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Posted on Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

Achievement gap in Ann Arbor prompts school board to confront concerns about racial issues

By Kyle Feldscher

Ann Arbor Public Schools are making progress on closing the achievement gap between African-American students and white students, even as tension centered around the gap is emerging at the highest levels of the district.

That came through at the last school board meeting, when trustees heard consultant Glenn Singleton of the Pacific Education Group say Wednesday that the district isn't consistently addressing the gap across all of its buildings.

And it showed during the conversation that followed, as two African-American trustees raised concerns about how the board itself considered racial differences.

Trustee Simone Lightfoot told the board and Singleton that she often feels marginalized and not heard by the rest of the school board because of her race.

In an interview with later in the week, Lightfoot said her experience of coming through the district as a student, being involved in the district as a parent and coming to a position of leadership should give her as much of a voice as anyone else on the board.

“There are folks who are uncomfortable with how we say (things),” Lightfoot said, referring to herself and trustee Susan Baskett. “And it’s the same thing that happens at the school level, the same at the principal level, the same at the classroom level and the same at the parent level. 

"So when parents come to me in the store and say, I would love to come and say something but I don’t feel welcome, I say, 'Join the club.'”

Yet even as the public comments about race in the district raise questions about whether more needs to be done or discussed, AAPS can point to some success in closing the achievement gap.

According to the district's website, in 11 out of 16 areas, divided by grade level and subject, the gap in test scores has closed in the past five years. This includes such large gains in areas such as eighth grade reading, where the gap shrank from 26 percentage points to 15; in sixth grade math, where the gap shrank from 36 percentage points to 12; and in eighth grade math from 42 percentage points to 23.

Those gains were hard-fought in a district where closing the gap has been a decades-long battle.

And even with the gains, the conversations happening at the board level show the complexities involved when matters of race are discussed.

Comments like Lightfoot’s raise concerns among the board. President Deb Mexicotte said she felt a responsibility as the board’s leader to make sure all trustees feel heard. Each board member needs to feel they have a place at the table, Mexicotte said.

“I know there are times when every one of us feels like we’re not getting our point across or winning the day,” she said. “As president, that’s my job to make sure the table is set for equal representation and equal voice for the board members.”

Lightfoot is one of the three newest school board members, joining the Board of Education in December 2009. Baskett is one of the most tenured school board members, having joined the board in May 2003.

Baskett said at the meeting on Wednesday that she occasionally felt the same type of reaction on the board  that she says African-American students face in schools — feelings of being unheard and passed over.

“If we as adults are facing this, what about the kids?” Baskett said.

When reached by on Thursday, Baskett declined to expand on her comments at Wednesday’s meeting. Singleton, president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Education Group, was in meetings on Thursday and traveling to Denver on Friday and was unable to be reached for this story.

At Wednesday's meeting, Singleton - who's worked with the district since 2003 -  told the board that their own inability to agree among themselves about the district's plan to close the gap illustrates that it may not be viewed as a shared priority across the district.

Despite the challenges raised by Lightfoot and Baskett,  district spokesperson Liz Margolis said Friday that intervention programs and new academic standards are in place in the schools to shrink the achievement gap.

Among the programs are Read 180, System 44, Reading Intervention and Reading Apprenticeship, which serve to “supplement classroom learning and bring students up to grade level and then to exceed expectations to the next grade,” Margolis said.

Numerous math programs are either in place or will be in place soon to help increase student achievement, Margolis said. The FASTT Math program helps students recall, problem solve, do math applications and will supplement curriculum, Margolis said. And a K-12 math summit is planned to address aligning curriculum and teacher training for these changes, Margolis added.

Starting next year, all eighth graders will be exposed to Algebra I concepts and elementary curriculum will be modified to prepare students for this change, Margolis said.

“Achievement for all students is the centerpiece of our school improvement work designed to meet the needs of individual children,” she said. “Student performance in all racial-ethnic and income groups in our district compares favorably with that of other school systems, but much work remains to be done.”

When looking at the data, policies and strategies put in place, Mexicotte says she thinks the district is heading in the right direction.

She said using consultants such as Singleton and his group is not the only tool the district has to shrink the gap, but is just one of many strategies the district is using. Mexicotte estimated African-American student achievement had improved in some areas between 40 and 60 percentage points during the last eight years.

“Are we there? No. We are looking at getting the highest level of achievement instead of just MEAP standards? Of course,” she said. “I am convinced we are moving in the right direction, based on the data.”

Despite these programs and the statistics, Lightfoot says that the district is struggling.

Out of all the school districts in the country, she believes AAPS is the district that should figure out the solution to the achievement gap. 

However, she said, she sees a lot of people expressing concern but not delivering solutions. Those conversations, along with engaging the families in the district who feel they are unheard and disengaged, need to be the next step, she said.

“In Ann Arbor we live on the benefit of reputation,” she said. “When you dig down into the meat of it, we’re struggling. We are the district to talk about it, we’re the district to lead, to be the model, because the public expects that out of us. 

"We’re great at rhetoric and the words, but the deeds fall short.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sun, Apr 24, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Test scores show a reduction in the achievement gap because the white students are scoring lower than in previous years. Ann Arbor schools teach to the lowest common denominator. Unacceptable. Giving black students an "edge" by lowering standards is Unacceptable. The concept that failing children hurts their feelings and are pushed forward with the "no child left behind" concept is Unacceptable. It is not preparing children for the world outside the classroom. It is certainly not preparing them for any type of competition on the college or business level. It is creating a generation of whiners and creating a negative sense of entitlement. . Using the race card to complain about not getting pushed to the front of the line, is insulting to the rest of us. It is not a racial issue, it is an issue of arrogance & entitlement. Ms. Lightfoot, instead of insulting everyone by using the race card, perhaps you might want to ask yourself WHY you are not the center of the universe. Perhaps as a junior member you just do not have the experience or knowledge to command the room. Who will ever listen to you now, that you have refused to take responsibility for your own inadequacies, and instead called all your co-workers racists. As far as I am concerned you should step down from your post. I am a second generation American. My grandparents came to this country, learned English, worked, raised a family and taught their children to take responsibility for their own actions, to learn all they could, and work hard. I am not going to accept the excuse that black families have it harder because their ancestors were slaves. That was over 200 years ago, and if an entire race is still using that as an excuse, then that is just pathetic. This is not a school problem, and I do not want to pay taxes to support this ridiculous notion. It is a parental problem. Do your job as a parent instead of blaming the schools.


Thu, Apr 21, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

@AMOC go to this site : <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and then scroll to cultural collabaratives and there is a pdf attatchment to 'equity seminar' that is Singleton's Beyond Diversity info. There are a number of other attatchements as well, so its all interesting to read if you are curious about Singleton's theories.

say it plain

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

@VISHa, As I've been reading about Singleton's materials, it seems that he might indeed lump Asians in as part of &quot;majority&quot; culture for the purposes of school issues, because he doesn't differentiate more finely as @Mo indicated in the distinctions between &quot;sub-groups&quot; there. I'd be curious too to hear more about other &quot;cultural groups&quot; in his considerations, but I think he mainly focuses on how &quot;whiteness&quot; is about &quot;individualism&quot;, &quot;cold intellectual pursuits&quot; and &quot;competitiveness&quot; (so what stereotypes he might offer vis a vis Asian folks would be interesting to hear lol! There have classically been claims of greater asian 'collective'ness, hasn't there? But then of course too there are the standard stereotypes about competitiveness as well...such a panoply of stereotypes!) and &quot;blackness&quot; is about &quot;emotional&quot; pursuits, and group considerations. Oh yeah, and I think it includes also how whites are 'verbal' compared to blacks and so the ways in which students are evaluated are just unfairly skewed toward 'white' characteristics. While I totally have problems with our educational system's overreliance on certain kinds of assessments, and wish standardized timed tests of the sorts we use more and more and more and more would be de-emphasized, I see that as a problem with our education system *generally*, and not due to some modal race-based characteristics of whites that would favor these and of blacks that would stand in some sort of contrast.


