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Posted on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 10 a.m.

Ann Arbor school official: Ranking on new scorecards not accurate indicator of performance

By Amy Biolchini


Ann Arbor's Huron High School received the lowest designation among Ann Arbor's high schools in a new ranking system that launched Tuesday.

Daniel Brenner I

The Michigan Department of Education launched a new color-coded scale for measuring school performance Tuesday that has ranked Huron High School the lowest among Ann Arbor’s high schools.

The Michigan School Accountability Scorecards measure a school’s overall proficiency in math, reading, science, social studies and writing and give schools a customized set of targets to reach. The reports will be available online at

The ability of a school to meet those targets is designated by a color scale that ranges from green for 85 percent of goals met to lime green, yellow, orange and red for fewer than 50 percent met.

Few public school districts in Michigan have ranked higher than yellow on the new scale—meaning most are meeting 69 percent or fewer of their proficiency goals.

Local school officials said they believe the color labels assigned to their district and schools aren't finalized—and in some cases, are wrong.

In a statement issued by Ann Arbor Public Schools Tuesday, the district said it's still evaluating the benefit of the new system and that it's too soon to tell if the color coding is helpful.

"AAPS strongly believes that the designations at Huron, Pioneer, Skyline and frankly the entire district do not accurately demonstrate the academic performance of our students," spokeswoman Liz Margolis said in an emailed statement.


In 10 years, every school in the state is expected to earn a green designation by reaching an overall proficiency rate of 85 percent.

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ middle and elementary schools have all received a yellow designation, as has Community High School.

Skyline and Pioneer high schools both received orange designations, while Huron High School is in the red.

Huron was labeled red because of the low participation rates of students in certain subgroups whose tests were invalidated by the state, Margolis said in a statement. She said the district is working with the state to determine why. For Skyline and Pioneer, certain subgroups did not meet proficiency targets on MEAP and Michigan Merit Exam assessments.

Skyline, Pioneer and Huron high schools are also still listed as “Focus” schools under a report card system the state launched last year.

Focus schools have an achievement gap issue between the top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent of students. It’s the middle classification in the Priority, Focus and Reward school scale. Community High is one such Reward school and is in the 99th percentile in the state for performance.

"AAPS has been working diligently at closing the achievement gap, especially in the subgroup categories and has many programs in place to not only ensure students are reaching their full academic potential but raising their proficiency levels," according to a statement from the district.

For the 2012-13 school year, Huron High School was in the 65th percentile in the state, which puts it lower than Skyline (86th) and Pioneer (94th).

Comparatively, Huron is doing better than it was in 2011-12 The individual high school scores from that year are as follows:

  • Community High School: 99th percentile
  • Huron High School: 57th percentile
  • Pioneer High School: 88th percentile
  • Skyline High School: 87th percentile

Huron’s feeder schools all have been given the Focus designation and include some of the lower-performing schools in AAPS, specifically Scarlett Middle School, Mary D. Mitchell School and Pittsfield School.

Washtenaw County schools

South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy, East Arbor Charter Academy and Arbor Preparatory High School—all charter schools—were the only institutions in Washtenaw County to be given a green designation. There were no schools that received the lime green color on the scale.

AAPS has received an orange designation overall, while Ypsilanti Community Schools—which hasn’t seen its first official day of classes after the consolidation—has received a red.

Scott Menzel, superintendent for YCS and for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, said he would urge a “cautionary review” of the new color-coded scorecard.

Data for YCS schools is a reflection of the two prior districts, Menzel said.

“(The color-coded system) is misleading with respect to the structure of YCS,” Menzel said. “It’s based on the data from the two former districts, and in the year that was the most disruptive academically.”

Some of the color labels for YCS schools are not correct, Menzel said, noting that the district is working with the state to fix the problem. It's an issue that AAPS officials are dealing with as well.

"As of last Friday the state was still changing the color designation on many of our schools, so we believe this is a fluid process not yet fully determined," Margolis said in the statement.

However, inaccuracies in the state system aren't a crutch for YCS to lean on, Menzel said, noting YCS realizes there’s work to be done, both in terms of the financial health of the district and with student achievement.

Willow Run High School had been placed in the bottom percentile in the state and was listed a Priority school before it merged into YCS. A Priority school is in the bottom 5 percent of the state’s top-to-bottom list. The Priority designation replaces a previous designation of Persistently Low Achieving.

Priority schools must show demonstrated achievement or risk being put into the state’s reform system. Willow Run was the only school in Washtenaw County to receive that designation in the new data.

Ypsilanti High School was close, however: It was in the 6th percentile for the 2012-13 school year.

“In the long run, we want to be able to focus on academic growth. This will be one way of looking at it,” Menzel said, noting there’s more data that tells the story.

In Dexter, Saline and Chelsea, the public school districts all received a yellow designation, with the exception of Saline’s and Chelsea’s high schools, which got orange designations.


Color-coded list of Ann Arbor Public Schools compiled by from Michigan Department of Education data on the 2012-13 school year.

Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

The reason charter schools perform better is 1. parents who are motivated to have their kids perform tend to select them. 2. They can toss the kids out who disrupt the classroom. Instead of railing against charters, how about letting regular schools get rid of their troublemakers quickly and permanently? Teachers will be in control again, giving them an honest chance to teach.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

For those of you who have complaints about the system - the State Board of Education members are: • Membership List • John C. Austin (D) • Michelle Fecteau (D) • Lupe Ramos-Montigny (D) • Kathleen N. Straus (D) • Casandra E. Ulbrich (D) • Daniel Varner (D) • Eileen Lappin Weiser (R) • Richard Zeile (R) The Superintendent of School is: Mr. Michael P. Flanagan who has been in office since 2005 and was appointed by Gov Granholm. These are the people who approved the rating system.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

I'm interested that the MDE data for South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy has absolutely no proficiency data for any subgroup in any subject. Their green color seems to rely on the fact that they had 100% participation in tests where the subgroups were large enough to be reported. I am befuddled about what this tells us or why a school gets a score at all with no proficiency data in the formula. Very odd. East Arbor Charter Academy does have proficiency scores, but not for all subgroups. Among those subgroups left out because there were fewer than 30 students: Hispanic students, English language learners, those reporting two or more races. They did not make AYP last year. Arbor Preparatory High School shows no proficiency or completion data, because all groups are smaller than 30 (including "all students"). Yet they get a "green" score for proficiency for "all students" in every subject, and get a green overall. Allen Elementary, in AAPS, gets an overall Yellow because they get no points for performance of the "bottom 30% students" in science, writing and social studies. Yet there is no data at all for social studies, and the student counts for bottom 30% on science and writing are both under 30 even though proficiency rates are listed, so it's not clear if they are getting penalized for reporting scores when they did not have to. This makes no sense to me, at all.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 7 p.m.

