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Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Ann Arbor Superintendent Patricia Green pushes forward on school district's 8 goals

By Danielle Arndt

Patricia Green.JPG

Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Patricia Green speaks to a crowd in this file photo. At Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, Green honed in on how to move the district's strategic plan forward.

Online classes for all grades and an in-house International Baccalaureate program are being explored as part of the Ann Arbor Public Schools' renewed effort to follow its eight strategic goals.

In 2006, the Ann Arbor school board approved the district's first strategic plan. The plan was meant to serve as a roadmap for guiding the work of the district.

It includes eight goals or areas of focus to ensure students are receiving a world-class education. Each of the eight goals includes specific action steps, such as:

  • Develop a rigorous career and technical education program that leads to college credit or a formal certification for students.
  • Develop curriculum that prepares students to compete in a global society.
  • Provide extended learning opportunities outside of typical school hours at all buildings.
  • Provide teachers with constructive feedback and classroom support throughout the school year.

The district's strategic plan was one of the reasons Superintendent Patricia Green first wanted to come to Ann Arbor in 2011, she recalled to the Board of Education at Wednesday's Committee of the Whole Meeting.

"But when I got here, I actually had great difficulty getting my arms around the plan."

Green said a strategic plan should provide purposeful direction and be a document used by all on a daily basis.

But what she found was not everyone was aware of what was in the plan and no work was being done on a few of the eight strategies. So Green set out to deliver on the promise she made in her interview with AAPS: to "focus like a laser beam" on the strategic plan.

Green and her instructional team spent months reviewing the progress that has been made and identifying what's next for the strategic plan. On Wednesday, central and building administrators — led by Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Alesia Flye — presented the 135-page report to the board.

The executive summary of the report says recently, the district's instructional work has been focused on aligning its curriculum with the common core state standards for math and language arts, which Michigan adopted in 2010.

The district's instructional staff also is working to improve curriculum consistency throughout the district and to help teachers develop personalized learning plans for every student.

One item school officials are trying to spread the word about is personal curriculums. The personal curriculum concept was introduced by the state and actually is included in state statute.

According to the district's report on the strategic plan, a personal curriculum is a documented process to modify or accelerate certain aspects of the Michigan Merit Curriculum based on a student's individual needs. The MMC is the state's rigorous set of high school graduation requirements that was signed into law in 2006.

Per state statute, a student could request a personal curriculum from their school for one of four reasons: to modify math requirements; to go beyond the academic requirements by adding more math, science, English or world language credits; to modify credit requirements for a special education student; or because the student transferred from out of state or a nonpublic school. The idea behind the personal curriculum is to help at-risk students remain on-track for graduation and to receive their diplomas.

Elaine Brown, assistant superintendent of student intervention and support services, said the district has developed personal curriculums for nine high school students to date. She said AAPS staff must undergo training and professional development soon so more of the district's teachers, counselors and department chairpersons understand the personal curriculum process and how to write one.


This poster was distributed to every classroom in the Ann Arbor Public Schools year to help raise awareness of the district's strategic plan.

Ann Arbor Public Schools officials are researching the feasibility of establishing a virtual learning academy within the district. AAPS currently offers online course options for high schoolers, but the virtual learning academy could be for all grades, officials said.

"A virtual learning academy would embrace the district's rigorous curriculum and deliver it in an online format," the report says. "Students could learn in their own way at any time, in any place and at their own pace. This may be an appealing option for families who are not currently enrolled in Ann Arbor."

Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislators support statewide education reforms that would allow for any-time, any-place, any-pace learning by broadening the definition of an educational institution and permitting per-pupil funding to follow the student from district to district, school to school, Vice President Christine Stead reminded her colleagues Wednesday night.

She was pleased to hear AAPS is exploring the possibility of an online learning academy and using technology to offer more options for students. She said parents are going to be bombarded with words like "choice" in the coming months.

"Technology is a key enabler," Stead said. "We need to make sure we are aligning what kinds of choice we offer in the future with, in particular, quality and what kinds of outcomes we offer."