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 2:47 a.m.

My question for the board would be: if you have been using this consultant who's main (only) focus is African American children, are you saying that African American children are the only measurement of an achievement gap? Are you saying that latino, ESL, children with disabilities, etc...are not in any way behind? If any of THOSE children are behind, do we hire $341,000 (and i still want to see all the contracts) consultants for each of those subgroups? Or is the board favoring one subset over others?


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

Kyle, i'll be very interested to read this Singleton Interview. I think its an interview that is a long time in coming ! I recommend reading this 'Beyond Diversity' <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;pid=sites&amp;srcid=d21lcC5rMTIubW4udXN8d21lcC1rMTItbW4tdXN8Z3g6NjAxZmM0OTkxOTU2OGYxOA</a> (white privilege test on page 25 is interesting) . This is something that is being handed out to parents at some schools. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Thanks for getting down to the root of this issue ! All parents deserve to know what is being instigated in the classroom and where the aaps funds are being spent. Obviously if Teachers are being trained to teach according to the PEG philosophy, then this is affecting all of our children no matter what race they are. That is what upsets me the most about this. We aren't informed of anything until the money is spent and the damage is done, so to speak. Shouldn't more than a couple of board members be able to decide if Singleton's philosophy is responsible and just? I can't help but feel that they were bullied into jumping on the PEG bandwagon and didn't really think through the whole thing. I bet Todd Roberts is happy he got outta here when he did.


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

Geena - I couldn't make the first link work. I got a 404 - File not found error. Please try again to share that information. However, the other link worked, and was interesting enough as an example, even though it was not new to me. I spent some time doing diversity training when I worked at an automaker as an engineer; examining our own attitudes and privilege was part of the preparation to lead the workshops. Since I am female and of mixed race, I have some insight into what it is like to be the only person in a classroom or working group who &quot;looks like me&quot;. It was my experiences with sexism and racism in college and at work that soured me on affirmative action as it is usually practiced, because it calls the qualifications and achievements of all members of the &quot;favored&quot; group into perpetual question by new bosses and colleagues. This might be relevant to those who are dismissing the importance of the achievement gap because &quot;standardized tests are biased&quot;, and &quot;black kids can get into college through affirmative action&quot;.

Mo the Educator

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

There are numerous different approaches to multicultural education worldwide in every country. Within all of that is one very specific American phenomenon that we call the &quot;achievement gap&quot; (better conceived as an educational debt), where Black and Latino/a students do worse academically than their White and specific Asian counterparts. (It's important to note that when we disaggregate &quot;Asian&quot; and start breaking it down into specific countries and areas, south Asian groups such as the Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Pacific Islanders perform similarly to Black American and Latino/a children, but their numbers are hidden by the high performance of their Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean peers. This causes challenges for these students as well when they are lumped in with their peers culturally and performance-wise, but that's info for still another 2000-word comment!). &quot;Fixing&quot; this problem (or paying down the debt) involves numerous approaches, dependent upon the school and community. For &quot;90-90-90&quot; schools (90% minority, 90% free/reduced lunch, 90% meeting/exceeding state standards) in inner cities (<a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> the remedies are very different from what may be needed in AAPS. I can give three main areas for reform and some basics, but when you get down to what specifically has to happen in each teacher's classroom, you are at a level of detail that can't be addressed in general terms. 1) Pre-service teacher/administrator education - improving how colleges of education teach their students to address Black students' achievement 2) In-service teacher/administrator education - creating useful professional development to equip schools to dismantle the systems that create the educational debt 3) Curriculum reform - creating curricula that acknowledge, address, and utilize cultural differences to help students achieve. Those a

say it plain

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

Great, those are great guidelines @Mo for trying to help us understand what PEG should be judged on. I would want to know how they view AAPS versus districts/schools where you have more of this 90-90-90 situation, and whether they tailor their programs to those realities. I would want to know how, in terms of each of your 3 main areas, PEG serves the districts which hires it 1) How does PEG help administrators and teachers understand issues relevant to black student achievement? 2) How does PEG support teachers in their efforts to change what needs to be changed? 3)What if any curricular reform does PEG support &quot;to utilized cultural differences&quot;, and how is that implemented in integrated schools?


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 2:13 a.m.

Thanks Mo. Your comment appears to be incomplete, though. Please post the rest. ( has a 2000 word limit on comments...) I'm still hoping for references that give a link to some specific schools or school systems which have implemented these reforms and succeeded in closing the gap for any of the NCLB subgroups - Blacks, Hispanics, English Language Learners, or students with disabilities. Or are the techniques too different for all those different groups to benefit from their adoption?


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

I think you make some interesting points (and thanks for the information about the Asian breakdown). i want to know, in the context of this particular article, what is the counterpart to PEG that helps teachers teach latinos? everything seems to reference black children when it come to the gap although latinos also do poorly. Where is their PEG?


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

The problem of achievement gap is a reflection of the failure of the reasoning process. If we truly believe that no kid should be left behind, we will not be erecting all these barriers to understand achievement. We need to measure success at the level of each individual and not that of groups that we identify by color, race, gender, income, and culture. Students need the ability to acquire information, process information, assimilate information, analyze information, critically evaluate information, store information, retrieve information, and apply information to solve problems. Each student must achieve success in each area to improve the cognitive ability. If a student simply puts information into memory without critical evaluation, the student may have partial success and may fail when fully challenged.

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Kyle, can you clarify with AAPS whether PEG has anything to do with the programs mentioned here as helping to improve outcomes?! This becomes the BIG issue! Can you please have AAPS delineate what PEG is being paid for? We can debate and discuss the achievement gap and racial considerations in our schools, and we can hear from Board members about whether they think their colleagues are 'serious' about this that or the other, but what ultimately the AAPS needs to be accountable for is how they spent this 340K with PEG, to what did that money go? And are they planning on spending more of it with PEG?

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Looking some more at Singleton's materials, I am particularly curious about how he would address the sorts of criticisms of his approach that might be highlighted by the kind of work Claude Steele has done. Steele, and others too, have argued that a powerful factor in the black-white gap--which shows up in studies of differences in standardize test scores even accounting for differences in factors like income levels--is the development and perpetuation of pressure to 'disidentify' with the educational enterprise because it is seen as a 'white' thing. But Singleton's guidelines have a very significant component that is supposed to be aimed at getting white people to analyse their 'whiteness'. Couldn't that whole enterprise turn into exactly the wrong thing for improving outcomes? What if 'whiteness' ends up being defined in ways that align it with attributes that tend to get celebrated in our society as useful and valuable? How does he tend to view 'whiteness' vis a vis 'blackness', and how again is that supposed to help us improve dialog, mutual understanding, and student achievement?! Plus, of course, what are we buying from him for all that money lol!


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

that should be an interesting interview!

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Great, thanks for your work here!

Kyle Feldscher

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Say it plain - I'm currently working on setting up an interview with Glenn Singleton from PEG and these are among the questions I want to ask him. I've been keeping a close eye on the comment sections of these stories on the achievement gap about PEG and I want to assure you that I'm going to bring these concerns to Mr. Singleton himself. Thanks!

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

It is so obvious to this parent why we have an achievement gap in our schools. But, rather then digging up race again, let me point out that the real problem is cultural and class-based, not racism. If I were to go with the race stereotype, more then half my friends should be failures. This just isn't true! Time to get out of the that river in Egypt and face the real issue at hand!!!


