Board Applauds AAPS Achievement Gap Plan

Review of special education services underway

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education committee-of-the-whole meeting (March 14, 2012): AAPS trustees discussed the details of superintendent Patricia Green’s newly-minted Achievement Gap Elimination Plan, as presented to them by a set of administrators at their March 14 committee meeting.

After being walked through it, trustees applauded the plan – literally, and most of their comments characterized the AGEP with words like “integrated,” “robust,” “powerful,” and “inspiring.”

AAPS committee of the whole

From left, AAPS trustees Susan Baskett, Irene Patalan, Glenn Nelson, and Christine Stead at their March 14 committee-of-the-whole meeting, held at Mitchell Elementary School. (Photos by the writer).

Still, the board registered some concerns.  Among many elements, the AGEP emphasizes the use of data to inform instruction, and the professional development of teachers. These features of the plan led to a somewhat cool reception from trustee Simone Lightfoot, who wanted to see more emphasis on “common sense” over data, and more emphasis on children than on adults. Trustee Susan Baskett expressed some skepticism based on her experience with the follow-through she’s seen from past AAPS administrations. And, multiple trustees questioned how a wholehearted commitment to the AGEP would affect the district’s allocation of resources.

At its committee meeting, the board did not take any action related to the AGEP. More details of the plan, along with the board’s discussion, are presented below, after the jump.

Also at the committee meeting, the board heard from parents concerned about rising class sizes at the preschool, and heard a review of the student intervention and support services (SISS) department.

A discussion on revenue enhancement ideas was postponed.

Achievement Gap Elimination Plan

Superintendent Patricia Green began the administration’s presentation to the board by saying that this issue – disproportionate achievement among students of different groups – has been an issue for the district for decades. It’s one of the reasons she wanted to come to AAPS, she said.

Early on, Green said, she met with executive cabinet members in their role as the district’s equity leadership team (DELT). While they wanted to make a plan quickly, she wanted to make the right plan. “To do the richness of what we intend to do, this will take a broad-based team,” Green said. She noted the plan is research-based, and integrates many elements of social and emotional learning.

AAPS deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye said she was very excited to be bringing this plan to the board, and said the DELT and DELT-A (the executive cabinet, plus seven additional administrators) have been working hard since last fall to create a plan that would involve all stakeholders, and produce useful tools that building leaders could use immediately. Flye acknowledged the ten members of the superintendent’s cabinet and also the seven members of DELT-A: Pattengill principal Che’ Carter, Slauson principal Chris Curtis, AAPS literacy and social studies coordinator Chuck Hatt, Community High School dean Jen Hein, Tappan principal Jazz Parks, Haisley Elementary School principal Kathy Scarnecchia, and Logan Elementary School principal Terra Webster.

Flye said that historically, AAPS has structured its equity work as a separate and distinct initiative. However, the achievement gap elimination plan (AGEP) uses the district’s strategic plan as its critical framework, she said. Flye noted that many best practices in closing the gap are already occurring throughout AAPS, but only in isolation. She also said that previous efforts to address the gap have not had the accountability, the consistency, and the strong focus on social and emotional learning that this plan has.

Flye then led the board through an executive summary of the plan, touching on nine areas of focus: clear district content standards; equity; accountability; professional development; parent and community engagement; student engagement; quality early childhood programs; addressing barriers to learning and allocation of resources, and Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS).

AGEP: Executive Summary

About content standards, Flye noted that a set of documents is being developed that can be used by students and families to chart their paths through AAPS academically while meeting all pre-requisite requirements. The district will also provide an assessment summary, and use the Achievement Team Process to ensure early identification of students who are falling behind. Flye highlighted that policies and procedures will focus on keeping students in school, and all students performing below grade level will develop a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) to get on track.

Noting that the AGEP puts a large emphasis on professional development (PD), Flye listed equity, cooperative discipline, social and emotional learning, and positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS) as four PD modules that would be developed. She highlighted a number of ways the district will use data better to ensure accountability in meeting the AGEP’s goal of eliminating achievement gaps – including developing multi-year school profiles that will incorporate student achievement, discipline, and attendance data. She also briefly touched on the development of an Equity Plan Rubric, a tool to be used by building leaders to bring greater systemic consistency to equity work, which will be discussed in more detail below.