Another option officials are researching, which ties in with Ann Arbor's goal for its students to compete at an international level, is housing an International Baccalaureate (IB) degree program in-district.

Right now AAPS is a partner with the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and has students attending Washtenaw International High School, an IB program that opened in fall 2011.

WiHi is a consortium between all of the districts in the county except Chelsea, Dexter and Manchester. Dexter Community Schools launched its own IB program in September 2012.

Green said school officials are not proposing anything: "It's just a study. We're studying it because it's part of our (strategic) plan. … The whole concept of international standards is huge. We're pleased with the work we're doing with the WISD program."

Flye added some of the feedback the WISD has received from Ann Arbor families about why they don't participate in the IB program is because it is not housed within AAPS. She said this could be due both to transportation and familiarity issues.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Wow, all this and gut curriculum and technology support! Remember the proposed cuts to the media centers? The media specialists work with students and teachers in delivering information and teaching technology. How will any of the proposed items be successful without the support of these teacher/librarians if the media centers are shut down?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:07 a.m.

I am totally all for on line learning if the child is struggling in school or the administration and the parents don't see eye to eye on how a child should learn. Ours is on line with 2 classes. She loves it and we love it. If she is learning? We are good to go. We do encourage two classes inside the system but other then that? On line learning? Is the thing of the future. Stone and mortar classes will end sooner rather then later due to costs. Namely teacher salaries and the unions.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:40 p.m.

Why in the world does AAPS need to study whether or not to integrate an IB program into the system? All they need do is look at Dexter. Dexter's effort has proven to be very expensive and not garnered the support or participation they had hoped for. Better off telling the AAPS parents to get over the transportation issue and their fear of Ypsilanti. WIHI is the best alternative for an IB school and will be leading the pack in scholarly achievement in a few years.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

I wonder when AAPS will conduct a survey of parents. It seems that the best approach to improve the quality of service is to find out what the users need and provide exactly that, and the most direct way to find out what users need is to ask them.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:14 a.m.

AAPS has constructed surveys in the past. What they do is have a consultant create the survey so AAPS can get the answers they want, and parents do not really get to share what they want.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

Individualized curriculum and learning plans for all students would be fantastic. But, who is going to handle this time consuming process? We have been stuffing more and more kids into the classrooms. We have taken away the 2nd planning period for teachers. Who is going to be able to do the work for this? When? If we want anything individual, we need to create environments with fewer students and more teachers first. Go to capsule night at Pioneer and ask how many students are in the classes. Most of the time, the answer is 32, 34, 37. One class I visited this fall had students sitting on the counter under the windows because there are not enough desks.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Anyone who uses the word rigorous in a positive manner probably shouldn't be involved in education....


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

"Green and her instructional team spent months reviewing the progress that has been made and identifying what's next for the strategic plan. On Wednesday, central and building administrators — led by Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Alesia Flye — presented the 135-page report to the board." "Green said school officials are not proposing anything: "It's just a study. We're studying it because it's part of our (strategic) plan." I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

So Ford's kids get a great education at Huron and the best AAPS SISS can come up with is 9 personal curriculums to date for special ed or at risk kids. To me that demonstrates the reason AAPS got designated Focus schools. AAPS should be churning out Personal Curriculums for needy kids at least 9 per month.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

AAPS should indeed have been developing Personal Curriculums for at least half of their HS aged special education students. The HS principals, especially at the 3 comprehensive high schools, have been stonewalling this initiative for whatever reason, and have effectively deprived a large number of students with disabilities of their educational rights. But don't expect AAPS top administration to actually do anything about it, because that would reveal the fact that the emperor of their celebrated "Strategic Plan" has never been clothed, not even in good intentions to change anything but the amount of money AAPS collects from taxpayers both state and Federal.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

I say, let the teacher's teach reading, writing, and math -- along with gym, music and art. There are way too many other requirements to even get started with the basics.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

Regarding: "The district's instructional work has been focused on aligning its curriculum with the common core state standards for math and language arts..." and, "The district's instructional staff also is working to improve curriculum consistency throughout the district and to help teachers develop personalized learning plans for every student," I'd like to know when this is expected to reach the classroom level.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 10:36 a.m.