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

All of my children went through AAPS. If your kids are motivated and able, this school district offers challenging classes and rich opportunities. There's no dumbing down at all. (BTW, a top administrator told me privately the Huron is far and away the superior academic HS when it comes to math and science.) The middle schools, though, are the weakest part of the district. That's where a lot of poor and minority kids get lost.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

Dagny, good for you! That was not our experience. Perhaps you had a good mix of students in your classes. Our son had one or two that were perpetually in his classes, and the classes were always slowed down by them. Sure my son was offered special advanced classes but one or 2 &quot;advanced&quot; classes do not make up for the rest of the curriculum where he was not being challenged. I expect more than &quot;average&quot; from my children and their school. A big fish in a little pond gets a rude awakening when introduced to larger schools...


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

Agree, think middle school is weakest because 5th grade is not adequately preparing them. Fifth grade is a hard year because you want to let the kids have that last taste of &quot;being a kid&quot; but they also need to be prepared for the added responsibility and organizational skills necessary for middle school. I still think 6th grade should be in the elementary schools, but that is an argument for another day. Also, judging by the amount of middle school kids in the Read180 program, they seem to need more preparation for middle school, but that takes time and money....


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

@DagnyJ - Your thought about middle school is interesting. Middle school, where my oldest currently resides, represents a time of significant changes for children. At middle school, the assignments are expected to be managed by the children so their responsibility needs to take a huge step forward. It can be a shock. Also, 6/7/8 is when boys and girls start becoming interested in one another and dating occurs. This makes the social aspect also more &quot;lively&quot; and can be a distraction. Quite frankly, considering those two factors makes me unsurprised that it might be a point where achievement gaps widen.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

I'd like to see specific examples where Lightfoot and Baskett didn't feel as though they are being heard or are being passed over. @Kyle - Are you aware of any specific instances that could be cited as examples? Could Lightfoot and Baskett provide some specific instances? I'm very curious about this. On the surface, my guess is that the situations in which Lightfoot and Baskett feel that their opinion isn't being heard or is being passed over are situations where their opinion isn't valid (or isn't deemed valid by the majority). Isn't that how a democracy is supposed to work? If you have something to say, you should be able to say it. If no one agrees with your opinion, then that's where it ends. As for the performance in the schools of our children, I'm a firm believer that whether we are talking about one student or a group defined by race, age, etc., the performance is largely attributable to the home life: specifically, how valued is education... how much parental participation is present, etc. I believe that the home life that the child experiences affects their school performance by an amount that is so significant that it dwarfs all the other factors.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 2:03 a.m. experience and the research I've read supports your feelings. Good teachers, good parents, motivated students = high achievement


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

To Trustee Lightfoot and to Trustee Baskett, did you speak your minds to your colleagues before you went public with your complaints? Did you reword what you said, perhaps it wasn't as clear as you thought, as convincing to others as you would have like to have believed? Were there other concerns on the docket that stole the show so to speak? In fact the gap is beginning to close, through programs enacted, certainly during Trustee Basket service and supported no doubt by Trustee Lightfoot. Good work is being done, and through your stewardship. Do not think you don't have a voice. AAPS is a very unwelcoming place for not just minority children, but for special needs children also. Just go talk to the parents of special needs children. One of the big problems in AAPS is the independence (and caprice) of the principals in enforcing with any degree of consistency any given policy in the district. I absolutely abhor the talk of it's the families fault, or it's the schools fault. In my experience, usually both need to change how they manage things when a child is struggles.

say it plain

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

Those are totally valid points, I agree with @Mo, but I still take issue with Mr. Singleton's approach because I don't think it can be demonstrated to help teachers *stop* any conscious or subconscious beliefs they may hold about how black children need to be &quot;fixed&quot;. Indeed, I think the whole enterprise might instead cause school systems to act as though black kids are truly in need of fixing, or helping, or whatever term you'd like to use, because they are so &quot;different&quot;. I think if you looked at the PEG program a little, you might be surprised at some of the rhetoric. I wonder how many people speaking here have looked, even a little. I have no contact with the Dicken fiasco, it sounds very unpleasant for everyone involved. But I do think that the Singleton rhetoric is divisive and not useful. If our own Board members can't hold &quot;courageous conversations&quot;, then how has this 340K worth of books and binders from PEG helped us at all? Are Lightfoot and Baskett feeling like hey, they should be held out as the experts, because of their being black, on the 'black experience' in AAPS? Then I'd love it if they could help us all understand better, and perhaps act as the spokespeople for the validity and potential effectiveness of Singleton's approach. I hate to think that people feel disenfranchised because of their skin color or language or minority status generally, and I surely don't have a problem with accepting that this may be the case. I happen to think that AAPS makes just about *everyone* feel disenfranchised with their &quot;we know best, we don't really listen to you consumers of our services&quot; stylings lol, so maybe we can hear more specifics about people of color's experiences that can help us all change things! I'm just not sure that spending money on PEG's workshops are a good use of even our 'racial equity' dollars, is what I'm trying to say, I guess!

Mo the Educator

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

I don't have much familiarity with Glenn Singleton other than knowing what he and his organization attempt to do. I've never studied his strategies or their effectiveness, so I can't comment knowledgeably on them, and I'm not into guessing about important educational issues in ignorance. I can say, however, that AAPS was trying to &quot;close the achievement gap&quot; 20+ years ago when I was in high school, and has apparently made no progress since. I'm not surprised, because the premise under which people have operated in trying to solve this problem is one of Black pathology: &quot;what is wrong with Black children?&quot;; &quot;why don't Black parents care about education?&quot;; &quot;why do Black people value criminal behavior over school success?&quot; Since none of these things are a) true or b) valid, the methods used to solve this &quot;gap&quot; have failed. To borrow from Lani Guanier's analogy, when miner's canaries die, we don't take that as an indication that we need stronger canaries. We use it as evidence that the environment is noxious and unsafe. There are extant &quot;safe environments&quot; that work in educating Black children effectively, and they aren't based upon a fictitious &quot;fight&quot; against the child's parents, home environment, or culture. They use proven, researched practices and concepts that acknowledge and take advantage of unique aspects that many Black children and families share, and purposefully incorporate them to help Black students become successful. While the efficacy of a child's parents is a portion of their success, it is not *the* determining factor. It's one of many. In fact of those factors, the teacher's perception of the child's ability is a mitigating circumstance with respect to the parent's education level or perceived involvement. Black children and Black people don't need to be &quot;fixed&quot;, but schools and the employees within them do.

Mo the Educator

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

Like McWhorter, John Ogbu - the researcher who first studied the alleged &quot;acting White&quot; phenomenon - begin from a different premise in their work than I do. James Banks (I'm listing these names so you can Google them) calls their premise the &quot;cultural deficiency&quot; model, one in which it is assumed that shortcomings in Black American culture cause a lack of achievement. McWhorter feels that Black people &quot;blame the White man&quot; and racist practices that, to him at least, no longer exist. Ogbu says that the deficiency is a culture-wide oppositional response to historical and systemic racist treatment. Either way, I disagree with both of their conclusions. In fact, current scholarly research like this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> has largely discredited the main claim of the hypothesis (that Black children see academic achievement as &quot;acting White&quot;), and have improved our understanding of it to show that it really is an assessment of urban Black cultural capital like &quot;being cool&quot;, an ability to dance, play sports, speech patterns, etc., but not academic achievement.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

MO, I am interested in hearing these best practices for educated black students. Could you please give us some specific examples and where and how they have been successful. What does Ann Arbor do that is good in your opinion? What support systems do they have in place for minorities? Can you explain why minorities are disproportionally underrepresented in accelerated classes? Disproportionally overrepresented in administration? Just trying to get a feel for what is being done so we know where to start. Since you are the researcher, could you also verify whether there is any truth in your opinion for the research that shows that black kids at times are singled out for acting white if they are successful academically? I read the research many years ago while in college, but I'm not sure if it's valid. I once read this book... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Have you read it? If so, do you agree with his feelings?