Engagement of parents and families will be done by conducting evening or Saturday meetings at local community centers, and engagement of students will be done through the administration of the annual climate survey and the formalization of a district-wide student leadership program, Flye said.

Regarding preschool programming, Flye noted that elementary PTOs would be encouraged to connect with preschool families as they transition to elementary schools. Preschool enrollment would be examined, she said.

Flye said that the AGEP would allocate resources to high-need students and buildings, and examine personnel policies to ensure that the best teachers are placed in the highest need areas. Also, AAPS will continue to work with the AAEA minority caucus to ensure teacher retention and potentially improve the hiring process. [AAEA is the Ann Arbor Education Association, the teachers' union.]

The district will work to decrease suspensions and expulsions, and to address students’ social and emotional needs. She noted that funds have been dedicated to purchase materials to support PBIS in all schools.

Finally, Flye said a district-wide work plan was being developed with benchmarks and responsible persons for each plan element.

AGEP: History and Data

AAPS literacy and social studies coordinator Chuck Hatt reviewed the history of race and equity work in Ann Arbor and AAPS. He said that the achievement gap can be attributed to inconsistent expectations, grading practices, and inconsistent use or knowledge of culturally relevant teaching strategies. To fix this, he said, AAPS will better use data to drive instruction, maintain a high-level curriculum with supporting interventions, and offer professional development in differentiation of instruction and culturally responsive teaching strategies.

Director of student accounting Jane Landefeld reviewed recent achievement and discipline data to highlight the gaps being addressed. “We made progress toward earlier targets, but now we have a much more rigorous target,” said Landefeld. She also connected the AGEP to the discipline gap elimination plan presented by Green in December, 2011, citing several common themes: monthly data review, social and emotional learning, cooperative discipline, and community and student engagement.

AGEP: “Beyond Diversity” Training

Logan Elementary School principal Terra Webster reviewed the Beyond Diversity training she had attended, a two-day training session, which she described as a place to learn how to have courageous conversations about race, as well as to learn about the degree to which racism leads to educational failure. All staff members truly share equal responsibility in educating students, Webster told the board.

AGEP: Equity Plan Rubric

Webster, along with Parks, Carter, and Scarnecchia, then introduced the four standards of the newly-developed equity plan rubric, a tool that clarifies the expectations of equity teams at the building level, and allows for the monitoring of their progress in a consistent way.

The rubric divides the work of the building equity teams into specific practices, and allows for the work of the teams to be classified as follows: not effective, minimally effective, effective, or highly effective. Its four standards are: developing the building equity team; defining the disaggregated data that is being used to document results for students; determining how teams are using data to inform and produce results; and documenting effectiveness of the building equity teams.

Scarnecchia summed up the goals of the building equity teams – to ensure that there is no predictable pattern of achievement connected to race, socio-economic status, or special needs identification.

AGEP: Accountability

Flye said the district will be instituting a “holistic accountability system,” and that professional development with the Leadership and Learning Center will train the instructional council and leadership teams from each school in the data team process. The process encourages the use data in decision-making at the classroom level, and is a proven set of processes that has led to award-winning systems of accountability.

Green added that this process has been used by the most improved schools in the nation. She pointed out that the AGEP relies on systemic consistency, accountability, and specificity.

AAPS deputy superintendent of operations Robert Allen argued that while AAPS will have to be aggressive, there are proven strategies that it can employ to close the achievement gap – high expectations, using data to track student progress and needs, purposeful professional development, and a rich curriculum with strong, focused instruction. “In Ann Arbor,” he said, “We have the resources, the will, and the community commitment to eliminate the achievement gap.”

AGEP: Board Response and Discussion

Board chair Deb Mexicotte led trustees in a round of applause and thanked the many administrators who participated in the presentation for attending the meeting, saying their presence showed the power of this plan. She invited the trustees to offer comments and questions in a round-robin style.

Trustee Andy Thomas appreciated the integrated approach of this plan. He asked what resources the administration needed in order to implement the items as presented, especially preschool programs, which is not funded with a state foundation allowance. He also asked what resources will be needed to make the best use of data, saying it sounded to him like the data needs of the district will be increasing exponentially.