Preliminary data and results often don't make sense, nor are they right. Now that this data is available to everyone along with the ratings, I suspect there will be hundreds of corrections to the scores and colors. Based on what I have looked at if this were a class assignment I would give it a "C-" for accuracy.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

It makes me laugh that teachers and schools, who grade students' performance all the time, are so upset at being graded themselves. The irony just knocks me out.

Jay Thomas

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

The school scores closely correlate with the educational background and income of the student's family. But lets keep focusing on "good schools" and "bad schools". Bleh.

Charles Curtis

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

The public school system in general is failing because the goals are set to force everyone into 1 set of requirements. Those requirement have nothing to do with encouraging children to think and reason for themselves. The government wants a bunch of sheep to do and follow what ever policy they set forward. And how many people want their children to emulate those in Washington? Ever since the Dept of Ed was founded our education ranking compared to the rest of the world has declined. Our graduation requirements ought to include basic communication and math skills for everyone. But then add other requirements based on the child's interests or affinities. Lets encourage the kid who likes music, to write stories, to work with money, to invent... The cookie cutter doesn't work for all. Ask the teachers if they can teach one method and have all student learn (well there will be a few who do, and their students will have issues) the subject. This ranking system is a joke, and not because the colors used, its doubling down on a failed system. All we will get a less instruction in usable skills for our children, and more teaching for some politically motivated test.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

"If you can not measure it, you can not improve it." -- Lord Kelvin

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 3:12 a.m.

Well, I am guessing this information is tied into national data in some way and Michigan does not due well nationally. John Austin, is the president of the Michigan Department of Education, is a Democrat and lives in Ann Arbor. This is his baby not the Gov. Community-homogenious, agreed with everything states. Again, Community students grab the best of AAPS. They can play sports at a big school while attending a small school. If they removed the sports and ability to take classes at other schools, the numbers for Community would look different. This is the liberal elite of Ann Arbor taking all the best of public education for themselves. So proud!


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

"They can play sports at a big school while attending a small school. If they removed the sports and ability to take classes at other schools, the numbers for Community would look different." What percentage of Community High students actually play sports?

Jay Thomas

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Simmer down with your facts there. Can't you see they are on a roll? It's Snyder's fault. Has to be.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:49 a.m.

"South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy, East Arbor Charter Academy and Arbor Preparatory High School—all charter schools—were the only institutions in Washtenaw County to be given a green designation." No surprise...because charter schools are private schools that are paid with public monies for business people supported by the current MI admin. so they can make a profit off the children of parents who want you to pay for a private education for their child. Sadly this also include Obama's Admin....still doesn't make it right to profit off children with public monies. The supporters include the Devos family who is also receiving public monies for their charter school. I wouldn't be surprise if that school received a green on this terror coded school list.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:50 a.m.

Welcome Dr. Swift, I can't wait to see what you are going to do about this! Interesting that Bach, Wines, Burns Park, King, and Angell are "REWARD" schools. Clearly their teachers are doing something right! Good job! Lawton and Eberwhite do not even earn a label! This should be of concern.

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

These REWARD schools are full of rich only children of professors and doctors. Teachers refuse to take the blame at Mitchell and Pittsfield, they should also refuse to take credit here.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

Roberto Clemente High got Yellow too! And they should get credit for ranking above the big high schools. I could not find an explanation of how this math game is being played. It looks like it may favor smaller high schools in some way.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

This is all meaningless junk. I will not assign motivations as that is a political mess. I just want to point out a couple of things to support my initial statement. According to the state, the two best high schools in Ann Arbor are Roberto Clemente and Community. So, how many kids in Community (or parents of kids in Community) would be happy just moving to Clemente? After all, the state says they grade out the same. Don't feel left out, Saline and Chelsea - Clemente is a better school than you've got too! How is this possible? Very easy - it is all meaningless junk. Why? "The Michigan School Accountability Scorecards measure a school's overall proficiency in math, reading, science, social studies and writing and give schools a customized set of targets to reach." So, they are not measuring the same thing in every school - proficiency etc. Each school has its own 'targets' and then are ranked on how they meet their very own targets. So if each school has customized targets, then how can you compare? Well, you would need to do a lot of research as to what each school's targets are, and would probably want to research why those targets were set that way. Sounds complicated. And it is, because educating people of various backgrounds is complicated. Isn't it nice though that you don't really have to do all that though, because nothing matters but the COLOR! Can we really take something as complex as public education of the masses and reduce it all to a color scale? The people in charge think so.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

Is it just me, or does this seem about as ridiculous as the same color code "scheme" when it came to our perceived level of threat in the years following 9-11? And look how well that turned out - NOT! And, yes, I agree with those comments who see this as yet another way to demoralize public educators and yet does nothing effective to fix our education system.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

I think this is just another way for michigan to say all the schools in mi are doing fine. "See they are the same color" so therefore all schools are the same. It makes no since when schools who are assigned the same color have such drastic differences in their percentile ranking. They need to stop worrying about ranking schools and put that effort in making mi schools challenge students rather than being satisfied when they meet Michigan standards which are sub par in the first place.