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

Mo- You said &quot;They use proven, researched practices and concepts that acknowledge and take advantage of unique aspects that many Black children and families share, and purposefully incorporate them to help Black students become successful.&quot; I've been interested in differentiated instruction and closing the achievement gap for several years, and I regularly read a lot of educational research. Can you point me to a journal, a particular university or a few of the primary investigators who've published on the techniques that have succeeded in closing the Black-White achievement gap? I didn't find anything when I tried to Google it, but I may be using the wrong search terms.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

i like your canary analogy and understand that there are proven and researched practices for educating black children. my question is, how does anyone propose to use these practices while at the same time use practices that work for hispanic, caucasian (they're not all geniuses), kids with learning disabilities, etc...who may also be falling behind? I also feel there is confusion about the term &quot;achievement gap&quot;. Is it only a measurement to be used with black children vs. everyone else or is it a measurement for any child that is not achieving to grade?

Basic Bob

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:13 p.m.

Thank you, Mo. The teacher's perception is important in the education of every child. That is what PEG tries to address, not math and reading enhancement programs. Also important is the perception of the community toward minorities, and in this regard we still need a great deal of help.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

You aren't listening and you didn't listen when the last article came out. I told you that minorities feel unwelcome and disenfranchised. You are now hearing it again from top ranking officials. It is real and needs to be addressed.

Tony Livingston

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

What are you suggesting? What needs to be done so that minorities feel more welcome?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

well i feel unwelcome and disenfranchised by the black parent student support group. what can we do about that?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

My curiousity and then ultimate dislike of this PEG program dates to the discovery of its use in the school system in conjunction with the shenanigans orchestrated at Dicken Elementary last year (where my daughter attends). I feel compelled to point out the chain of events that unravelled a perfectly good school and turned it into a media circus from which i still don't think it has completely healed thanks to the Principal (who frequently uses the term 'courageous conversations' ) having a rant on a class of fifth grade students and telling them all that black students would be treated like -you know what - for the rest of their lives by white people. I get the impression he had been up late the night before reading a book by Singleton. Seems to me that Singleton's theories cause a lot of upset and provoke racial tension even where there was none to begin with.

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

That's a very interesting point @beachbaby, and perhaps some folks might pursue that! At the very least, perhaps fear of a law suit might be leveraged by those who'd like to see PEG stop receiving our tax monies! We are so challenged spending-wise right now, it seems so wrong to spend it on this particular program. I can see no justification at all, especially given that AAPS isn't even crediting PEG's program with the reductions in the achievement gap that they have been seeing.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

PEG has been sued by several schools. Perhaps if there was a direct link to PEG and the breaking of a state law, aaps could recoup.

say it plain

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

I want to hear more from Ms. Lightfoot and Ms. Baskett about how they don't feel heard, and how they feel this is creating or perpetuating the gap for students. They surely are using the divisive rhetoric that Mr. Singleton specializes in, but if they won't tell us more about how they feel unvalued somehow then how can we have his trademarked (truly!) &quot;Courageous Conversations?&quot;. I often don't feel welcome in certain school-related circles because I don't speak the same way, or wear the same kinds of clothes, or buy my stuff at the same kinds of stores, as some of the others in the more &quot;in&quot; groups. I don't have a way to blame it on something like race. I can maybe make something up about how I'm not originally from around here, but what good does that do me ultimately?! I don't think it's all that helpful for us to shy away from trying to be heard because we feel barriers to it. If an issue is important to us, let's make ourselves heard! Can't we stand a little not feeling welcomed? Can't we try and explain it all a little more so we can work through the problems?! I think Singleton's rhetoric makes it easier indeed for us *not* to have the conversations about whatever it is that is bugging us, because he spends so much energy delineating all the ways some of us might feel stigmatized. Let's all work on courage then! But NONE of those reading or math programs have a whit to do with PEG's race workshops! If AAPS wants to continue spending money on his stuff, but the Board's own members don't seem to feel that they themselves are making use of it, then AAPS has apparently spent close to 1/2 million dollars for NOTHING at all. UNLESS AAPS can tell us how the successes they've had so far in closing the achievement gap has had ANYTHING to do with Singleton's rhetoric/programs/trademarked-guidelines, then let's cut it!

King Withers

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

Wow. Did this article touch a nerve. &quot;They&quot; should be seen, hopefully not often, and not heard. Singleton is to be commended for approaching anything which smacks of intelligent discussion on a very sensitive topic. Take a survey and the &quot;majority&quot; in teaching would vote against intelligent discussion. We should not be surprised. It brings up feelings that most would like to continue to bury. Or just ignore. Which is the case in the AAPS. Has been and always will be. I felt for the school board member who spoke her mind. Her days are numbered. She doesn't know what marginalized is really like, yet;but she will. You are not allowed to have an opinion. Just like your children and children like yours. Grades are heavily subjective;not objective. That is a smoke screen which people hide behind. The old &quot;if only their parents did what they are supposed to do&quot; argument is weak and people know it. Ask for help, no wait, don't ask for help;if you do you're not worthy, you're not pulling your weight. I know I'm all over the place with this topic, but it grinds on me too. Let's have a honest discussion on legacy:financial, property,education and the benefits of those who have had the opportunity to advance from those legacies. I know, &quot;everyone&quot; did it on their own with no help from anyone. Right. If so many children where not having their self-esteem drug through the mud on a daily basis, by these well meaning teachers, who hate and I mean hate and despise anyone questioning their true motive when it comes to race, this whole conversation would be absurd and laughable. But for those who have a heads up and are not judged by the content of their skin, these children who are truly being marginalized, ignored, blamed for an unfair system, take heart one day they'll be adults. Then what? Peace.

Tony Livingston

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

Why make it about race? Ask teachers or administrators for what your child needs. Stay with it. Go up the ladder if necessary. Get outside help from the Student Advocacy Center. No one can solve the whole race issue. But, one can go to bat for individual students and I have seen remarkable results from it. I have had to do all of this. It is not fun but it is effective.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

how can you have an honest discussion when you have already discounted what anyone else thinks that differs from your thinking?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

King Withers: i think you are way off base with that sentiment. And actually, that sentiment is what makes this whole issue stink.

Mo the Educator

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

Watching schools and communities go through all types of bizarre intellectual leaps to define Black people as either genetically or culturally deficient is as absurd as it is disgusting. How can we &quot;have a crisis in education&quot;, &quot;employ terrible teachers who can't be fired&quot;, and be &quot;losing the educational race against other countries&quot;, but still view schools as having no responsibility for the disproportionately lower academic performance of their Black students? Why can't that be something else that our education system continues to get wrong as well? Or are we simply more willing to accept Black inferiority and White/Asian superiority? I went to high school in Ann Arbor. I taught for 12 years. I do educational research now. I can tell you, despite the information that a2flow has made up (including the fake, arbitrary statistic), &quot;the family&quot; is not &quot;the problem&quot;. There are many factors that have created this educational debt (historical, economic, moral, and systemic problems have primary culpability in the centuries of Black mis-education and the subsequent debt they've created), and there is plenty of real research on ideologies and practices that are effective. They are pretty difficult to implement, however, when the prevailing belief is that Black children and their families are derelict.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

Mo - I read your reference. I agree in principle with the author. What I cannot find are specific teaching techniques in it. I understand the idea that if you start out behind you will end up further behind over time. What I don't see are technics that teachers and volunteers can use to close the gap. I appreciate your posts and hope that you can take the time to provide some links to this kind of material.