Flye said the data infrastructure needs to be more reliable, and pointed to times when data cannot be accessed because the system is overloaded. Green pointed out that the success of the tech bond initiative is crucial to replenish, refresh, and expand technology resources in the district. She said in a perfect world, AAPS would have a second preschool site to serve even more students, because research shows it pays off to front-load resources in early grades.

Allen noted that the budget he recommends will prioritize essential items related to the AGEP, and noted that professional development can use in-house resources to save money. Green added that exporting professional development created for the AGEP could be a revenue enhancer.

Lightfoot began by thanking all who participated in crafting the AGEP and said it had been her “pet project” to get the district to create one document to address this issue. However, she expressed concern that the AGEP did not focus exclusively on a subgroup of students, that is, students whose achievement is lower. “This isn’t the time to involve everyone and keep everyone happy,” she argued.

Lightfoot listed the following concerns: flowery language; lack of specific academic supports such as support for 8th grade algebra; too much emphasis on how adults can grow and learn and not enough focus on students; and a lack of timelines. Lightfoot also questioned the inclusion of the Pacific Education Group (PEG) as a consultant in the AGEP, and said she is not necessarily interested in renewing their contract.

Flye addressed some of Lightfoot’s specific questions about the academic jargon used in the AGEP, and noted that student engagement is a part of the plan. About the timeline, Green said it will be in the next year, and that administration is currently assembling the implementation plan.

Baskett was reserved in her praise of the AGEP, saying that she was glad the administrators were all there, but that she has “been in this district a long time… and the follow-through is lacking.”

Baskett asked about the cooperative discipline element, which Flye defined as a research-based tool that educators can use to diffuse power struggles. Baskett noted that she would like to see several things: more action steps of the discipline gap plan; an update on the successes in the district regarding equity; and an update on the roll-out of PBIS to the whole district. She questioned the parent involvement piece as outlined in the plan, saying that it “sounds more like a push out of information rather than getting feedback from parents.” She also questioned the frequency of the parent meetings and student climate surveys, saying they should take place more than once a year. Finally, like Lightfoot, Baskett said she had been hoping to see more instructional strategies embedded in the AGEP.

Baskett suggested that the board “examine its political will” to make this happen, and suggested that the board itself take part in a “Beyond Diversity” training session.

Patalan said she was absolutely inspired, and suggested that the board read a paper written by Scott Westerman, AAPS superintendent during the University of Michigan’s black action strike. Mexicotte said she would forward the paper to the board if Patalan sent it to her. Patalan also said she was exicted to use the in-district talent of Parks and Webster to lead professional development, and liked the way the tech bond fit into the picture. She expressed support for allocating additional resources at the preschool level, and questioned whether the district’s current preschool was helping the “children who really need us the most.”

Patalan also asked for some clarification on culturally relevant teaching as it relates to math. Flye responded by saying it is important to build upon the life experiences that children bring to class.

Nelson contrasted different parts of the AGEP in terms of how they define the target population. He noted that the equity team rubric used by principals mentions a goal of having all students in every subgroup meeting achievement goals, whereas other sections of the AGEP focus on proportionality. “The goal of universal excellence is important,” Nelson said, “but it’s a different goal than [eliminating] the gap.”

Administrators defended their decision to word the rubric that way, and acknowledged that they had had much discussion on that issue. Green added, “If you don’t shoot for the moon, you won’t land on the moon.” Nelson stressed that teaching character traits such as perseverance and honesty were at least as important and emphasizing math and reading. Green agreed, saying that making connections with students to get them involved in their schools was critical.

Nelson said that the AGEP gives AAPS a chance to continue its tradition of leadership on the topic of equity.

Stead complimented the “robust framework” of the plan, and suggested adding to the timeline already on the district’s website. She did express worry that closing the gap could bring down the achievement of top students, but Green moved quickly to reassure her otherwise.

Stead also said the plan will require the allocation of additional resources, such as additional staff in AAPS research services department, and more preschool teachers. She noted that peer mentoring is important, saying, “We need to make being smart cool,” and agreed with Lightfoot that PEG’s continued work in the district should be questioned.

Baskett reiterated her support for additional academic supports, saying that she has heard that “math is kicking booty all over this district.” Thomas argued that the board should stand behind the administration and wholeheartedly support the AGEP. Saying that looking at the gap in achievement data “hurts [her] heart,” Lightfoot argued that the plan needs to be better fleshed out, and that she was “not as patient and tolerant as the other trustees.”