Dan Patterson

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

Just look at the fact that Scarlett Middle, at 16th percentile achievement ranking received a yellow scorecard, while Pioneer High, at 94th percentile received an orange scorecard. Common sense would seem to indicate that change for the better is more necessary at a school with a 16th percentile rank than at a school with a 94th percentile rank, but apparently that's not how this convoluted scoring system works. It's based on year-over-year improvement, and it will be more difficult for a top-ranking school to improve than for a low-ranking school.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

When are they going to come out with a rating system for parents. Find a way to direct the data at them. Stop trying to create the impression that that a school is performing poorly by creating a new way to manipulate bad data. The only score or rating I care about are the ones on my kid's report card.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

And I could usually care less about the report card grades, as long as the kid passes, because some teachers manipulate the assignments and weighting of assignments to make themselves look good. The grade inflation is rampant, and does NOT give a realistic sense of what the kid knows about a topic. I care a whole lot more about how my kids stack up compared to the competition in the rest of the state, the rest of the country, and the rest of the world. Ann Arbor has been fooling themselves that our students are learning at world class levels when in reality we're doing only moderately well when compared to the rest of the country and the rest of the world.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

I think you may find that your kid's performance on the SAT or multiple other exams that conform and report to "national" standards may matter to you down the road. And their results, compared to the "A-for-Affort!" grades may surprise you.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

You'll care how your child's school is perceived/rated when he/she applies to college if the High School / School System he/she went to is poorly rated. Applying to college from the Ann Arbor school system currently is viewed very favorably. Colleges give different weight to grades from different school systems, an "A" from a lousy district isn't the same as an "A" from a highly competitive district.

David Cahill

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:37 p.m.

It would have been better to have a headline that reflected the story, rather than Liz Margolis' expected denial.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

I agree. The headline should been more along the lines of Ann Arbor Schools receive poor ratings from state; School leaders dispute findings.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

The history of Michigans "assessment" programs is that they markedly over-rate what most of us would consider under-performance. The last I read about multiple MEAP "success" criteria was that a student could achieve test scores as low as 30% in some subject areas, but that still met MEAP criteria for "success".


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Thanks AMOC. A key phrase here is perhaps "among the best in the state". As that pertains to AAPS, to me, that reminds me of a phrase I read in my own high school class: "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king".


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

That "over-rating" situation improved a few years ago when the MEAP "cut scores" were adjusted to more closely reflect the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP. Essentially, Michigan redefined their standard so scores that had previously been labelled "advanced" became "proficient" and what had been "proficient" became "basic". As a result, AAPS went from having 90% or more of their students meeting or exceeding the state standards to having only 20-40% meeting the standards. They'e still among the best in the state, but we're no longer kidding ourselves that we're so much better than we really are.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:16 p.m.

Start with guaranteed health care and childcare for the lowest income families. This will reduce the early childhood stress and the children thereby be able to sit in school and learn. Then give the highest pay to the teachers in the poorest schools. Wait a couple of generations and you have a chance to improve the education outcome. Before these early interventions are in place you will pour money into testing and shifting standards without significant results. Some object that more single girls will rush to have families and that their children will continue the cycle of poverty but that is not the case. Some object to raising teacher pay before implementing teacher testing but if you raise the pay (yes some "undeserving" teachers will benefit at first) and reduce class size, you will attract good people and keep the good people (of which there are many already) from burning out. Don't bother with the down votes. I won't be able to bear coming back to this thread, but I have taught and studied the issues for years.


Wed, Aug 28, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Reducing class size has nothing to do with teaching. And neither does teacher pay. When teachers lost the ability to toss students out, they lost control and education has suffered ever since.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

I assume that you're going to donate your own money to pay for all this, right?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

"the children will thereby...."


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Can't help but feel that this is just because state bureaucrats need to appear busy. And yes, the data is flawed and not very meaningful. Usually the best way to find out about which schools are good is to ask the families with kids in school.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:36 a.m.

The problem with that is that with the crime problems in Michigan schools, "safety" is as much or more of a criteria than actual academic performance. Hence the exponential increase in for-profit Charter schools, which will let your kids come home undamaged at the end of the day, but often have worse academic performance than "public school" alternatives in the same region.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

Look at the SES of these schools (and every school in MI) and see how the lower the SES the more likely they will have a red or orange distinction and the higher the SES the more likely for green or high yellow. Ann Arbor is a good example of this, Open, Community the magnet schools have the lowest SES (high yellow) while the schools like Huron that draw from the lowest SES have the red. The quality of teaching is no better or worse, it is simply the demographic of student is more challenging and tends to come with less tools for learning (and less home help---sometimes because of literacy issues, work schedules...etc). Charters will often be in the green because they tend to draw from high SES---look at Honeycreek and Ann Arbor Learning Community. Middle to upper class incomes in those schools.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Oops I meant Huron draws from the highest numbers of low SES while Community and Open have mostly high SES in their population.

An Arborigine

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

Personally, I don't care which Ann Arbor school is best/worst, but I do know that the grading system is flawed. It is much more difficult for a district with a high student performance average to improve than for a district with a low student performance average to make the same percentage improvement.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

The ratings are flawed if and only if you disagree that the Achievement Gap is the most important single issue in public education. Ann Arbor has a substantial fraction of very high performing students, and another group of students who do much less well on their academic work. Therefore, we have a large achievement gap compared to, say. Inkster, which has many fewer students with high academic achievement and has an even larger fraction of very low achievers. Most charter schools, Community and AA Open show up better because the students who aren't serious about academics or who can't succeed in that environment tend not to apply, or not to stay enrolled at these "by application/ by lottery" schools.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

"AAPS strongly believes that the designations at Huron, Pioneer, Skyline and frankly the entire district do not accurately demonstrate the academic performance of our students," spokeswoman Liz Margolis said in an emailed statement." No surprise at this comment.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:30 p.m.