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:11 a.m.

@Mo, I studied with someone who was a student/colleague of Claude Steele's, thank you for bringing him up, and I think a look at summaries of his work might be important to consider when judging how Singleton's might be counterproductive indeed. Here's a little summing up for instance: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> That brings up the work he did at UM before he left here, showing how black students set up for special support did *not* improve their performance relative to historically lower levels of attainment (as measured in various ways), and that this is in keeping with his theories about 'stereotype vulnerability' (that is, if you make the idea that less is expected from minority students in some way, if you play up how achievement is lower based on race or sex or whatever, then you often get that result, and not due to some structural inequity but due to the processes within the test-taker/learner that happen as a result). His study wherein black students were integrated into groups with non-black students, treated as a group together and being exposed to the same sorts of enrichment activities that were *not* labeled as special 'help' or 'remediation' showed that this produced improved outcomes, and a 'lack of gap'. I think Singleton's approach works in the exact opposite direction. This is not to say that we don't need to look at our curricular materials, as Steele also points out, and show that we truly value the achievements of black Americans, of people of color from all places in the world, etc. Because that would help counter &quot;stereotype vulnerability&quot;. But I don't see too much of this in the materials we're paying PEG so much for.

Mo the Educator

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

@a2flow I could not access the first study you provided, so I can't comment on it. I did look at the second one, and though my quantitative research background is not strong, I do see that this study wasn't even able to determine whether there was any correlation at all between &quot;family environment&quot; and &quot;student characteristics&quot; (.15). This means that not only are you unable to include that one influences the other, you don't even know which one causes changes in the other, and whether those effects are positive or negative. Further research using those surveys could possibly link a &quot;negative&quot; family environment to *improved* student performance. Sure that's counterintuitive, but from that study, you just don't know. The work I do is mostly conceptual and ethnographic. If you look at work by Gloria Ladson-Billings (e.g. The Dreamkeepers) and Claude Steele (e.g. Whistling Vivaldi), their work helps to inform educators about factors that affect the performance of Black students, and what effective educators do to enhance the positive ones and counter the negative ones. An article by Ladson-Billings that I think is vital for understanding the is this one: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It's not full of jargon and &quot;edu-speak&quot;, so while it's kind of long, it's still easy to read. In my original post, I was not making the argument that 'teachers are ineffective and need to be fired', I was just echoing what seems to be the prevailing sentiment now when people talk about education. I don't believe that though, and I don't believe that they are primarily to blame for being largely ineffective in teaching Black students. I personally had some success as a teacher, but I never taught in Michigan. I left the K-12 classroom because I wanted to get involved with training teachers as a college professor, and to continue to research how to effectively Bl


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:38 a.m.

To MO, Here is one example...just an abstract but it will have to suffice for now... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> And another... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I have a hard copy somewhere of education research (I believe it was the National School Board Review) that also talked about parenting practices and its affect on achievement. The students enter school behind and continually have a hard time catching up. And by the way, I never said black students cannot succeed. If you examine achievement, most that perform have good support at home. Since you are the educational researcher and expert, I am waiting to hear your sources and for you to correct my misinformation. In your 12 years teaching, were you successful in uplifting those that are marginalized? If so, why did you quit if you were successful? Did you also teach in Ann Arbor, which would imply that the district employs terrible teachers that can't be fired... or just some, many, etc. Would this also imply that our black students have all the terrible teachers? Either way, PEG is not the answer. Provide tutoring or something to try to help these students who need more help than they can get in a class of 30 or more.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

This is from notes from the March board meeting: BPSSG – Brian Johnson reported that the group is actively focusing on defining goals toward eradicating the achievement gap. Noted that parents play a crucial role in the development of children and will be providing workshops to assist in this area. *BPSSG= Black Parent Student Support Group

say it plain

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

But, so, please please someone tell me, point me in the right direction to look for answers, anything... as to *how* PEG's programs help with anything?! I don't believe that black children and their families are derelict! I just am not understanding how we can do anything in the schools *except* the following, to help eliminate all 'gaps' in achievement: 1. accept the different patterns of strengths, weaknesses, and differences in styles that each child has (regardless of background) 2. help each child where they need help, in a way that doesn't 'accept' some pattern of differences based on background (and I think that singleton's claims of black people being inherently 'different' as a group can interfere with that!) 3. be willing to offer different kinds of help for different kinds of learners and *not* be willing to quit until ways to improve skills are found, but be patient about these! In other words, I want the schools to do a lot! I don't want *ANY* school for *ANY* child to make assumptions or presumptive requests of people's households at all. I want schools to do all they can to engage parents, and try different techniques in that regard, but ultimately schools have to do what they can with the time they have with the kids--they can't control all else that goes on in children's lives.

King Withers

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

Thank God someone with sense does live in this town. It is so obvious to some and so complex to others why children and families are blamed for others negative attitude and refusal to see the truth. The truth shall set you free;some don't want freedom from narrow-minded, obtuse thinking. It will prove their pet theories wrong and hence, their whole way of life, wrong and unjust. Who ever you are, may God bless you each and everyday of your life. Thank You.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:35 p.m.

are you saying parent involvement isn't an issue when looking at overall success of students in general? The idea that the past continues to hold families back seems to be one that is getting old. Let's get Mr. Bill Cosby, or heck, even President Obama into town and have a conversation with families about being involved and expecting kids to put forth the effort that is required to succeed. Lets stop using the past as another reason for educational debt as you call it.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

there is an article in the ann arbor chronicle: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> it gives a little more detail about the board meeting. it is interesting that Board Member Baskett was complaining that she still has not received information she requested about which schools are making progress yet the community can't seem to get any information about the exact cost of PEG since it began. it is also interesting that the article states that Singleton insists more work needs to be done, referencing his book. it makes me wonder when the current contract expires and if one is already in the works for the following school year. it doesn't seem to work in his favor that his services would no longer be necessary.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

It's the &quot;Bell Curve&quot; stupid!


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

Ms. Lightfoot seems to imply that the board is not open to 'courageous conversations'. And yet they've been willing to implement the PEG initiative in the first place and they voted her on the board. My question is : what convinced the board that this was a good idea in the first place?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Sounds like Ms Lightfoot's complaint's about marginilization are more of a sense of entitlement that she be agreed with more than just heard. It is the same sense of entitlement that people feel when they vote and their candidate does not get elected and then they claim they were disenfranchised.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

You mean like the Republicans who complained about Obama's health care plan being forced through by undemocratic means? Yeah, I'm certain that was the example about which you were thinking. Good Night and Good Luck

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Here's a radical idea: don't have kids until you're in a situation where you're able to give them the attention required for raising them, and that includes helping them with their education. And for those people who don't yet understand the simple concept of cause-and-effect, that means don't have sex until that time.

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:35 p.m.