Mexicotte encouraged the trustees to think about what they could do in terms of policy regarding the implementation of the AGEP. She suggested that the board could set a policy mandating peer mentoring in all schools, or that IEPs can only happen when parents could attend.

Mexicotte also asked everyone in attendance to explain the importance of the upcoming tech bond without directly suggesting to people how to vote, and said the budget needs to follow the board’s priorities.

Regarding the use of the term “100%” in the equity plan rubric, Mexicotte said it’s fine with her if it works “aspirationally.”

Finally, Mexicotte led the board in a brief discussion about whether to include the AGEP on the agenda of the next regular meeting so trustees could officially offer a vote of support on it. She suggested the board could also affirm the AGEP at the committee-of-the-whole meeting that night instead.

Lightfoot and Baskett suggested they might not feel comfortable affirming the AGEP without seeing how the board’s suggestions were incorporated, or at least “footnoted.” Nelson said the community needs a consensus of the board if at all possible. “If I’m hearing that it’s going to be a divided vote,” he said, “than I’d rather not vote.”

Outcome: The board took no action on the Achievement Gap Elimination Plan at this meeting in terms of affirming it or deciding to move it to the agenda of a regular meeting.

Public Comment: Class Size – Preschool, Special Ed

During public commentary, two people addressed the board on the topic of class size.

Parent Tammie Nahra read a letter that had been sent to the board signed by 45 families with children at the Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center. The letter expressed appreciation for the quality of the staff, but concern about the significant increase (63%) in class size experienced by two of the classes for autistic students. Noting that these children are particularly sensitive to their environment, the letter suggested that the preschool will be unable to help these students reach their IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals without an adequate increase in staffing and space.

The letter closed by pointing out that it is fiscally prudent to provide high-quality early intervention services to these children, and that AAPS is setting itself up to require additional services later, the district does not provide these critical services now. Parents who signed the letter requested a meeting with the board regarding this matter.

Parent Heather Eckner began by acknowledging that SISS Assistant Superintendent Elaine Brown did reach out to her that day to schedule a meeting. She pointed out that the class size increases have affected student-teacher ratio to the point where “push-in” services listed in students’ IEPs are likely being affected due to logistical difficulties. Eckner noted that the “level 3″ class, for higher-functioning students on the autistic spectrum, is supposed to contain a 50-50 split of general education and special education students, but that ratio is shifting toward a higher and higher percentage of autistic students.

Finally, Eckner noted that for autistic children, “you cannot put a value on” stability, structure, and routine. She said the class size increases have left classrooms “bordering on chaos” and that a large number of families feel affected by this issue.

During clarification on public commentary, Brown noted that the letter sent by preschool families was timely because staffing for the K-12 special education classes was currently underway. She said she intended to hear everyone’s voices as she leads the program review. Deputy superintendent of instruction Alesia Flye thanked the parents for coming forward, and said she was anxious to meet with them. “You will be part of the collaboration,” she said. “Everyone will be engaged.”

Green pointed out that the single teacher who was added was only an interim step to be able to get some relief as the situation was assessed fully.

Student Intervention and Support Services Review

AAPS assistant superintendent of Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS) Elaine Brown and her staff led the board through a review of the main programs and services offered to AAPS special education students. Six SISS administrators introduced themselves and explained their functions.

Elaine Brown

AAPS assistant superintendent of Student Intervention and Support Services (SISS) Elaine Brown.

Lon Smith supervises the middle school programs, along with Ann Arbor Open, and Pittsfield, Dicken, and King elementary schools. He also supervises the school social workers, nurses, and the services that AAPS is legally obligated to provide to local non-public schools. Eric Thompson supervises most of the remaining elementary school programs, along with school psychologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. Cassandra Benion supervises Lakewood, Bryant,and Pattengill elementary schools, all the high schools, and the hearing-impaired and speech and language programs. Jeff Flynn manages the assistive technology for the entire district. Yolanda Bell supervises secondary transition compliance, the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES), and the young adult program. And finally, Patricia Rushing is the autism coordinator and runs the peer-to-peer mentoring program.