I would love to see data on online learning, specifically: 1. How students who take online classes fare in regard to grades of those classes, standardized test of that subject, and qualitative feedback through something like an opinion survey of their online experience. 2. Who teaches online classes and what their qualifications specific to teaching in the online mode (does the state require any type of online certification - I am assuming they must be certified in their content areas)? 3. In regard to IB - has Ann Arbor considered what Dexter did and implement an IB program within one of the established high schools? Money and curriculum shifts are probably the driving factors here, but then it makes it accessible for all AAPS students. WIHI parents currently have to drive/bus their own students to Ypsi. The IB curriculum is very much in line with the Common Core Standards and teaching global perspectives.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:10 a.m.

donbee? Agreed. Pioneer only offers English at certain hours and we were forced to go on line for English due to this conflict. You also get a chance to sleep in an hour if the first hour is not until 2nd hour. topher? There are teachers at Pioneer who hide behind tenure and do not teach. Another reason we do on line classes. Sorry Pioneer, you do a great job with some teachers? Not with others.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

@DonBee - This is great to hear. I'm glad that MI Virtual High School is offering high quality classes - the more quality choices that students have, the better. I feel like certain classes within math and science lend themselves better to online learning, whereas other classes don't lend themselves as well, such as foreign languages or reading/writing. Ultimately, it seems to depend on the quality of the teachers and their ability to work well with students through the medium of the internet (conversely, a physical classroom teacher who does not know the content area may actually be worse than an online version of the class).


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Topher - Our family experience with online classes is wonderful and the teachers behind the online classes have been beyond good. We used Michigan Virtual High School for math and science classes not taught in AAPS or where our children had conflicts in scheduling. The teachers at Michigan Virtual have to have teaching certificates for Michigan and specialization in their topic area. They were available via phone and email, they would chat in the chat window on progress and encourge hard work.

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:51 a.m.

Any AAPS interest in establishing a virtual learning academy within the district only concerns FTE's for state aid. The premier online learning in the real world is Khan Academy, which is wonderfully effective and totally free, but doesn't make money for AAPS and, therefore, does not exist. Similarly, the only operating systems considered for the AAPS technology boondoggle were Apple and MIcrosoft; free systems don't have individual personal benefits for administrators and, therefore, do not exist. It is so very tiring to teach lies, of which the greatest is that truth cannot exist.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

donbee? After seeing that English syllabus on line? I hope so. Getting books for some of this is a challenge. Especially reading.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Actually Michigan Virtual High School is darn good and has great teachers that are available to help students who are taking the courses. If your child is taking an online course, it is one of the best in the nation.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 10:30 a.m.

Khan Academy is great for very specific types of learners and very specific content. It is delivered through lecture style, which only works for some students. There is also no interaction with the lecturer - the knowledge/content is delivered to the student who then decodes it. If you notice on Khan Academy's site, they are focused in on math and science - they have not delved into the world of writing or English Language Arts, I think, because those are things that require someone to sit down with every single student and guide them through the process of writing a thesis-based paper or a persuasive essay or personal narrative. Khan Academy is great for certain things, not so great for others.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

Setting up the online program sounds great, HOWEVER so are many of the excellent programs that have existed in AAPS that have been cut in recent years. We talk about the achievement gap... but how do we reach the students on the lower end of it: through online programs that are only accessible by computers and internet connections that these students may not have at home OR by putting more teachers in the classroom, funding the 'specials' classes in elementary schools, keeping reading support programs, keeping sufficient levels of support staff in school, etc? There are a lot of things that would be nice to have, but we only have a finite amount of resources. Why are we spending money developing new things while cutting the things we already have? Perhaps it is seen as a cost saving measure, but as DJBudSonic suggested in his previous comment, maintaining a legitimate, functioning "online academy" certainly cannot be cheap.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:11 a.m.