Thanks, but I'm not looking for somebody to tell me what I meant to say. I wrote exactly what I intended to write. You might notice, should you take the time to actually read my comment, that I did not state, or even imply, that my suggestion provides the full solution to the full problem. It will be obvious to most people that my suggestion is one that provides a recommendation for consideration by those who do not already have children.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

Yes, I think you mean &quot;In addition&quot; this needs to happen. There is already a problem that needs to be fixed. If everyone stopped having kids today the fix is not immediate. So yes, you are correct but now Mr. Hindsight, let's work on the current problem.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

East and West - What sets us apart in learning and creative writing? I see a fundamental difference in the approach towards the problem of imparting learning skills in our schools. The issue is not that of race, income level, or social status. We need to understand as to how man can recognize his own cognitive powers. We need to remove those mental barriers, the mental fences that we erect in our minds and impede the process called learning. We need to set our minds free to ensure free flow of thoughts, speech, and communication in writing. The biggest obstacle is that of mental inertia, mental lethargy, and an attitude of disobedience in which the mind of the person is unwilling to submit itself to the requirements of learning and assimilating information. We can take the horse to water and we can not make it to drink from it. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Thanks for that response. We need to measure achievement and success at the level of each individual student and it is not acceptable if kids are left behind as the designated group has several members with optimal achievement.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Right, then.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

Classic AAPS Board behavior...cannot even show group agreement for the advancement of ALL of the students. I have reviewed the READ 180 and Systems 44 programs, and I believe that they can be useful tools to help students retain or improve their skills, but nowhere in the programs did it ask anything about the race of the student who was participating. Not only that, but I'll bet most parents aren't even aware of these programs due to the lack of promoting them. I was first made aware of these programs only because I am an active volunteer in the summer learning programs at our neighborhood school. The drawback of these programs is that they are still completely dependent upon willful student participation AND parent/volunteer support to assist the students in optimizing the experience. Without the parent and volunteer support, these programs are just another wasted opportunity to help those who could benefit the most.

say it plain

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

And I have had some minimal contact with the FASTT Math program, actually, and it too has *nothing* to do with race, just with how automatic calculation is for a given student. Indeed, this is another paid-for 'package' that is only partially administered, so far as I can tell so far with it, and it leaves out a large aspect of the total package that might be of great use in getting kids who are 'behind' caught up. Knowledge about its implementation seems to be scant, the whole thing must have cost some money (as always, these things are proprietary, and someone is making bucks off the books/software/assessments etc), and it really seems to me to contradict the 'self-discovery of math concepts' orientation that a lot of the AAPS elementary programs seem to prefer over stuff like *teaching* concepts and gasp maybe even some various algorithms! Still, I can see how a thoughtful integration of such a program into the total math curriculum can be very good for skills retention and recovery efforts, and I'd MUCH RATHER SEE MONEY SPENT ON THESE than on Singleton's stuff.

Basic Bob

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 5:29 p.m.

@Murrow, I disagree with your 9% statistic. The AAPS district headcount indicates that nearly half of the students are not Caucasian. 30% describe themselves as African American, Multi-Ethnic, or Latino/Hispanic. Having 2 seats on the board provides some representation and influence, however it does not necessary lead to results in that a supermajority exists which dictates policy.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Yes, 8% of A2 are black but 15% of its children are. Whatever. Cute on the 3/5. Of course, you pulled that one out of thin air. Good Night and Good Luck

Basic Bob

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

@Murrow, 15% of CHILDREN attending AAPS self-identify as black. I can't imagine why you would grant their parents only 3/5 of the voting power.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

Then you disagree with the US census. Go complain to them. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

It's the parents stupid.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

OK, let me see if I have this right. The A2 school board has seven members. Two of those members, 30% of its membership, are black (by the 2000 census blacks make up less than 9% of the city's population. Source: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> ) And Ms. Lightfoot feels &quot;marginalized&quot;? Pardon me, but that sounds like an excuse for someone who is ineffective and who has no idea how to do their job or to create support for their position. Want to be heard, Ms. Lightfoot? Quit whining and get to work. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Sb: ROFL! See, you and I don't always disagree. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

Ghost Let it be known that I voted for this post.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

Since there is no opportunity gap, this would be more accurately called a parenting gap, not an achievement gap.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

The problem is more complex than the AAPS is willing to admit. Several people here have already mentioned many of those factors such as socioeconomics and and single parent families where the parent is too busy working to help their child. One thing I haven't seen mentioned though is that many of these parents are not educated themselves. How can a parent help their child with homework or even stress the importance of education if they are not well educated? It's time to break the cycle! A remedial education program for the parents would probably do more to narrow the achievement more than anything else.


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 11:26 a.m.

But then what is to say the parents do not want to better themselves? What if the parent says everything is fine and the education our child is getting is fine also? Again we are trying to remove the problem when the problem won't go away when parents bury their heads in the sand and say no problem here. Look at Willow Run. I remembered when I volunteered in a classroom. Teacher told me to make sure the children had no homework. When I asked why she said it won't get done because most times it is a sib who picks them up and puts them in front of television because they are loaded down themselves and don't want to do their homework on top of theirs. Break the cycle? Won't happen until someone steps in makes it happen.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

i agree, however, i can say that our school's Black Parent Student Support Group offers many seminars geared towards helping kids with homework and they are not heavily attended. So then what?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

We should be spending more money on the gifted children. Why are we okay with letting those with true talents fall to the average category to let others catch up to be &quot;fair to everyone.&quot;

Basic Bob

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

@cibachrome, this dumbing-down of white students is caused by the same factors as the non-white students. When there is a single parent, or both parents work, it becomes more difficult for parents to raise their children the way our parents did. It is not caused solely by preferential programs. At our only majority-non-white middle school and at the high schools, there is not the peer pressure to underperform that people in other parts of the community attribute to the ghetto/street mentality. At Scarlett, black children are the largest group at any of the honor roll ceremonies. This is Ann Arbor, and our non-white children have great aspirations for themselves.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

&quot;"If we as adults are facing this, what about the kids?" Baskett said. When reached by on Thursday, Baskett declined to expand on her comments at Wednesday's meeting.&quot; Evidently, she found herself in a hole and decided it was OK to quit digging. Got to give her credit for that anyway.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

Indeed! Too bad Ms. Lightfoot, apparently, is yet to come to that conclusion. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

As a parent of special needs students who have attended school in Ann Arbor, I would LOVE to see more attention paid to the far more significant achievement gap between students with disabilities and the general population. AAPS has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on Pacific Education Group consultants and on &quot;cultural sensitivity&quot; professional development for teachers, all of which focuses exclusively on the differences between African-American and &quot;mainstream&quot; US cultures. What about some training to help teachers differentiate instruction for students with differences other than skin color? How about spending some of our limited budget and time for teacher training discussing the school-relevant cultural differences of Asian students, or how to assure that the voices of students with various kinds of speech disorders and other &quot;learning differences&quot; are welcomed in the classroom? While it's true that more African-American students come from families with low socioeconomic resources, we also have many African-American families in Ann Arbor that are quite well off. Statistics show those children, on average, also under-perform academically when compared to their Caucasian and Asian classmates. Further, the absolute number of Caucasian families living in poverty or with substantially less money than they used to have due to unemployment, underemployment or disability within our school district is significantly larger than the absolute number of African-American families struggling with those same challenges. At what point should we stop accentuating one difference and ignoring almost all others, which are at least as significant an issue for academic achievement of the kids in the affected families?

Tony Livingston

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

I agree that more training and emphasis on students with learning disabilities would benefit many students, including black students. As far as Asian students are concerned, if you want to do what they do, then you will have the same results that they have. But, be careful what you wish for.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Ahhhh yet again we are trying to use the race card to justify the lack of parenting. Most kids who get bad grades have parents that suck and not racist teachers. This same exact gap is everywhere in the country with white kids, black kids, Asian kids ect. Its called being poor. When a family has to be at work all the time to live the teachers and the streets raise the children and thats where the problem is. I have sat in high schools classes and college freshmen classes and most kids have no respect for anything, they are rude and really do not care to learn, thats where the problem is, not in race. Parents, go and teach your children how to be good listeners and to be respectful and the teachers will be able to teach them. Teachers, I thank you as your task of teaching kids has switched to raising kids.