Brown and her team then led the board through a departmental review, linking each section of their report to an objective of the district’s strategic plan.

SISS Review: Goals and Accomplishments

Brown explained that her department is in the process of a review of its programs and service delivery, and reviewed a set of goals as well as accomplishments. She noted that a committee has been created for the review that includes parents, psychologists, and special education administration. Benion added that site visits and surveys will be conducted as part of the review, and that findings will be shared with Green and the board.

The law requires that special education students are taught in the least restrictive environment possible (LRE), allowing many students to participate in some classes alongside their general education peers. “Self-contained” classrooms contain special education students who are not able to spend any time in general education rooms. Brown expressed concern that self-contained classrooms may not be using state curricula. Benion added that in many cases, the goals of a student’s IEP (individualized education plan) were not being aligned with the state curriculum, but that the district is changing that.

Benion said that one of her goals is to offer professional development to all special education staff who teach in self-contained classrooms on the eGLCEs (extended grade level content expectations), and to “be sure teachers are using these.” The GLCEs are the state-mandated curricula used in general education classrooms. The extended versions, or eGLCEs, modify the curriculum for special-needs students.

Brown also said that AAPS had in the past been cited as disproportionately labeling African-American students as cognitively impaired. She also said the district had been cited for disproportionately suspending special education students. She reported that this has been corrected, and that the special education department has implemented a new process to be sure the district is correctly and appropriately identifying youngsters who need special education services. Ensuring ongoing compliance on these issues, Brown said, is another one of her goals.

Other goals noted were to build more options for students transitioning out of school, developing a parent handbook, and expanding the peer-to-peer mentoring program. As accomplishments, Brown also said the district had implemented a new monitoring system to increase Medicaid reimbursement and had purchased a number of new technology products to help teachers facilitate student learning.

SISS Review: Compliance

Lon Smith described how AAPS had moved into compliance regarding disproportionality on all fronts. He pointed out the laminated sheets that had been provided to each trustee and explained how these sheets were given to principals as part of the effort to ensure that patterns of discipline are standardized. Smith also noted that professional development (PD) was provided to all staff regarding student discipline, including removal from class. The PD explains how special education law relates to suspensions and expulsions, and gave principals a chance to ask questions of an attorney.

“In special education,” Smith said, “unique situations happen all the time.” He noted that the manifestation determination review process is used to determine if a students’ misbehavior can be attributed to his or her disability, and noted that after ten days of suspension, special needs students still need to be provided a FAPE, or “free and appropriate public education.”

Finally, Smith noted that new state laws  on the process of crafting IEPs were passed in October of last year, and that PD had also been offered to all special education staff on the revised process. He said staff were given checklists, and will receive monthly reminders about the IEP process.

SISS Review: Medicaid

Thompson simply noted that the district’s SISS department is now monitoring Medicaid billing monthly, and has worked with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to ensure that the Medicaid reimbursements are handled appropriately. Nelson asked how much money this extra effort has brought the district, and Green answered that it has netted $1.4 million over two years.

SISS Review: Peer-to-Peer Mentoring

Rushing introduced the peer-to-peer mentoring program, which she said was developed primarily to provide a greater opportunity for special education students to access the curriculum by working with their peers. She noted that the program has been instituted in five elementaries and one high school, and is expanding.

Rushing explained that the student mentors are first trained  to understand the disabilities faced by their peers, and then general ed and special ed students are paired according to their interests. Technology is used to facilitate interactions between students, Rushing said, noting that the iPad has “loads of applications to get that conversation started.” She also noted that one school had used a grant to purchase a Wii for the same purpose.

The mentoring program has reflected changes in peer-to-peer interactions that Rushing said have been captured on video by teachers. There are also reflection activities that mentors and mentees complete at the end of the program.

SISS Review: Assistive Technology

Flynn reported that SISS provides many aides to special education students, both low-tech and high-tech, but pointed out that the district’s resources “wouldn’t be worth anything” without accompanying professional development. He pointed out that many PD opportunities were offered to teachers and parents over the summer regarding the use of various technologies. Then, Flynn said, student and teacher outcomes are identified and data on the effective use of technology is tracked.

