Stories indexed with the term ‘achievement gap’

AAPS Mulls Goals of Rising Scholar Program

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (Feb. 13, 2013): A highlight of the meeting was a presentation to the board on the Rising Scholars Program.

Robyne Thompson, assistant superintendent for secondary education

Robyne Thompson, assistant superintendent for secondary education, gave the board a report on Rising Scholars, meant to provide support for high-achieving but underserved students. (Photos by the writer.)

The program is meant to provide support for high-achieving but underserved students. It’s a part of the district’s strategy for addressing the achievement gap between different ethnic groups.  The presentation prompted some discussion about the overall goals of the program and the inequitable resources across the three comprehensive high schools. Several trustees expressed their frustration that not much had changed in the past two years.

The board was also presented with three purchase requests – two requests for purchases for new iMacs and new MacBooks for a total of $2,431,700. The computers would be paid for out of the technology bond. If the board approves the purchases, there are additional costs associated with the new computers. New software would also need to be purchased, and the cost of which would come out of the general fund. The third purchase request was for a new artificial turf field at Skyline for a cost of $858,056. The turf would be paid for out of the sinking fund.

Thirteen students, parents, and staff were present during public commentary to speak in favor of maintaining the trimester system at Skyline High School. This came in response to a request trustee made by Christine Stead at a recent meeting to hear from the members of the school community who favored trimesters. The board has in the past heard complaints about the trimester approach and calls for Skyline to adopt semesters, which is the scheduling approach used by Ann Arbor’s other two comprehensive high schools.

Also at this meeting, state representative Adam Zemke was on hand to talk about the impact Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would have on the district. He also heard the concerns of the board regarding changes in legislation. [Full Story]

AAPS Mulls Revenue Enhancement Proposals

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (March 21, 2012): At its Wednesday evening meeting, trustees of the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) heard and discussed a variety of revenue enhancement proposals from the administration.

Christine Stead Ann Arbor Public Schools

Trustee Christine Stead directs a question to superintendent Patricia Green while trustee Glenn Nelson looks on. (Photos by the writer.)

The proposals ranged from digital billboards on district property to enrolling international students into the district. Board reaction to the proposals was mixed.

Trustee Christine Stead described the proposals as creative, but requested the opportunity to see “both sides of the ledger” – both revenue enhancements and cuts. Trustee Andy Thomas said he was “underwhelmed” by the revenue projections.

After a special briefing on a resolution to re-fund the 2004 Building and Sites Bond, the board unanimously approved the resolution. The re-fund, or “refinance,” of the bond would mean a slightly reduced millage rate for taxpayers. The re-funding will only go through if market conditions remain favorable. [Full Story]

Board Applauds AAPS Achievement Gap Plan

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. [Full Story]

AAPS Hopes to Cross “Discipline Gap”

Ann Arbor Public Schools Committee of the Whole meeting (December 7, 2011): At Wednesday’s board committee meeting, AAPS superintendent Patricia Green outlined her vision for addressing what she called the “discipline gap.” The board met as a committee of the whole (COTW).

Suspension statistics Ann Arbor Public Schools

Percentage of AAPS high school students by ethnicity with at least one suspension during the school year. Part of the discipline gap that district superintendent Patria Green wants to address is reflected in the different between the blue bars – African American students – and other ethnic groups. Bars are clumped by year. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

Green sees closing the discipline gap as a gateway to eliminating the district’s achievement gap. Green’s presentation included a detailed breakdown of suspension data from the past eight years – a data set that shows a disproportionately high number of African-American students, special needs students, and economically disadvantaged students being suspended or otherwise removed from instructional time.

Trustees expressed optimism that Green’s comprehensive and integrated approach could ultimately be effective in addressing the achievement gap. Saying that while the board has had binders, spreadsheets, and plans before, board president Deb Mexicotte said she believes in Green’s leadership. “A lot of times in the past, the piecemeal bits have not been clear how they would work together … I now believe we can do this.”

Recalling a question Green asked the board during her interview process last spring, Mexicotte told Green, “You asked us what we would like to see in five years, and we said: Close the achievement gap. We are absolutely unified on this.”

Also discussed at the Dec. 7 COTW  meeting were the new “cut scores” being used to determine student proficiency on the annual state Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test and Michigan Merit Exam (MME). Under the new system, students will need to get approximately 65% of the answers correct to be labeled proficient or above; the previous proficiency level was set at 39%. The district is working to mitigate parents’ surprise and concern. This year’s student scores will in most cases likely register a significant drop.

Trustees also gave their assent to a proposal by top administrators to widen the range of students who are able to address the board at their regular meetings, heard a brief budget update, and reviewed their upcoming agenda. [Full Story]

AAPS Gets Update on Achievement Gap

The April 13 study session of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board was highlighted by an update on the district’s efforts on equity initiatives, as well as some blunt discussion about race in the Ann Arbor public schools. Study sessions are meetings of the board scheduled as needed to gather background information and discuss specific issues that will be coming before them in the future.

