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Posted on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor parents notified of transfer options after schools land on state's 'Focus' list

By Danielle Arndt

Parents in many Ann Arbor Public Schools got a surprising letter in their email inboxes this week. The letter, from district administrators, told them that because of academic performance issues at their child's school, they could request a transfer to a school in a neighboring district.

The options? Schools in Lincoln, Willow Run and Ypsilanti, where students typically score much lower on assessment tests than those in Ann Arbor.


Students from Ann Arbor's Carpenter Elementary School walk down Central Boulevard in Pittsfield Township on Walk-to-School Day in this Ann Arbor News file photo. Carpenter was listed as a "Focus School" by the Michigan Department of Education in its recent school report card.

The Ann Arbor News

Why would Ann Arbor schools, whose students are typically among the highest-achieving in Washtenaw County, suggest parents might want to send their children to schools with lower test scores? Because the state says they have to.

The letters, a requirement of a new program the state launched this year designating schools with large achievement gaps as “Focus schools,” left some parents upset and confused.

“I understand they are required to offer an alternative,” said Amy Jordan, a parent at Carpenter Elementary School. “But I thought it was awfully insulting to families and educators who are working so hard to make their schools great. And not to mention confusing for families who may be new or temporary to (the Ann Arbor Public Schools).”

On Aug. 2, the Michigan Department of Education released its annual school report cards, indicating which schools in the state met Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for the 2011-12 academic year.

But the state also launched a new program, cracking down on the achievement gap in schools, per the requirements of a flexibility waiver it was granted through the federal government for No Child Left Behind.

The program designated 27 of Ann Arbor’s 33 buildings as Focus schools, meaning they have a substantial performance disparity between students scoring in the top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent of test takers on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) examination and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME). All of Ann Arbor’s 21 elementary schools are on the list, in addition to Clague, Forsythe, Slauson and Tappan middle schools; Huron and Pioneer high schools.

However, not all of these 27 schools had a note emailed to parents listing their transfer possibilities. That’s because only parents at 11 of the 27 schools will be given a choice.

Focus schools that receive Title 1 grant funding from the state are required to give students the option of attending another non-Focus school that met AYP.

Title 1 funding is awarded to schools with a higher percentage of low-income families. In Ann Arbor, the Title 1 Focus school rule applies to Abbot, Allen, Bryant, Carpenter, Dicken, Mitchell, Northside, Pattengill and Pittsfield elementaries.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who met with state officials recently on this topic, said the state has required Title 1 Focus schools to provide transportation for students wanting to attend a non-Focus school, which the state can’t do without a funding element.

“They can’t do an unfunded mandate,” Menzel said, explaining why only those buildings with Title 1 grant funds were asked to provide a list of transfer options. The Title 1 Focus schools now are required to set aside a portion of their grant monies for choice transportation.

The options for Ann Arbor students are attending either their Focus schools or:

  • Adams Elementary (limited availability), Ypsilanti Public Schools
  • Brick Elementary (grades 1-5), Lincoln Consolidated Schools
  • Childs Elementary (grades 1-5), Lincoln
  • Model Elementary and Early Childhood Center (kindergarten), Lincoln
  • Willow Run Primary Learning Center (grades K-1)

  • Lincoln Middle School
  • Scarlett Middle School, Ann Arbor

  • Whitmore Lake High School

These were schools that both met AYP and were not named to the state’s Focus list.

Every district in Washtenaw County except for Manchester had at least one building designated as a Focus school, Menzel said. If a school is not on the transfer list, it likely was a Focus school itself, did not meet AYP (for example, Skyline High School) or did not have the capacity to open up enrollment to Focus school transfers, Menzel said. Space issues kept schools in Dexter, Chelsea and Saline from being offered as options to parents in Ann Arbor.

He added Manchester had limited availability and agreed to open a few slots for students from Chelsea and Saline schools designated as Focus schools.

AA and Lincoln meap comparison.jpg

This chart shows how Lincoln and Ann Arbor elementary students compared on the past two MEAP tests in the subjects of math and reading. With all of Ann Arbor’s elementary buildings appearing on the state’s new “Focus schools” list, the district was required to provide a list of alternative schools for parents to send their children to. Lincoln School District had the most elementary spots open for parents looking to transfer out of a Focus school.

Per the state’s Focus school requirements, the list of transfer options had to be made available to parents by Aug. 21. AAPS attached a transfer request form to the letter with a deadline of Sept. 4.

