus of AAPS.

Tangentially, you raise an issue of concern to me: Schools of Choice.

Schools of Choice is a “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” scheme – its a zero-sum game. Any benefits to AAPS kids from adding SOC kids are directly balanced by equal and offsetting harms to the kids at the schools they left behind. I’m not referring to harm to the districts as political entities, I’m referring to the kids in them. The kids left behind after a school-of-choice transfer lose exactly as much as the chosen-district kids gain from receiving that transfer.

The economist in me likes the theory behind schools of choice: everyone in the business of education should feel some heat, it’s not right to force monopolies on markets when there doesn’t seem to be any natural monopoly for that service; the parent in me is conflicted about SOC; but the citizen in me thinks that focusing energy around zero-sum games is genuinely harmful. The real issue here is lack of state funding. Harming kids in Ypsilanti or Saline for our parochial benefit is a non-solution to the real problem.

By: liberalnimby liberalnimby Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:53:45 +0000 Thank you for the well-written article, Ms. Kraut — I hope you copied the board on it.

I admire anyone who runs for elected office, especially the ones that are particularly thankless, like homeowners associations, school boards, town councils, etc. But even though they’re thankless, they’re extremely important. Entire neighborhoods, school systems and communities rise and fall according to the quality of those serving. Bravo to those on the BOE making a positive difference.

When everything’s going fine, many seats go uncontested. In accordance with the “squeaky wheel” phenomenon, when things start going off-track, it gets the attention of the wider public (and hopefully higher-caliber candidates). But it can take years to rectify the problems due to inertia, the election cycle, and the need to replace enough officials to make a difference. When things get better, people lose interest again. So we often see the “teeter totter” effect of organizational performance. (Like when Bush gave away the U.S. budget surplus. But I digress.)

I’m glad some attention is being paid to the process violations at the BOE. It would be useful if a board member could respond directly in these comments. It would also be useful if people thinking about running for the board could view these meetings on demand via CTN’s site (they really can’t be played on demand?) to see who needs replacing, if anyone. Also, an easily-discoverable job description for board members on your website would be a start.

And above all, it would be great if more people were willing to pitch in for some civic service. An ounce of prevention!

By: Dan Ezekiel Dan Ezekiel Sun, 16 Feb 2014 21:31:41 +0000 I too am thrilled with the work of the dynamic new Superintendent, Dr. Swift, and I appreciate your emphasis on the importance of the BOE following process.
The “problem principal” issue runs very deep; something went seriously amiss with the process of evaluating principals during the parade of superintendents over the last 10 years. Those who evaluate principals sought no input from teachers or staff and ignored the input they did get. As Northside parents know, there literally was no way to raise the issue of a problem principal with Balas in such a way as to get meaningful attention. The dysfunction goes beyond the cases that have been made public recently.
Through her actions at Pioneer and Northside, Dr. Swift has demonstrated loud and clear that she is facing up to the issue of problem staff in general and principals in particular. It will take a while to rectify. The best thing I have heard Dr. Swift say is that she plans to hand this year’s kindergartners their high school diplomas. I am so thankful to hear a central administrator make a deep long-term commitment to the Ann Arbor schools, not see them as a stepping stone to her next job.