Tony Livingston

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

Like all 3 large AAPS high schools, the principal at my daughter's school is black. It took me 6 months to schedule an appt. with him. When the time arrived, he simply skipped. When I finally spoke to him by phone, he was rude and offered no explanation, apology, or attempt to reschedule. Since I am white, should I assume that this is racial? I got over it and went over his head and spoke to someone higher up. There are many black administrators at the schools including class principals and guidance counselors. There is also a well funded program called Rising Scholars that works exclusively with low income students (mostly black students) to support them academically. I am not sure what the district is supposed to do to help people feel more comfortable. Many white parents don't like going to the school either. Not necessarily because of race, but just alienation from &quot;the system&quot;. I have to make myself go to the presentations, conferences, and events.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

according to PEG there is no &quot;reverse racism&quot;, so it wouldn't surprise me that this behavior would be acceptable. the board approves a hefty consultant fee, so PEG must be right.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

Tony - You should indeed assume that it is racial. I had the same experience at my son's high school. The principal would not meet with me or my husband under any circumstances. At only one occasion did I even succeed in speaking with him directly by telephone, out of perhaps 20 attempts. At that sons' graduation a few years ago, the valedictorian went up to the principal on the podium and shook his hand. The young man then opened his address with a few paragraphs detailing his (unsuccessful) efforts to meet the principal in person before they would appear together on the commencement platform. I'm very sorry to say that the School Board members I spoke to seemed to think that this was perfectly acceptable behavior for a high school principal.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

I would suggest if you want to see how to help (really help) children that need help, you take the time to read: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It is one of the longest running and best programs in the US. I would also suggest that AAPS would be better off hiring these folks than PEG next year.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Great program but it looks to carry a hefty price tag and involves the sort of extensive government involvement that so many argue against. &quot;Canada's new program combines educational, social and medical services. It starts at birth and follows children to college.&quot; I'd love to see it, or something similar, implemented on a larger scale. But in an era of budget cutbacks and desire for minimal government where will the funding and support come from?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

People are still thinking of racism as all or nothing - I'm either racist or I'm not. Until we start seeing racism as a spectrum and have open, genuine ongoing discussions things will remain the same. It's easy to take the position that it is an individual choice (the notion of individuals or minorities &quot;pulling themselves up by the bootstraps&quot;) but our current situation, as the history of The United States, is much more complicated than this. Working to correct the achievement gap is a huge process - it will not be instantaneous, but it must be ongoing. As a teacher who worked in a very divided school district (AP classes were almost exclusively white, &quot;regular&quot; classes black/hispanic) it can be extremely tough to get the entire staff on board. Readers have pointed out as well that family and society play huge roles. While my colleagues were not &quot;racist&quot; there were many underlying racist tendencies that made their way into the classroom effecting school climate and ultimately supported institutionalized racism. A study/text for those interested: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

First: just because someone writes a book does not mean that it is true. Secondly, the spectrum of racism ... if you want to go that road......flows both ways. And because of that, we make this subject worse and worse by focusing on color. Period. We want all kids to succeed. So help all kids.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

i think part of the problem with your AP class example is the practice of moving kids to the next grade who are not academically ready (a teacher who posts hear regularly said it is rare that someone is held back although being held back is not necessarily the answer). I think any student who leaves elementary school without the academic foundation needed for middle school and beyond is already being set up for failure---no matter what their race. it seems having these programs in place is a start, but i still question the use of this consultant. with budget constraints, his fees could pay for a lot more tutoring.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Has Ms Lightfoot even considered the possibility that its her most junior ranking and not her race that weighs her opinions? Why throw the race card except as an attempt to add more gravitas to your words? Achievement gap again the same thing. If all the kids are being taught the same then that some don't perform is not the school's problem and capability to resolve. This is the exact reason we pulled our children out of AAPS and put them in a Charter. We were TIRED of the teach to the lowest common denominator /dumbing down our son was being subjected to.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 1:59 p.m.

So if the district is saying Read 180, System 44, Reading Intervention and Reading Apprenticeship, and FASST Math are all programs in place that are contributing towards closing the achievement gap, which of those are specifically associated with Singleton and PEG? It seems EVERY time there is a story that has to do with PEG and Glenn Singleton, there is an avoidance of discussing what he actually provides, HOW MUCH it costs and concrete results directly attributed to his consultant services. Why is that? I do agree with Ms. Lightfoot that AAPS is living on the benefit of reputation but I differ with her on her reasons why. Personal accountability plays a much bigger role than she seems to think.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 1:41 p.m.

I congratulate those of you who are willing to stick you neck out and speak honestly. This has almost nothing to do with the schools, the teachers, or the curriculum. In the black community, there is peer pressure not to succeed, but to fail in school--because academic success is &quot;selling out.&quot; There is a culture of academic disengagement in the home. There is a culture of denial. There is the ever-present victim/self-pity card that is played when life isn't fair. The citizens of Ann Arbor are probably the most giving, sharing, caring, and least racist people in the entire US. They have gone out of their way in every manner possible to accommodate black students K through 12. Ann Arbor is light years ahead of other districts in this respect. The black community need not look at racist Ann Arbor, but rather directly at themselves. Unless this type of honestly occurs, there will always be an achievement gap.


Tue, Apr 19, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

I congratulate you right back. Wow, what a statement. Nuff said.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

I see this at our school also. And the more the PEG-type initiatives are pushed, the more i see the parents who typically volunteer in all ways easing back. constantly inferring that one race doesn't care about another begins a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

The school I am currently in? This post is exactly what I see every single day. Very sad but very true and I wish we could change this but won't happen unless somehow we change the parents.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

It's too bad all our children have to suffer while &quot;experts&quot; and politically correct board members dance around this issue with unfounded accusations against all of society. In real life, if a manager whined constantly about not being &quot;heard,&quot; there would soon be a firing.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

i recall reading a story about a Principal taking over an under performing trouble laden elementary school in the Detroit Public School System.Immediately she instituted programs that made all school personnel,students,and PARENTS responsible for improving achievement in that school. Everybody bought into it and things got better SLOWLY but by most measures the school was doing a lot better at the end of the year than it was at the beginning of the year. Teachers deal with the kids only 5-7 hrs. a day.The problem is the other 17-19 hrs..ways HAVE to be found to convince the PARENTS to be partners in the task of helping their children improve because teachers need all the help they can get.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

It is amusing to me that after watching and participating in this &quot;gap&quot; change project for well over 40 years, any and all success has been achieved only by &quot;dumbing down&quot; the pool of &quot;white&quot; students. Private schools have been the salvation of this noble effort. Charter schools are the next invention to shave off the top studnets and raise the bar. This is not just an Ann Arbor situation, it is a Global &quot;problem&quot;. The success of the Chinese (in China i'm referring to) proves to me that the relationship between money spent on education and education-success is an inversion proportion. As Colin Quinn stated: &quot;The only students who can now compete against the Chinese are the Chinese in this country&quot;. Face reality, stop calling them &quot;Black&quot; and let nature run its course. Keep in mind the indisputable truth that one half of all your students are below average. Or didn't they teach you that in Ann Arbor schools?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

I do not believe that the administration will candidly comment on why they feel the achievement gap is the way it is, but privately we all know. 80% of the issue with education resides in the home structure (this is research based). The schools account for only about 20% of what happens educationally. Singleton and the district would like to put window dressing on it, maybe have each classroom have a picture of Langston Hughes or some other famous black person in it. At the high school, many accelerated courses cannot get enough black students in them because of the rigor involved. I am not saying black students are not capable, for I feel most students (of all colors) achieve far less than they are capable because of effort or extenuating family issues. If education is not truly valued at home, it's hard to achieve academically. Education has swung too far away from personal accountability for the students and their parents. We need to demand that they step up their efforts as well as the schools improving instruction. Currently, very little demands are placed on the child/parent. Let's take the money we pay to Singleton (I believe this has been grossly misrepresented...if I am wrong, let's get a year by year breakdown of ALL expenses for Singleton's racially divisive agenda, previous year was 100K alone...this has been going on for eight years.) and put that into tutoring or something that directly impacts low achieving (ALL colors) students...instead of perpetuating the stereotype that all students cannot learn. It's offensive, counterproductive, and increases the stereotype that all black people need extra help because of an inherently racist white institution. This does not help the children at all, it takes away their ownership and places it on the system, further making it more likely that they will become dependent on outside help.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