Carpenter Elementary Principal Charles Davis said he fielded about 50 phone calls and emails from confused Carpenter parents in the 24 hours after the letter was sent out. A few more parents stopped by the building with questions, Davis said.

Most parents wanted clarification on what it meant to be a Focus school, he said.

“I broke down the definition and tried to share with them that it’s just a new way of labeling a school. Nothing is changing,” he said, explaining Ann Arbor has been working on its achievement gap issues and will continue to do so. “Basically, I just tried to reassure parents that we are the same incredible school that we were three weeks ago, before we got labeled.”

Davis said no parents indicated to him that they'd be pulling their children from Carpenter, but rather parents were relieved to learn they didn’t need to look for another school. He said a number of parents also asked why they couldn’t transfer to a different elementary within AAPS. Davis explained it was because all of Ann Arbor’s elementaries were given the state’s Focus school designation.

Davis added a number of Ann Arbor’s elementaries, such as Angell and King, were rated in the 98th and 99th percentile statewide.

Jordan said she is frustrated by the state’s new designation system. Her husband works in the automotive industry and as a result, her family is friends with a number of international families that are in Ann Arbor on a temporary basis. For example, she tutors English as a second language to Korean families who have moved to the area for four-year stints to work for Hyundai Motor Company. She said for these families, the letter and the idea of their child’s school being put on a Focus list was alarming.

"They don't understand the language well, and here they get a letter offering alternatives for their child's education," Jordan said.

"…It just doesn't seem fair. We're a good school, doing good things, with good parents. And we’re being put in this position where we almost have to defend ourselves," she said of the Ann Arbor school district.



Mon, Aug 27, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

I'm not sure that everyone here is aware what it means to "close the achievement gap." It does not mean that all students should be at the same level, nor does it mean that teachers have to "dumb down" anything. What it does mean is that school need to strive for similar amounts of GROWTH in all students. For example, all students might be expected to make one year's growth in reading during a school year. This means that a 6th grader reading at a 10th grade level and a 6th grader reading at a 3rd grade level should both make enough growth to end the year one year higher in their reading abilities. Often, with a little specialized help, lower achieving students will make huge growth when given opportunities that work for them. I just don't want anyone thinking that school expect all students to be at the same's simply that ALL students should be making SIMILAR AMOUNTS OF GROWTH.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

Where do you get your information? Are you an educator? Because I am and this is not what we are experiencing in the schools, and the way you are describing it, there will always be an achievement gap.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 10:47 p.m.

I'm with Beth, how does this solve anything? Once again state leaders, led by Republicans that have no idea what they're doing, are mandating districts send these letters. It does nothing but concern and alarm parents unnecessarily. Besides, show me a school where there is a diverse socioeconomic population and I'll show you an achievement gap! Hello?! Schools with no achievement gap are much more homogeneous. Those are certainly not the Title 1 schools in Ann Arbor. Wake up people. This is all a bunch of crap!

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

Scarlett Middle School is a school you can transfer to, does this mean they are all high achieving students? NO, it means that they are all about the same level and there is no gap.


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

So I looked into focus schools more closely, and they do seem very problematic. I just got this email from a concerned Ypsi parent. "Focus schools are schools that have the highest Achievement Gap in the State. When your school is identified by the State as a "focus school" it is required by law to inform parents that they may move their child to another school that IS NOT on the Focus School list, and they bused there at the District's expense. The problem is that not all schools on the focus schools list are required to inform parents and bus students to different areas, only Title I schools (schools that receive Federal funding because of low SES). Moreover, because ALL Ann Arbor Schools were placed on the list, Title I schools that were required to send notifications to parents, could only recommend schools in Willow Run, Ypsi, and Whitmore Lake. Why, because the district cannot pay for busing to another focus school. So what does this mean in real terms? Say you have a kid at Eberwhite (Title I), you will not be given the option to send her to Burns Park, because it is also a focus school, but you will be given the option to send her to Adams Elementary in Ypsi, which, coincidentally, is also a Title I school. This is totally diabolical, as you will see in this amazing podcast by Oakland Schools superintendent, Dr. Vickie Markavitch. Listen to this podcast. It's titled "Losing Focus With Focus Schools". Its a little long, but please stick with it to the end, because it explains, in very clear terms, why the "focus school" approach is a problem for public education in Michigan.