"Big government" is the proverbial 800lb gorilla in the living room.... Once there, it does whatever it wants. Many school officials want "big government" because in their minds, it = more tax dollars for schools. So, they vote for Obama and every other liberal ticket supported by the union without realizing that he who giveth can also taketh away....and that the "he" could be Snyder...... .........Instead, why don't we return school districts to local control ???.... I don't see why school districts that need state assistance shouldn't be allowed to receive it. At least allow it to be the decision of the local district. But, successful districts shouldn't be forced by the state to "downgrade" education for its own students just because another district needs help.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

I have a huge problem with all of this ranking the schools CRAP. These rankings are based on very little real world information. These rankings are mainly based on standardized tests. I would love to see a school ranking that takes into account the following additional factors: 1) Student motivation 2) Student's parental involvement within the school 3) Students's parental involvement outside of the school day. 4) Observations of the teacher student relationships incise the classroom 5) Student academic improvement year to year. Until factors like these can be factored in, no ranking system will even come close to ranking schools effectively. 1) Student motivation plays a huge factor on the primary testing criteria, standardized tests. I have been in testing rooms many times for MEAP and ACT testing. I have seen those students who try hard, and those who sit and fill in c for each and every answer so they can sleep until time is called. School staff can say over and over how important a test is, but unless the student actually internalizes this, they may not put in the effort to do well. 2) Student's parental involvement in the school. Students who have parents involved in the school system in some way, shape or form tend to be better students and have less problems in school with non-academic issues. This includes but is not limited to showing up for conferences. Contact with the teacher regarding the student's performance. I had a LT substitute position a few years ago. Of my 110 students, I had 20 parents show up for conferences. This lack of parental involvement in school activities is an indication of #3 3) Student's parental non-school involvement. How active are the parents in their child's education when they come home? Do they make the child do assigned home work, reading, ect. Do they make an effort to help the child learn and make practical use of what they learn? Or do the parents let the child sit and play video games or watch tv. 2)


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Excellent commentary! You must be an educator!

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

I have never heard of any ranking that includes parental involvement. Yes, schools collect data that indicates how many parents attend curriculum/open house nights, how many attend conferences. There is no data interpreted by the district to indicate a correlation about these involvement issues and a student's success. Although these are important, and reflect how involved a parent is in their child's education, it is the day-to-day parental involvement that is the most important in a child's academic success. I believe that chapmaja has hit the nail on the head with the comments stated, NONE of which are going to be taken into consideration by AAPS. What you wrote about is exactly what every teacher wishes each and every child in their classroom could experience, it plays such an important role in academic success. Parents set the stage for learning at home, and then teachers facilitate additional learning once the child is in school. Then, a student's effort adds to this triad - all three parts have to be there for successful learning experiences.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

Thanks AMOC. Very interesting.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

I've been told by several teachers that the schools usually report the proportion of students' parents attending one or more parent-teacher conferences or Curriculum Nights, based on either the appointment sheets or on in-class sign ins. Some schools also report the proportion of parents who volunteered through either through PTO activities or in the school itself. I am a very involved parent, but that metric might not fairly represent me. I've had 2 kids at the same grade level, which often means I must choose which student's teacher I visit during the extremely limited Capsule / Curriculum Night and conference times at middle and high schools. Also, I flatly refuse to ever again participate in the "arena style" parent-teacher conferences AAPS uses at the large high schools. I'll make an appointment for a phone meeting during a teacher's prep hour if there's an issue the teacher can't / won't discuss via e-mail.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

AMOC do you know how they evaluate how much parent involvement there is at any given school? I have never heard that it was taken into account and am curious how they assess it.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Chapmaja - Parent involvement in the schools is and has been one of the factors in Michigan's assessments of individual schools and of school districts. Starting with next year's ratings, student growth in achievement will be another major factor in rating the schools, rising to 60% of the weighting over the next several years. Many, many teachers and school administrators have decried this, complaining that the additional standardized testing required to document student growth in learning will further reduce instructional time. However, AAPS already uses this procedure with their 3 times a year NWEA testing for grades K-5, and they could expand it to K-8 if they wished Teacher-assigned grades on non-standardized assignments are too subjective to use to make cross-district and cross-state comparisons.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

4) How much of the rankings is based on actually watching teachers teach in a classroom. A teacher could be the worlds greatest teacher, but if he/she gets a bunch of unmotivated students in the classroom, he/she can only do so much. Observations of the teachers in the classroom will do more to show how effective a teacher is than a standardized test will. Does the teacher just teach the information, or is it taught in such a way that practical use of the knowledge is gained? This can't be determined by standardized testing, only by seeing a teacher in action. 5) Student's individual improvement year to year. These rankings typically look at the performance of a group of students. It does not look at each individual student year over year. When you average students you lose the individuality of education. For example, a school has 100 students. 30 of them make up the low achievers in this school and have an education rating of 20 each. The following year, 20 of the 30 students increase their personal rating to 25 (a 25% growth year over year), but 10 students drop from a 20 to a 10 because they simply don't care, the average for the group stays at 20. If you see more students improve significantly, this should be a positive on school rankings, not a negative. Ranking systems that look at comparison's to a different group in the same building, don't fairly account for individuality of a student.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

These are silly statistics, but it has zero to do with Republicans. Race-obsessed A2 has whined about the "achievement gap" for years, and now they're mad that the State identifies it as a problem. Note how the few schools that DON'T have a gap are just the ones in the richest neighborhoods, as there is nobody filling out the bottom of the curve there.

Sara White

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

There has to be something wrong with this data set. I plugged in the school system that I went to in Livingston county, and they have listed an elementary school that has been closed for probably a year now...

Sara White

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:34 p.m.

AMOC, I guess I mis-phrased. I figured it was on there due to some kind of activity. What I meant was that it is slightly misleading. If the school wasn't open for all of the year, then the data is not ideal and shouldn't be compared with full data. Just wondering what other kind of kinks there are.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Not necessarily, Sarah. The data set based in part on 2012-13 , so if that school was open for some or all of that school year, they may well have a "record" in the state system. Also, if the school system didn't report to the state that the specific elementary school was closed, or if it is used as a PreK-2 school, to house a Head Start program, or some similar "educational" purpose, it will have a state report record.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

This is getting predictable: Step 1: Create measurement of some kind that's new (alternately: create new curriculum, whose standards the current curriculum cannot meet through bubble tests) Step 2: Set expectations that all schools will be green/100%/A-OK by (See also: NCLB) Step 3: Initially rank most schools really low. Step 4: Use results of Step 2 to show how our public schools are "Failing" Step 5: Replace public schools with for-profit charter schools, slashing teacher pay and benefits and crushing unions in the process. Notice that "Educate all children regardless of socioeconomic status" is conveniently left out, because that just throws a wrench into the whole process. The new "Core" stuff that's coming down the pike is another "fix" to a problem we don't have. The more artificial "failures" the big-money donors can dream up, the faster you can wave goodbye to public schools as we know them.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

You are aware that "big-money donors" also donate money to the AAPS and other districts? So why don't all of your complaints apply to those schools as well?