Some low-tech solutions highlighted by Flynn included: colored reading frames, colored overlay, and colored raised-line paper. Mid-level technology being used includes the talking dictionary and talking calculator, which offers auditory output to reinforce number concepts. High-tech aides at use in the district are the Smart Board, and the Tap-It, which is especially effective for students on the autistic spectrum, or students with physical or cognitive impairments. Finally, Flynn described a tablet used by a non-verbal AAPS student as a communication device – the student collects pictures and organizes them, and the machine communicates for him.

SISS Review: Transition Services

Bell explained that transition services for special education students are a coordinated set of activities. The state monitors compliance by selecting IEPs at random to be sure they are in compliance with mandated transition services. AAPS, Bell pointed out, has maintained compliance every year regarding the provision of transition services. She noted that AAPS has a set of assessments that are used to help students transition out of secondary school, and briefly described a few of them.

The PAES, or Practical Assessment Exploration System, is used to measure students’ work behaviors and competitiveness; the EDP, or Educational Development Plan, is used to identify career pathways of interest to students, and the TPI, or Transition Planning Inventory, is used to clarify students’ needs.

SISS Review: Board Discussion

Andy Thomas argued that it was negative to list as an accomplishment the fact that the state is no longer sanctioning AAPS for disproportionality in placement and discipline of special education students. Brown countered that achieving the removal of the funding sanction – which amounted to 15% of the district’s federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grant, or $480,000 – was indeed a significant accomplishment.

Thomas responded that meeting funding requirements and being sure that each student in properly assessed might be different goals.

Several trustees suggested that SISS engage better with parents.

Thomas suggested that parents be included on the program review team. Brown responded by saying that the department had planned to survey parents, but that she would consider including them on the team itself.

Christine Stead was more direct, saying, “I get the most complaints about SISS … Please re-focus your energy around a customer-service approach.” She acknowledged that SISS deals with one of the most challenging sets of students and families in the district, but stressed that the department needs to be families’ “best friend in our system.” Giving the examples of an IEP meeting being held at a time whe parents cannot attend, and lack of timeliness in responding to families, Stead said the district needs to deliver a more comprehensive, streamlined service.

Lightfoot added that she shares the stated concerns about customer service, and would extend that concern to the district’s administration as a whole.

Baskett asked who parents should contact if they have a concern with the education of their children. Brown suggested starting with the case manager, that is, whoever facilitated their IEPs. Then, Brown continued, parents could go through the chain of command – the principal, the appropriate assistant director of SISS, and then up to Brown. Green added that after Brown, if an issue was still not resolved, a parent could come to her.

Baskett responded that she knows of cases where the families of special education students are not feeling respected by their principal, and that special education students are not always recognized in a positive way. She also said she is sensing a schism between SISS and building administrators.

On the positive side, Nelson and Patalan said they did learn a lot from the presentation. Baskett complimented the peer mentoring program, and Lightfoot said she was happy to hear of the accomplishments. Patalan applauded the development of the parent handbook, the better compliance in terms of disproportionality, and Medicaid reimbursement increases.

Nelson requested that SISS integrate student performance measures into its self-assessment to determine if SISS is making a difference educationally. Thomas thanked Nelson for expressing what he had been trying to say earlier, quipping, “This may be the first time I’ve ever complemented you on being succinct.” Thomas said there seems to be an awful lot of emphasis on process instead of outcomes, and requested that whatever measures SISS institutes speak to student accomplishment.

Board and Superintendent Evaluations

The board will be evaluating the performance of superintendant  Patricia Green. Mexicotte asked that board members familiarize themselves with a document she would be sending to them that outlines guidelines related to student achievement measures to be used in the superintendent evaluation.

Regarding the board’s self-evaluation, Mexicotte asked trustees if they would be interested in retaking the survey administered by Ray and Associates, the superintendent search firm, again this year. The board took the self-assessment survey last year as part of the package of services provided by Ray and Associates. during the superintendent search.

Mexicotte suggested that if the board retook the survey, results from the last year and this year could be compared side by side, which the board might find useful. Also, she noted that trustees had expressed a possible interest in participating in diversity training as part of the effort to combat the achievement gap, which is something they could note in the survey.

The board agreed to retake the survey.