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 2:40 a.m.

What bothers me about this whole mess is the state decides to have all these educational standards, then cuts school funding by 15% and also cuts the state income tax which of course will lay off more teachers and increase class size. At the same time they cut the state business tax by $1.8 B so the "job creators" can hire the laid off teachers at $10 per hour at their businesses. What a great plan!


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 12:06 a.m.

It was interesting that the article didn't compare the scores of the Ypsilanti or Willow Run schools offered to the parents. Was this just because the Lincoln schools were the best of the "so called" alternatives, or something else?


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

There are many many hard-working teachers in AAPS. There are a few bad apples, and a few bad leaders (principals). Much of the achievement issue is based on the reality that classrooms are too large. Period. A very talented teacher simply cannot assist 30 or more students adequately in an elementary classroom. The top kids are bored and acting out, creating problems; the bottom kids are not getting the support they need and "drift along" getting passed from grade to grade without adequate skills. The middle performing kids get adequate attention and acquire adequate skills, but many are lost along the way if they are on the edge. As long as teachers and teacher assistants are constantly laid off cut back, and positions eliminated, classes will increase in size, making it impossible to close any gaps.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

Let me correct my previous statement with an important "FACT" that I wrote incorrectly... .In my previous comment, I stated that info from the state on these categories were... " which is vertified by an outside impartial entity.... on these new "fancy smancy" categories are only verified by the State of MI, not by an outside impartial entity.. unless it's the charter school Repubs pushing these unattainable goals. Wake up MI, it's the fox watching the hen house and in our case the Repubs bought by the charter school CEO and the backers of that failed charter ballot with the same sad old anti-union, anti-teachers and anti-state employees you and I can let our children be bought & sold by the "job creators" who make outrageous salaries and kick, push, shove everybody's kid out who don't belong or have special education issues in their private school paid by public monies. Just remember, just because something is shiny & new doesn't make it good..didn't your parents teach you that one or do you approve of segregated schools or paying someone's kid a private education with your tax dollars. Send your child to private school instead paid with your private money....and leave public schools alone.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:45 p.m.

So, let me get this right. The letter to parents in some A2 elementary schools offered an option where they could put their elementary age student onto a bus, travel to another district in another city, perhaps for an hour, and then attend an elementary school that has a higher achievement gap and lower test scores. Is this correct? Huh??? This makes absolutely no sense on any level.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

I find it ironic: The schools that are "focus schools" are supposed to work harder to help the lowest achieving students achieve more (actually, do better on the test). So why would the program then encourage parents to leave those schools? I would think the parents of struggling kids would want to stay put to take advantage of all the extra attention the students will be getting. This is really crazy. I guess it's what happens when they try to write one-size-fits-all rules.

J. A. Pieper

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 12:23 a.m.

Actually Kathryn, they are hoping the higher part of the gap will leave, hence eliminating the achievement gap, problem solved, and the school is no longer a focus school!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

If this were a charter school the union thugs would be crying for blood, instead it's a "public" school so sympathy, time, and it's no big deal.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

I guess I am just stupid, but I have to wonder why everyone is blaming the schools, the government, the cosmic rays, the teachers, the administrators, etc. ( and though it seems that people forgot to blame the new DTE smart meters, but I'm sure someone will get around to it - where did I leave my tin hat?). Let's place the blame on PARENTS of underperforming kids who don't turn off the TV, read to their children, make them do their homework, and emphasize the critical importance of doing well in school. None of this will work because behind nearly every underperforming child, is an UNDERPERFORMING PARENT who is the person who should get the blame. Burdening high performing parents/children/families does no good. Don't blame the teachers either - they have these kids for a lot less time than their parents do, and have limited resources.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

Too many single parent households with multiple siblings. These are choices that individuals make, to have children with an appropriate partner, to care for their children, and to have an adequate way to support the family financially. These are CHOICES. No one forces anyone to have kids. If adults are not prepared to support their children throughout their education, and provide proper parenting, then they should not have kids to start with! Kids need support and a nurturing home environment to succeed.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

I had to laugh when I received notices that my kids' schools were focus schools. Is it not normal for some kids to perform well, some to perform poorly and others to perform at about average? Isn't this called a bell curve? Maybe the curves are skewed one way or another but busing kids around is not the way to fix any perceived problems related to disparities in scores at individual schools. I just keep my fingers crossed that my kids will get to finish in what has so far been an absolutely wonderful public school system without someone mandating they be bused elsewhere. If that happens, we will fight tooth and nail. No busing.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Isn't the letter, the envlope and the postage an unfunded mandate?