Be wary of words with hidden meanings that move taxpayer money from funding public education to paying for for profit schools.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

I can see the use for an online learning academy but the AAPS web presence as a whole is so poorly designed, and inconsistent from one building, school or department to the next, that I can't imagine the same group trying to build and maintain an online academy. Which makes me think it might be something that is farmed out, at great expense, which is not so good either. I am guessing that somewhere in the budget cutting they gutted the AAPS IT department, and transferred control of the school sites back to the schools, and we are seeing the results of this. IT is a place where cost savings are supposed to happen, but not necessarily through cutting staff to the bone.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 3 a.m.

The school websites have always been under the control of individual buildings, each site controlled by its own teacher/webmaster, not by IT. The decision to place ads on the district website was made by the school board...apparently to raise money.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:23 a.m.

Agreed! The website for our elementary school has advertisements all over it and many of the teacher sites have not been updated in years (lots of broken links). Our teachers are going to need a lot of training in web tools and virtual teaching if we develop an online academy (which I favor).


Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:30 p.m.

It would be incredible if Pat Green actually knew what was going on in the schools, or, God forbid, visit them in person, to see that these eight ideas are progressively getting cut and cut., care to do some investigative journalism and see how many cuts have been made to auto classes, software heavy classes, and similar courses since Dr. Green started? When will Pat Green and her buckets full of b.s. jargon go away? Seriously. How much longer do we have to put with with her?


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

AMOC: Software heavy classes could also include things like student publications (newspaper, lit magazine, etc.), the school yearbook, reading intervention classes, and graphic design. Ask any teacher or counselor in the district; these are all classes that have suffered heavy cuts during the last year under Green. As for auto shop, that was still going strong until last year. It is simply untrue to say it was cut under Fornero. You can also ask just about any employee, and most parents who are involved, how they feel about Pat Green, and they'll tell you that she is disengaged, inauthentic, and not accessible. Better yet, ask them to identify her from a line up. Other than the picture at the top of the page, I bet most don't know what she even looks like.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Blerg - The in-school auto shop / mechanic classes were gone before George Fornero left. Nor, in spite of much discussion about the obvious need, were they restored by Dr. Roberts when the Strategic Plan was first developed and then updated 3 years later. There have been no further cuts to Career and Technical Education since Dr. Green arrived in Ann Arbor. There are a very few HS courses that teach software development, mostly accessible either on-line or through WCC. A few additional students now learn those skills in Community Resource or co-op programs. I personally (as a parent active in the district) have been present in 5 different schools while Pat Green was there, and have heard from people in the school buildings that she made it a priority to visit every building at least once during her first year in the district. AAPS spent a huge amount of money on consultants and on staff overtime (to act as small-group discussion facilitators) to develop their Strategic Plan, and then bookshelved almost all of it. In particular the "personalized learning" and "effective instruction" strategies have been ignored, because there wasn't enough money to buy off the union. Teachers did not want, and the union would not allow, sufficiently rigorous feedback and re-training for them to become effective instructors of students who aren't succeeding in their classrooms today. I welcome ANY effort to provide individualized instruction for students, and a truly world-class curriculum for those students who are willing and able to master that body of knowledge and skills. Kudos to Pat Green for insisting that AAPS live up to their rhetoric and follow the plan. We should also have plenty of opportunities for students to learn to use tools, fix cars and computers, make clothes and food, build houses and furniture, and so forth. Even college-bound students should learn how to assemble their IKEA desks, right?

Dog Guy

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

AAPS continues to ignore the obvious need to develop a rigorous career education program that leads to success for students who aspire to live on the dole.

Silly Sally

Thu, Jan 24, 2013 : 10:49 p.m.

Another expensive study, paid for by us, the taxpayer. What a waste. In it, just under the surface, I bet, is talk about the racial divide? They seem fixated on race, not learning. Last night's meeting board members were talking about minority suppliers,


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:21 p.m.

Are you ok with the fact that black people predictably do worse in schools than white people? If so, do you think black people are inherently less intelligent than white people? Same questions about hispanics....