Kirk Taylor

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

November 4, 2014.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

What we need is a leader how doesn't think by what the party says, but thinks by what the people say. There are certain things the populous thinks the Republicans do right, and there are things the populous thinks the Democrats do right. We need a leader who can reach a compromise between these groups and do what the voters of the state think is right, that will always be a middle of the road candidate. My concern is that in 2014 you will see a too far leaning candidate to the left, and a too far leaning candidate to the right for most offices. That will result in the same my way or now way attitude that dominates politics today. Lost is the idea that made this country great, the ability to compromise with those who have a different opinion.

Basic Bob

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

The general election will be determined by the results of the Democratic primary. If Democrats can nominate a stronger candidate than Virg Bernero, they have a shot. I have low expectations of the public union controlled PACs to sway the voters toward a competent leader, they will just pick another loser and keep griping about the result.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

It seems to me that the attitude of the AAPS Board and Administration is "everybody else is wrong and we're right". Why not take this new system and its results as a wake up call: look at the schools that are green (which should be our objective), figure out what they are doing differently from AAPS, and CHANGE.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

I do realize that some students are bussed in, but the % amounts are not nearly the same. Quickly, the most recent data I could find was here Some schools have over 50% and others have under 10%. Not surprisingly, test scores are correlated. I'm just curious if every school had, say, 20%, would the "good" schools still be that much better?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

aamom - Right now AAPS is spending several hundred thousand EXTRA dollars per year on busing students to non-neighborhood schools in an effort to balance the low SES and free/reduced price lunch population and the racial mixture in each school. Or at least, it was pretty close to balanced 13 or 14 years ago, the last time attendance boundaries were re-set for the elementary and middle schools. AAPS could do the experiment you suggest on a virtual basis, simply by running their data for the entire school system. I don't expect to see very much change, because the differences between schools are less than the differences between "colors".


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

I think it would be interesting to put the same % of free/reduced lunch kids at each school and then see if the top schools are still in the top or if it all evens out. maybe it wouldn't turn out like I think it would, but it would be an interesting experiment......


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

Thank you Stephen for not just going along with the crowd.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

I'm all for change if it is the right change. Following a system created by businessmen, politicians and academics, none of whom have classroom experience, doesn't scream "it must be right" to me.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Here's the breakdown for how the colors are assigned: 85 percent or more of the goals met = green 70 percent to 84 percent of goals met = lime green 60 percent to 69 percent of goals met = yellow 50 percent to 59 percent of goals met = orange Below 50 percent of goals met = red


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

@AmyB - thanks for clarifying. I posted above that I heard from friends that there was some vandalism to the Skyline building sign. It might be old news but am wondering how building damage gets paid for. I am sorry for posting this off topic in the school report card story. But I think the connection between basic building management and student academic performance should have a place in the state measurement system. Kids learn best in schools that are well-managed. Community High School's high scores has to be in part because of the percentage of kids who go to Community who are already high performers vs. a more diversified group academically at the other comprehensive schools. I would like to see a news story about the number of vandalism incidents at school properties and how those statistics are kept. I recall the Skyline football field was vandalized once during senior pranks but at another time that caused the need to replace the field because Skyline students drew on the field. I would like my tax dollars for schools to pay for academic support and true building maintenance and see a separate fund for repairs caused by student disciplinary incidents. Has the recent incident of the Skyline building entrance sign already been reported or communicated to parents in the AAPS newsletter ? How long has the Skyline sign been damaged? When did it happen? How much does it cost to order new letters, install them and pay for labor to do that?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Thanks for the clarification!


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

The phrase "hoist with their own petard" comes to mind when I see this report, and the prior one where a "Focus" designation was given to many AAPS schools based primarily on the existence of a significant Achievement Gap. For over decade, closing that pesky gap between members of various races has been the single most important and most consistent goal of the AAPS administration and the Board of Education. Few or no resources have been dedicated to boosting or supporting our top students of whatever race; we have spent almost all professional development resources for staff and created a plethora of special programs for students all focused on improving the school experience for African American students. There has been a very small amount of progress, but the gap persists. Nor have most other ordinary public school districts across the nation had any better results. Some places, like the Harlem Children's Project And the Comer School Project have seen greater success, but at a very high cost in wrap-around social services and interference in students' family life. But now that the State of Michigan has adopted that same attitude in determining their metrics, AAPS is complaining about their results and calling the evaluation flawed. I agree, the evaluation is flawed. But it's flawed for the same reason that AAPS' Strategic Plans and School Improvement Initiatives have been flawed all these years. We have been ignoring or even restricting the access of our best students to appropriate teaching and resources while throwing money at questionable programs to improve the self-esteem rather than the academic performance of some students. The commentors here blaming this new system on Republicans,should be ashamed of their own inconsistency. This new way of judging the effectiveness of schools falls squarely at the feet of the liberal Democrats who think "closing the gap" is the most important thing the schools should do.

J. A. Pieper

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:18 a.m.

Well stated, AMOC! As a teacher in AAPS, I am told countless times to focus on the children who are struggling, and you are so right when you point out that all of our professional development is focused on gap students. All of it, all year long. I have been told that I never have to read with the above grade level students, that they can learn and teach themselves. Parents of capable students, how do you feel about this? I think it is unconscionable, and adds to my frustration with AAPS. My sons had good teachers who did everything they possibly could to meet their academic needs, but in many instances, we were ignored because they were doing fine. There is an influence affecting student success that is the elephant in the room, no one wants to admit it is there, especially AAPS!