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

This proposal could be construed as reverse busing policy and we all know how well that worked out!!!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

Completely honest here, I find it hilarious to see arrogant, elitist liberals freaking out over being told they are not the hottest thing in the world.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

And it seems that everyone, with the exception of Monica has missed the point... 100% of Ann Arbor Public Schools are on the Focus School list, meaning that they have a persistent achievement gap between African American and White students. This is less of a problem in other places not because the kids are generally dumber, or the teachers less talented, but because, as Monica points out, real energy and attention has been paid to the issue, and it has not been met with the typical grousing about "fairness" that you see in Ann Arbor (for the grousers, fairness usually means the following: "why can't my special (privileged) child go on a field trip meant to bolster math and science learning for African American students!!!???" Ann Arbor has a big time race problem in its schools, and its not just about the achievement gap. I know many African American parents and parents of color who have taken their kids out of AA schools because of the feeling that their children are being treated "differently" (as if they were problems). These are not low income parents, they are professors, doctors, and professionals, and they are paying big bucks to send their kids to private schools in order to shield them from the subtle, underlying racism that students of color (even high achieving ones) experience in AA public schools. Personally, I have had a great experience in Ypsi schools, as has my daughter, who is both mixed race AND high achieving, and even if given the choice, I would definitely keep her in Ypsi.


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

Did your kid go to the school with the field trip???? Did your kid get the "passionate discussion" from the principal about the racism he endured??? Did your kid get to finish their last year of elementary school with stress and turmoil??? If so, then we can talk...


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

Our experience so far in AAPS at two different schools is that we have had 2 African American principals and half of our child's teachers have been African American. So if someone felt they were being treated "differently" by the staff, it is not likely due to racism. Perhaps the other schools are different? As far as the parents of privileged children "grousing", rest assured that we may grouse, but we haven't received anything special for our efforts. I just wanted the couple kids who were bored to tears at the slow pace in math to be able to take the pretests and work ahead independently if they scored high enough. I was told this might make some kids feel bad that they weren't in that group. So in the end, maybe it is all about fairness. African American kids don't get special field trips and my kid doesn't get accelerated work. It's all fair and neither one of us are happy.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

The metric that they've used to identify focus schools doesn't make sense. They've only considered the difference between the top 30% and lowest 30% without considering the average scores. Thus, schools in A2 which have high average math and reading achievement have larger gaps ---in part because there is more socioeconomic diversity in the Ann Arbor schools (higher SES and lower SES students in same classrooms and schools ) versus Lincoln and Ypsilanti schools which are probably more homogeneous --- homogeneity reduces the gap between highest and lowest tertiles without regard to the actual mean achievement scores. Thus, can have lower average achievement but lower gap ---and be a "reward school"!

Monica G

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

Sharon, I'm not sure it's true there is more socioeconomic diversity in Ann Arbor schools than in Lincoln and Ypsilanti schools, although it would be interesting to see the statistics. I find many Ann Arbor parents make assumptions about Ypsilanti and Lincoln schools (and Ypsilanti and its townships) that are not based in fact. (At a community event last year I ran into an Ann Arbor parent who had never been to Depot Town, for example.) While the high end of the socioeconomic spectrum may be higher than in Ypsilanti, I would be surprised if the low end is lower. And again, as a parent of Lincoln students I wouldn't call Lincoln schools "homogeneous" by any stretch of the imagination! Go visit one of the schools sometime and see for yourself. Nice try, though.

Monica G

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

As a parent of a junior in a competitive college who graduated from Lincoln, I get weary of the Ypsilanti-bashing that regularly appears in the comments following education-related articles. Ann Arbor parents have a right to be proud to send their children to the city's excellent schools. In the past, though, the focus has been on the average scores of a district or the percentage of students who passed certain sections of the MEAP with satisfactory scores, and Ann Arbor schools have always surpassed Ypsi schools (and probably will for some time). This time, the emphasis is on the achievement gap, that is, how schools do in bridging the gap between the lowest performing students and the highest performing ones. The simple fact is that some Lincoln, Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools are doing a better job of this than some Ann Arbor schools, probably because we have had to work at it longer and harder due to differences in population make-up. Speaking of which, Ann Arbor parents like to talk about their excellent schools and teachers without admitting how important a factor this population make-up is. The chart accompanying the article overshadowed the main reason that Ann Arbor parents were sent the letter, which was given a single sentence in the article: "These [Lincoln and Ypsilanti schools] were schools that both met AYP and were not named to the state's Focus list." In general, Lincoln school officials and parents have chosen to face their problems head-on without a lot of whining about fairness, the governor, the Republicans, the MEAP, and other issues that really don't relate to the issue at hand. I would hope the smart Ann Arbor administrators and parents can do the same.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