@glacialerratic...I would love to see your data. You said there are too many successful examples but yet you cited none? It can be conquered if we are willing to commit to year round schooling and extensive after school programs. With Rick Snyder and a declining revenue base, not likely. The charter movement in NY keeps their students very late into the evening (my recollection is around 6-7 pm) hours and spends a ton of money per student (approximately 14-15K per year). It's clear that Michigan is not willing to spend anywhere near that sum (If Snyder has his way, I think Ann Arbor Public will be below $9000 next year) to make this happen. I would love to see your data that disproves what I say on an empirical level. It's always possible on an individual level, for there will always be individuals who are able to overcome extremely adverse conditions. Glenn Singleton's assertion of the existing white power structure (i.e. institutional advantage of presumably of all white, affluent people) being the culprit is wildly off-base. I look forward to your responses and your sources. Do you have any personal experience with uplifting those in the achievement gap? If so, what did you do?


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:59 p.m.

Singleton is all about racially-divisive programming. Coincidentally, today's American Thinker has an article referencing Singleton and the agenda he promotes: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

That schools cannot overcome the barriers posed by social inequality--class and race--is simply untrue and wildly at variance with the data. Do you really mean to say that a school cannot successfully address academic under-performance of students who come from families where social or economic conditions, or a legacy of limited expectations, hampers their progress? This is a tired canard--there are too many successful stories across the US (and elsewhere). Yes, it would be wonderful if all families insisted that children be fully committed to their studies as a way to secure their future. The sad fact is that the experience of too many families is that these are exuberant and unrealistic expectations.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

How about closing the gap between Asian Students and the rest of the student population? Are they smarter than everybody else or maybe their parents make them study more.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Asians come from a higher elevated school system then we do. And yes, they are more advanced then Americans because our school system does suck. As for the achievement gap? This is something that will never be gaped because of the economic structure we have. Face it, the poor have poorer schools then individuals who come from affluent school districts.Face facts, teachers want more money and better pay and this is why they do not teach in poor areas. I do agree though, it is all in the power of the parent to elevate the child to be better then the parent.

Joel A. Levitt

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

I don't understand. The commonly heard explanations of the achievement gap are limited use of language in the preschool home, less vigorous parental support and limited teacher expectations. While the success of Head Start suggests that the first two explanations are significant, these three explanations seem inadequate to me. I would very much appreciate it if AnnArbor.Com would report the school system administration's understanding of the causes of the Ann Arbor achievement gap.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Joel - There was a district-wide &quot;Leap The Gap&quot; initiative a few years ago which asked high school students and selected (mostly minority) parents and staff members to share their ideas about the causes of the achievement gap in Ann Arbor. The findings were reported to the Board once compiled. My memory (which may be in error) says that the individuals who participated believed that a lot of the gap was due to institutional and societal racism, and that AAPS (and all) schools treated minority students differently based, not on their behavior or achievement but on their minority status.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

Mrs. Lighfoot, have you ever taught in a classroom before at any level? Do you take the time to visit different schools and classrooms to see what teachers are doing daily to help students who are struggling? Have you taken the time to go into the classroom and see how teachers manipulate the time in the school day to make sure that these wonderful programs that you signed off on are being used with those students who are struggling? I think your comment in the article about feeling unheard within the school board is giving others who are African American in the Ann Arbor community an easy excuse for the possible struggles of their children. When you hear from community members that they don't feel like they are welcomed, are you asking them what school they belong to and then taking it upon yourself to contact people at that school? Take the time to ask each school what they are doing to reach out to those in the community that might feel that way. Have the schools make a list to submit to you. I am guessing that schools are doing a lot more then you think, but that it is simply easier to say that they don't feel welcomed when seeing you. This is a tricky subject to tackle, but until our school board members are in the schools seeing what they are doing on a daily basis, I find your comments about being unheard a little concerning.

Floyd Griffey

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Are we still talking about this?? It is the parents responsibility not the schools. When our kids were in elementary school (in AA) they had a parents meeting to talk about going into middle school, class choices etc, I was surprised that there appeared to be no black kids in our sons grade. In eighth grade the same. Every parent meeting or open house no black parents. Get that straighten out, then we can talk about CPT.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

Achievement gap... Why do we need to pepper the truth with euphemisms? Are we too sensitive to face reality? Do we not wish to see what really is behind the curtain created by our own making? First off, African American is a ridiculous term just as Irish/Jewish/German American is - where we originally came from is irrelevant. Secondly, the "achievement gap" also has to do with teaching in a "white" style. Want to really make improvements on this academic front - create segregated schools! Teach to the culture/race in a way the culture/race can comprehend and the achievement gap will be a non-issue. But oh no, you can't do that because at one time in history schools were, "always separate, but never equal." Have we not grown as a society since then? Isn't it about time to TRY different experiments in order to find out what REALLY works instead of just paying consultants and social workers to write a report that ends of bussing black children all around the city? It is time to approach a new way forward and create a cultural respect for EVERY culture within the city, not just marginalize one culture!!!


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Teaching to the culture / race is exactly what the Pacific Education Group advocates and others in AAPS have been doing, often to the exclusion of activities that have been shown to have a much greater impact on student achievement, regardless of race. Do we really need more professional development around being &quot;culturally sensitive&quot;, African-American Lunch Bunch clubs, segregated field trips and high school principals who refuse to meet with white students or parents and only deals directly with African American families in Ann Arbor? Or does such constant attention being paid to what should be a very minor difference (skin color) divide us even further from acting as one community to improve learning for and by all students? I think it's the latter much more than the former.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Isn't that essentially what we are doing at Roberto Clemente and Stone Schools? It doesn't seem to be all that successful...


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

It's admirable that the schools are working hard to close this gap but as with so many issues facing education, it's not just about the schools. As long as there are significant racial inequalities within the larger society schools can only do so much to reduce this gap. The same holds for economic class. Educational outcomes, on average, have a strong connection to students' economic backgrounds. Schools can try to alleviate lower outcomes for poor and working class students but only so much. Many of the more important causes and issues exist outside the school system.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Programs that directly impact students in an academic intervention such as the reading programs mentioned above as well as programs that use free tutors from UM who work one on one with students at the schools are making a positive difference in achievement in AAPS. The district has a number of employees at the high school level working to make sure that at risk students are receiving extra services. I don't know what Mr. Singleton does, or whether his expensive services continue to be needed, but the school district seems to be heading in the right direction now and maybe the 300+K he has received could be put to use for actual teacher pay in the future given that there are so many cuts coming to the AAPS.


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 10:56 a.m.

I hate to be a pest, but it just grinds me when I see the description African Americans. In the U.S., this term is used to describe brown skin. There are people of other color and white (as we are described in the same sentence) in Africa, so why use this outdated, &quot;everybody's the same there&quot; description?

Moscow On The Huron

Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

The term &quot;African-American&quot; also assumes the person being referred to is American. I have lived places where I shared an apartment tower with dark-skinned people from all over the world who were not American citizens, just temporary residents from somewhere else. It would have been very incorrect to refer to them as &quot;African-Americans.&quot;


Sun, Apr 17, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Try this one on for size. I work in a black school. When I told the person who takes care of problems for the school, I described the individual and such. The guy asked me if the individual was light, medium or dark. I looked at him like wow, never thought of that one before. I agree with your post by the way.