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Not very PC AMOC but so true and needed to be said.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

CLX- I have no idea what you could be talking about re. "close the gap or lose funding". Neither Federal nor Michigan education dollars have so far been dependent on any measures of student achievement . Nor are the most restrictive effects of No Child Left Behind going to be enforced here. Michigan received a waiver from those requirements last year, and Ann Arbor was never even close to having any building but AATech and Clemente labelled as "persistently failing" schools. AAPS has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on the race-baiting PEG and efforts to create "cultural competency" among the teaching staff. Their flat refusal to establish a program for very high achieving students has created a huge and growing market for private "gifted and talented" education in the area. In addition, the tragedy that is Everyday Math as taught by most elementary school teachers has resulted in huge expenditures on math tutoring among families where the parents actually know math, with correspondingly excellent standardized test results in some groups. If I were in charge, I'd solve the Federal "all students must meet grade-level standards" requirement by insisting that students must meet the minimum standards for each grade level before advancing to the next. And on the other hand, I'd insist that students who had met the standard go on to the next level rather than marking time or serving as unpaid and often-resented "teachers' helpers".


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

I think you are quite mistaken. Ann Arbor has been forced to "close the gap" or lose funding. Both the state and federal government is running the education show because they control the funding. Ann Arbor schools are just trying to respond to keep the money coming in. Ugh, can't believe you made me defend AAPS, but knowing the history is important.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Dear Parents of Students. I hate data. Signed; Those with red scores P.S. It's all political. Now let me put my head back in the sand.

Basic Bob

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Where are all the folks complaining about the horrible factory environment in the larger public high schools? Perhaps if we can chase all the middle class and lower out of the school district....


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

Exactly EyeHeart. If all the schools had been coded green, then the district would have been singing the praises of the scorecard.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

You forgot: "We wuz robbed."


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3 p.m.

It's funny how school officials and workers want "big government" support for their profession, but then say "whoa, that's not right" when faced with the after affects of such support.

Jay Thomas

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

They always want more money without accountability. What's new.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

aamom - Kids end up at Roberto Clemente only after they've already failed at one of the mainstream high schools, That means they have an academic and credit hole to dig out of before they get back on track to graduate, often have a bad attitude about school, and almost all of them were not achieving at grade level when they entered high school. Between that and the only-partial correspondence with KIPP, I'm not surprised that Roberto Clemente is not as successful as typical KIPP schools where the students are given the more intensive guidance and support from a much younger age.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

AMOC, what's your opinion of why Roberto Clemente doesn't seem to be working if they are following a lot of KIPP principles?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

aamom - Roberto Clemente features some aspects of the KIPP program, such as extremely small class sizes at < 15, uniforms, and very close involvement of school staff in students' home life. And it costs a lot of money, roughly double what the 4 more-typical high schools do on a per-student basis. However, the achievement scores at Clemente are very low. And because students don't usually graduate from Clemente but instead from their assigned district high school, it's very hard to get good statistics on how many kids eventually do graduate from high school. Very few kids who have attended Roberto Clemente graduate "on time" but many do finish the requirements within 5 years of becoming a freshman.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

Of course kids from bad families always have a chance of doing well. Opportunity is there for the takers in school. And ALL students will do better with good teachers and small class sizes. Its just that what we as a district are doing to improve the achievement gap isn't working and never has as long as they have been trying. We try to make a one size fits all education which, for some kids, is just fine and for others it doesn't work. The schools that seem to really make a difference for low SES kids, like KIPP, focus on so much more than just the academics. They keep the kids there a lot longer every day and bring them in on Saturday. This has as much to do with academics as it does with keeping them out of the environments that are bringing them down (their homes/neighborhoods). They also aren't trying to serve a lot of high achieving, high income kids at the same time so they are more focused. It probably would be considered discriminatory to set up a KIPP like school in AAPS where you attend Saturdays, have rigid rules, wear uniforms etc. but if they are the kind of schools that have success with these students, it would be money better spent than on PEG, in my opinion.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

If it all comes down to the child's family life, there is no point in spending time and money on good teachers, small class sizes, achievement gap programs, etc., because kids from bad families will fail no matter what we do. Right?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

Do their children in poverty also perform well at those schools? Let's face it, it's a socioeconomic issue here. If you come from a family with resources, stability, etc. these schools work just fine.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Robert, how do Japan, Korea, and Israel manage to have some of the best schools in the world with class sizes much bigger than ours?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.'s possible that you missed my point while at the same time expressing exactly what I mean - that school officials DIDN'T get the support they counted on..... They thought that automatically, by backing "big government," they'd get "big support." And, what they don't realize is that "big government" will create its own mess, no matter WHO is running it ..... Personally, I'd like to see Prop A repealed, and a return to local control of schools.

Robert Hughes

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

I don't think this qualifies as support. Perhaps a 9 to 1 student teacher ratio would qualify as support.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

Try this -- plug a couple well regarded public school into the system and see what you get (the link is in another article). I tried a Grosse Pointe high school and Birmingham Groves because they typically rank quite high in the state among the public schools, with high test scores and high graduation rates. They are both red.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

The color system is broken. I did the same thing with other exemplary districts and got a similar result.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

Yikes, they don't even hide their bias or disdain for public school anymore. Their policy of destroying any potential for hope and joy of a new school year by MI parents and students is trumped by their absolute determination to turn public education into a business opportunity for charter schools with questionable results & practices. As the school year starts, the Gov. is in the UP working on votes and the rest of his folks release this "School Color Coded terror list" in which a majority of the public schools are low except the charter schools. Everyone are holding their breath waiting to see how much damage these destructive practices will take us. Much like its failed US terror codes, the Repubs are hoping this will distract the public from the Repubs lack of jobs, excessive fees for everything, thwarting of the MI Constitution for political reasons, bad roads, defunding of cities, take-overs of schools for Charters and don't forget the EM laws with the excessive bleeding of money (lawyers/salaries) from the Detroit takeover with the sale of DIA art. Gee...what a lovely situation.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Yes, charter schools are a Republican plot...that's why the Democrat president is one of the biggest supporters of charter schools and the country, and why he recently sent Arne Duncan to meet with Governor Snyder. LOL.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Does anyone else get a terrible feeling that this new color system and corresponding evaluation system is set up as part of some evil scheme by the state in their continued effort to starve out and demoralize public schools across Michigan? The equation would look something like this: add a heap of standardized tests, subtract teachable moments, subtract funding, subtract teacher pay and morale = everyone earns a scary color.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