Agenda Planning – Balanced Calendar

The district is considering moving to a balanced calendar, which could take many forms.  One form is an extended school year with longer breaks throughout the year, such as was proposed as part of the Mitchell-Scarlett-UM teaching and learning collaborative.  The board has directed AAPS administration to look into moving to a balanced calendar district-wide, and to bring a recommendation to the board one way or the other.

Lightfoot questioned whether waiting to discuss the balanced calendar until the April 18 committee of the whole meeting would leave the district enough time to implement a balanced calendar for 2012-13 if the board voted to do so.

Mexicotte said the April 18 was the date set aside to receive the recommendation from administration regarding a balanced calendar.

Lightfoot again questioned if an April decision on a balanced calendar would leave enough time to roll out such a program before September. Green responded by saying her administration would work with the direction of the board either way.

Nelson added that there are positive and negative consequences to moving to a balanced calendar – consequences that the administration’s report will probably lay out.

Mexicotte said she was not sure what the administration’s recommendation would be for a balanced calendar, but that if the board wants it to happen in the fall, it will happen.

Present: President Deb Mexicotte, vice president Christine Stead, secretary Andy Thomas, treasurer Irene Patalan, and trustees Susan Baskett, Simone Lightfoot, and Glenn Nelson.

Next regular meeting: Wednesday March 21, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.


  1. By Scratchingmy Head
    March 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm | permalink

    Again. I would like to thank Jennifer Coffman for an excellent summary of the AGEP that was presented to the Board of Trustees for the AAPS. From my perusual of the notes it seems that the plan covers several areas: Beyond Diversity Training; Equity Plan Rubric; Accountability; Holistic Accountability System; Personal Learning Plan and Professional Development. According to Jennifer’s coverage, the Board use terms like..”integrated,” “robust,” “powerful,” and “inspiring,” to describe their reaction and preliminary approval of the plan. I would encourage the board to go back 20, 15, 10, 5 years and review the plans that were submitted to address the “achievement gap” and please tell me what has changed in that time. When reading this article, I get the impression that the administrators…Alesia Flye and especially Superintendent Green, who has publicly made it known that she is hoping to retire to a teaching position at UM, is auditioning for their next job. I do not see anything in this plan that will address the issue at hand and Trustees Baskett and Lightfoot are correct in being coy about this plan.

  2. By Eric
    March 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm | permalink

    A sure fire plan to waste time, squander money and humiliate, alienate, aggravate and drive the high quality teachers and students out of the system .

  3. By Maria Huffman
    March 24, 2012 at 9:15 am | permalink

    It’s important to realize that if the goal is to change how the kids perform, it’s the adults who have to change how they manage the children first, and I applaud the emphasis on acquiring data to see how that particular piece of the puzzle is progressing in the district. Principals lead what happens in the building, they are the point people responsible for for actions, or non actions that occur at the building level. Dr. Green is not their supervisor.

  4. By Maria Huffman
    March 24, 2012 at 9:33 am | permalink

    My mistake, I meant Dr. Brown, is not the principals supervisor. Dr.Green is.
    When SISS services are not happening well or at all, it is the principal’s responsibility to correct that. They are in the building to take care of administrative issues. That’s their job. A parent should not have to go through so many layers and wend their way up to Dr Green to ultimately have to talk to the principal, who should have been the one to take care of things properly in the first place.

  5. By ScratchingmyHead
    March 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm | permalink

    Maria. I agree with you that a parent should not have to go all the way up the chain of command to have a problem presented. However, many parents who make contact with a principal does not receive the same courtesy and other parents do. I’ve seem this actually happen and I had the same experience when my students were in school. However, once the principal of the one school realized that I was an unengaged parent and that I knew how to advocate, their initial reaction never occurred again. If part of the evaluation of a principal performance was based on the number of parents who end up seeing Dr. Green because of the principal failure to resolve issues a the building level, Dr. Green would not have to see so many parents. While I realize a plan is needed, what concerns me is that teachers seems to overburdened by numerous other “tasks” that they don’t have time to adequately devote to teaching. Why is it that when the achievement gap is discussed,Black students are compared to white students and not Asian students. Those seem to be the high achievers or are Asian students classified as white?

  6. By Maria Huffman
    March 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | permalink

    SISS is there to give help, principals have to be prepared to take it.
    The numbers are harsh regarding the achievement gap,measure it this way or that, it’s real and it’s hurtful for the kids.