The session included a presentation from Glenn Singleton, a facilitator for the Pacific Educational Group (PEG). PEG was hired by AAPS in 2003 to assist in the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap – a disparity in academic performance between minority students and other students.

Singleton, who led a majority of the discussion, criticized the board on a number of points, contending that a lack of continuity in leadership has impeded progress in closing the gap. He also said the board has not shown full support for closing the achievement gap, resulting in uncertainty for principals, administrators and other building leaders as to the board’s commitment to solving the problem.

Interim superintendent Robert Allen was on hand and provided background on the district’s involvement with PEG. Allen said that Singleton was touching base with the district and visiting AAPS schools. Singleton was doing walkthroughs to evaluate the district’s progress on closing the achievement gap using techniques suggested by PEG.

“At this point we can have a meaningful evaluation of where we are with the equity work and what we’ll need to do to achieve our goals,” Allen said. The study session focused on lack of board support, failures in leadership structure and the need for “courageous conversations.” [Full Story]

AAPS Achievement Plan: It is rocket science

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (Nov. 10, 2010): Last Wednesday evening saw the unveiling of the Ann Arbor Public School’s “achievement gap elimination plan,” a document outlining the comprehensive set of strategies being used by the district to close the gaps in academic achievement between different groups of students. Preschool achievement data, positive behavior support programs at the middle school level, and a newly-created fifth grade social studies unit on African civilizations were highlighted as examples of the plan’s initiatives.

The meeting also included a review of secondary discipline data that showed disproportionate numbers of male students and African-American students receiving suspensions.

In response, the board made some suggestions on data collection processes and possible cross-references that could add depth to the analysis of student assessment and discipline data. [Full Story]

Schools: Achievement Gap or Equity Gap?

On May 27 at Mitchell Elementary School, 30 people gathered in a room. The group included a school psychologist, four school board members, a social worker, four school principals, four teachers, a pastor, the president of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, an education researcher, and representatives of local community-based organizations.

Baskett and Lightfoot

Simone Lightfoot, left, and Susan Baskett at the Beyond the Talk meeting at Mitchell Elementary School on Thursday, May 27. (Photos by the writer.)

Sponsored by Ann Arbor Public Schools board trustees Simone Lightfoot and Susan Baskett, the meeting was a follow-up to an event held in late April at the Peace Neighborhood Center. At that event, the College and Career-Ready (CCR) Review, AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts and his senior instructional staff had presented a subset of data on student achievement in the district, broken down by race.

The breakdown showed an ongoing difference in test scores between whites and other races. The focus of the May 27 Mitchell meeting, called Beyond the Talk, was on brainstorming around what co-facilitators Lightfoot and Baskett called the elements of a plan to address this issue.

Since April’s CCR Review, the community has seen the Lunch Bunch program at Dicken Elementary School – an initiative intended to address this gap – ended when it was found by the district to violate relevant anti-discrimination laws. The story of parents’ complaints about a Lunch Bunch field trip, which was restricted to black students only, had inflamed controversy that gained national attention.

Depending on your perspective, the Beyond the Talk meeting looked either poorly-attended or well-attended. Early in the evening, one participant commented that African Americans were poorly represented at the meeting, and contended that any efforts to close the gap, however the gap was defined, would be unsuccessful as long as the “apathy” continued.

But Lightfoot declared that work gets done by those who show up to do it. And so they dove into their work.

“Current programs are maintaining the gap, not closing it.” “It’s not the kids – it’s the system.” “The system is not broken. It’s working exactly how it was designed to work.” “People are scared to shake up the status quo. It’s like fighting a war on many, many different fronts.”

Thoughts like these were distilled into bullet points by the end of the meeting, as participants discussed what next steps should be taken to address what has commonly been called the “achievement gap.” [Full Story]

New Trustee, AAPS Board Weigh Budget

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (May 12, 2010): Last month, Andy Thomas made a report to the board as a member of the Parent Teacher Organization Council. Now, the PTOC will make those reports to a board that includes Thomas.

Andy Thomas AAPS school board member

Andy Thomas, being sworn-in as the newest trustee of the Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education at its May 12 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Thomas replaces long-time member Randy Friedman, who resigned in April.  The selection of Thomas to the board during last Wednesday’s meeting marks the third change in board membership in the past six months. Thomas’ current term will end at the end of the year, and he – along with trustees Simone Lightfoot, Christine Stead, Deb Mexicotte, and Susan Baskett – will need to be re-elected in November to remain on the board.

Also at the meeting, the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students was addressed from multiple perspectives. The proposed Washtenaw Intermediate School District budget was reviewed, and the board was briefed on the district’s finances, sinking fund summer projects, policy updates, and human resources. [Full Story]