But Sonny, do we need to come up with a new evaluation system nearly every year? Was reward, focus, priority too hard to understand? I'm all for evaluating things but this was government wasting my money.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

Lord knows that the last thing we should do with any government program is to evaluate the performance of that program. We all know that the only way to make a government program better is to give it more money to spend.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

Yes, and they're not even hiding it. It is starkly political. I just wish the state would put the money into the schools rather than into their incessant, ridiculous rating systems. The best part is that all of these systems are put together by business people and academics who never, ever step foot into a classroom, and are far removed from reality. There is no room for parent or teacher involvement, and no one is bothering to go to schools. It's truly sickening.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

"South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy, East Arbor Charter Academy and Arbor Preparatory High School—all charter schools—were the only institutions in Washtenaw County to be given a green designation." Are anyone surprised that the charter schools have a green color in this "terror-like" system? This misguided color-coded system is just another tactic in the Repubs "scorched-earth" efforts to destroy public education for their business partners. Let's hope 2014 will put an end to this nonsense and apparent destruction.


Thu, Aug 29, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

Somargie, my child is a student at East Arbor Charter Academy. I do not know enough about the methods used to score the public and public charter schools to say whether they have merit or not. BUT, I do know that my child has received an excellent education at EA. This is my youngest and I've experienced several public and public charter schools as well as one private school and I KNOW that EA is the best school I've ever experienced! My own education in A2 in the 70's and 80's was terrible. My kids schools have ranged from poor to excellent. EA is excellent. I ask you to take politics out for a moment and do a bit of research on this school. They are doing great work there for ALL of their students. I know for a fact that this school does not "cherrypick" their students, has a high number of free/reduced lunch, ethnically diverse student body, and plenty of special needs students. All of these students are valued by the EA staff. No school is perfect but at this one it is not for lack of trying. They would welcome any questions and tours are during open houses. Now back to the scores, perhaps the fact that the charters that scored green are all to "new" (less than 3 years) is a factor in their ability to score green? South Arbor, also operated by the company that charters EA and South Pointe did not get green but is a Michigan School of Excellence so????


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

Typical uneducated Democrat!

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

"Are you saying that a school not having a cafeteria is a way that it purposefully keeps out a group of kids because those kids would normally get free lunch?" No, I didn't say it was done purposefully. I responded to an accusation that charter schools have misleading rankings by pointing out that AAPS rankings are similarly misleading. "And what's the difference between a kid not going to zingerman's and a kid getting free lunch when everyone's paying?" You don't see how not having a cafeteria is a problem for students who get free lunch from their school cafeteria because they are too poor to buy food? Also, the big high schools have everyone swipe their ID card to pay for lunch--other kids can't tell that they are poor and receiving a free lunch. Community students certainly know if one classmate stays at school eating PB&J while the rest of them go out for $8 burritos at Chipotle and $4 Bubble Tea for dessert.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Angy moderate, you said: "Hundreds of AAPS students receive free breakfast and free or reduced lunch from their cafeterias, but Community does not have a cafeteria. How do you think a poor Community student would feel when all of his friends go out to Zingerman's for lunch?" Are you saying that a school not having a cafeteria is a way that it purposefully keeps out a group of kids because those kids would normally get free lunch? And what's the difference between a kid not going to zingerman's and a kid getting free lunch when everyone's paying? Wouldn't the feeling the kid has be the same in both scenarios? And how does that kid's feelings have anything to do with being kept out of a school? You also said: "Take a look at the map of races around Ann Arbor that was posted a few days ago--who lives near which schools?" What does this have to do with anything? What is your expectation of how these numbers you're talking would be different if the communities were homogeneous? Fewer free lunches? More free lunches? Fewer red scores? No one being kicked out?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Spot on.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

"And seeing as how the recently convicted graffiti artist was NOT kicked out of CHS and sent back to his home school promptly, instead he was given multiple opportunities to attend CHS, though he ultimately failed to, and now does online coursework, your point is inaccurate." Um, just because one single person did not get kicked out does not prove that they don't kick people out in general. You understand the difference between an anecdote and data, right? And unless charter schools always kick out every single student who does something wrong or gets bad test scores, it's YOUR point that's irrelevant. FYI, I attended Community (part time), and I personally know a student who was kicked out and sent to Pioneer, and another student who was kicked out and sent to Stone. More recently, see the comment from DagnyJ on the following article--a parent of two Community High children who says that "several" kids were kicked out of Community for misbehaving that year. "Show us your legitimate statistics, where nonwhites have applied and been unfairly discriminated against in a double blind lottery." Huh? I said no such thing. You must be confusing me with someone else.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

"how does Community keep out undesirable kids?" Hundreds of AAPS students receive free breakfast and free or reduced lunch from their cafeterias, but Community does not have a cafeteria. How do you think a poor Community student would feel when all of his friends go out to Zingerman's for lunch? The school buses to Community are also not as convenient as to the other schools--Community students who can't afford cars must take a bus to a different school, and then transfer to a different bus. Community does not offer remedial classes in all of the core academic subjects like the big schools do--being smaller, it has fewer choices of classes for students at different levels. And hardly anyone in low-income housing can walk to Community like they can to Pioneer. Take a look at the map of races around Ann Arbor that was posted a few days ago--who lives near which schools? "Where are your statistics on family income, since you say CHS is the richest and whitest?" This has been widely covered. The Dean of Community says they have "the largest Caucasian population of all of the high schools." They get their lowest number of applicants from Scarlett, which is the blackest middle school in the city. Community is 75.1% white. Huron is 44.8% white. Pioneer is 61% white. Skyline is 56.1% white. Free or reduced lunch is 9% at Community, 25.7% at Huron, 17.7% at Pioneer, and 15.9% at Skyline.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:19 p.m.

@Angrymoderate, how does Community keep out undesirable kids? Where are your statistics on family income, since you say CHS is the richest and whitest? Can't make nonwhites apply for the LOTTERY, they must CHOOSE to do so. And seeing as how the recently convicted graffiti artist was NOT kicked out of CHS and sent back to his home school promptly, instead he was given multiple opportunities to attend CHS, though he ultimately failed to, and now does online coursework, your point is inaccurate. Show us your legitimate statistics, where nonwhites have applied and been unfairly discriminated against in a double blind lottery. Oh, wait. There aren't any statistics.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

And please tell us which charter school requires students to buy a laptop.

Angry Moderate

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:44 p.m.

Blerg - the rest of the schools do the exact same thing. Community keeps out undesirable kids (it is by far the richest and whitest high school), and it kicks bad kids out and sends them back to Huron and Pioneer. Huron and Pioneer, in turn, kick out their bad kids and send them Roberto and Stone.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Charter schools don't have to educate the masses. With gate keeping strategies like requiring your own laptop to kicking out kids who are badly behaved and/or doing poorly, they are a different beast than public schools.

Basic Bob

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

no report for aa open?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

According to the database, Ann Arbor Open @ Mack: Yellow, Reward, 97%


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

I will wait until the data shakes out. Right now they are preliminary, and that means there are mistakes in the system. AAPS will not accept any scoring system that does not show a "clean, green" designation. But they have taken so much focus off the classroom in the last 3 years with budget cuts to preserve the administration that it is not funny. Want to have some fun? Drive over to Balas and count the number of cars in the parking lots on any given day, that should give you an idea of how much overhead the district has. I was amazed when I did it a couple of times. The focus of the board has to be on getting resources into the classrooms and not on Athletics, Administration or any of the other sacred cows in the district. The first thing is to toss Everyday Math and replace it with a real math system. The second is to take more student teachers into the district and use them as part of a focused program on reading and math. The third is to align math and reading times across grades, and move students around into ability groups in the buildings, allowing teachers and student teachers, and parent volunteers to focus more attention on students who are behind the curve. But I am not going to hold my breath, the classroom is the last priority of this district.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

interested - We had a set of books and tests for each book/booklet that were given. I think the system was from a major publisher. Each student was given a test at the end of each book (booklets at the lower levels). The test was such that it not only tested did you understand the book, but also the words and using the words in context. As to the library, each student was given a reading list to choose from and was given a quick test at the end of each book they read. In 4th thru 6th grade, students who did reading in the library reported orally on their books to the whole class at least 2 times a year, so they got to share the wonder of the books they were reading - helping to push the idea that getting to the library was a goal for more fun time in school. Teachers used stick on stars to indicate how many pages students read, they used different stars to show progress in math and reading. In math we had a speed test once a month at our level to see how many problems we could complete in a timed period (right minus wrong gave the score and you got an extra star if you finished and another if you did not make any mistakes as far as you went. This made the time more fun and kept the classroom teachers in the loop on how each of their students was doing on math and reading. One of the 1st grade teachers was actually the best at some of the higher level math, and so she took the advanced group, that was the most fun, because the students in that group were doing geometry (without being told what it was). In my class year there were 120 students, of those 80 completed college, 30 who finished college were 1st generation immigrants - mostly spanish speaking. Of the 4 who did not finish college most went into local businesses or farming. Several of those now own large farms or thriving local businesses. By Ann Arbor standards the district was (and is) grossly underfunded.


Wed, Aug 21, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

DonBee, how were the children at your school assessed to be leveled several grades beyond? What assessment tool was used and how does it compare to what is used in AAPS today? If you are suggesting that students go to the library for "silent reading", please explain how those students will be instructed? How will teachers know whether the students can just decode the books they are reading or actually understand the content?


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

The number of cars in the parking lot at Balas is not an accurate account of the number employees. There are 5 conference rooms in the building which are utilized by staff in the district. On any given day, the lot can be full because of the meetings that are scheduled here.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

aaworkingmom - It does work, it takes work on the part of the staff to make it work right, smaller groups at the lowest levels, larger groups at the higher levels, open materials though college level in the grade schools with students who are 3 or 4 years ahead of their peers reading in large groups in the library silently. It works best as a school wide program, and it works even better if groups are evaluated on a 4 to 6 week basis with promotions between groups after the evaluation. In my grade school - a million years ago - this is the way math and reading were taught. By the end of the year almost every student was reading at or above grade level, even students who transferred in a year or more behind. The slowest groups got smaller and smaller with more and more teacher attention, the library group got bigger and the local library had to provide more and more books beyond the reading levels of the school. In my 6th grade class (yes we were a stone age K-6 and 7-12 district) - there was not a single student who read at less than 8th grade level, most at 10th grade. In math we were already through the 7th grade books by the time we left 6th grade. It is work, but if you are willing to make a go of it, it does work, and work well. It closes gaps and gives the students an incentive to try, they can move up in only a few weeks if they work at it.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

A2workinmom I appreciate that they are trying though. At our school you are not allowed to read more than a grade level above, even if you are capable. Also, if you are a good reader your reading group will rarely meet with the teacher. I guess that comes from having so many low readers. I understand that priority, but the limiting of reading material (this happens in math too) is ridiculous. That's why our school isn't as diverse as it could be. We have a large achievement gap and so many people who have high achieving kids and can afford it (read white or asian) go to private schools. The public schools need to address this lack of curriculum for kids at the top if they don't want to end up with a tiered education system.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Ms. Margolis - I have been in Balas a number of times, I have gotten the tour once as well. I have attended several meetings there, you stopped into one of them.


Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 4:16 p.m.

At our elementary school, they aligned reading times between grades 4 and 5 and had the students travel to their level. This did not work well. I don't think it's as easy as you make it seem.

Liz Margolis

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 : 2:44 p.m.

DonBee, we invite you to come into Balas at any time. Balas is used as one of the primary training/PD sites for the district as well as a meeting location but I think most useful would be to tour Balas so that you can see for yourself the staffing levels and what people do in this administration building. Contact me directly and we can arrange a time.