I have a hard time believing the Republicans are responsible for the stuff coming out of progressive mouths.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

Monica - you are right on many of your points. Thank you for speaking up and defending your great school district. I would like to correct one thing, and that is the fact that republicans ARE behind these constant legislative attacks that create these unreasonable, moving targets that waste a tremendous amount of public school districts' valuable time. We must vote them out of office in November.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Folks...welcome to education led by clueless individuals who do not know a thing about education. This solves nothing. All it does is confuse parents. I know a parent who received the letter and thought the district was purposely trying to push them out because their child was receiving special education services. Administration had to call and explain that was not true, what a focus school is, and why they were required to send the letter. Congrats Governor must be proud.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

Unfortunately AAPS has been trying to close the achievement gap ever since we've been here. Punish the kids. Use the money to bus the kids around Washtenaw County. The achievement gap will never be closed.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

A better transfer option exists: to one of the area charter, private, parochial, or alternative schools.


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

Wow! Finally someone who understands incorrectly what the repubs, Devos's, & rich charter CEO's who's been financing & running the State of MI with the politicians that suppose to be representing the people & best interest of the MI at-large instead of the business men (like themselves) & donors whom they are creating laws to benefit from at the expense of the people & MI at-large. The creators of these categories are the politicians of the State of MI. The people who determine these categories are the politicians of the State of MI. The repub politicians of MI are the ones who verify these categories so they can take funding outside impartial or non-political group. To be clear: private schools paid with private monies = private education parochial school paid with private monies = private education charter school paid with public monies = private education


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

You are so right, Somargie. It is a ploy for privately run charter schools to grow. The State of Michigan is allowing public money from our property taxes go to companies to run the schools. Public control of education left the public's hands when we passed Prop A. The demand for charter schools will increase because of this incorrect assumption that something is wrong with Ann Arbor Schools that can only be solved by students going elsewhere. What is wrong with the schools is determined by ridiculous tests and constantly changing benchmarks for proficiency. Let the teachers teach and let the administrators do their job of being sure the best teachers are hired and doing their job.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Much of the problem is terminology and how stupid the new designations are. Here is the Michigan Department of Education's web site on the definitions of "Focus", "Reward", and "Priority" ratings,4615,7-140--283695--,00.html "Focus" isn't bad, it just means that there is a gap between the highest and lowest students in the school. Our school is Allen, and I know that it's a great school! It's the "Priority" list that looks bad to me.

Haran Rashes

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

If I understand this correctly, a zoned Ann Arbor Public School student living at the edge of the district may have to have his or her parents drive him or her several miles to a bus to get to Huron High School because our District can no longer afford most high school busing. But if that same student wants to attend, let's say, Lincoln High School, the State mandates that Ann Arbor Public School's bus the student the 15 or so miles to Lincoln. Does anyone else see a problem with this?

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Our schools could "afford" busing. All they would have to do is reduce raises to a few already overpaid administrators. But threatening to kill raises for the 3-5 people required to pay for busing would not interest people in voting for a millage or paying a bus fee.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Thank you all for the entertainment this morning. Not a single fact presented in the discussion. So many conspiracy theories that I can only laugh. The No Child Left Behind was passed in the Bush Administration. The waver was designed in the Granholm administration, it was approved in by the Obama Administration. Before the waver, there was no such thing as focus schools, this would never have gone out. There would have been much less of an issue with some students doing well under AYP than there are now with the waver - but it is too hard to get students at the low end to perform, so a waver was asked for. I know it is not the teacher's fault or the school districts' fault or the union's fault - the only people at fault are the parents and the Republicans. I know charter schools are evil and they take away money from everyone else and put it in the pockets of the rich. Or so I am told here... Checking facts, reading and questioning studies for bias, looking at the financials of schools - both public and charter - will yield a different picture than is presented here. But since this is a fact free discussion - I won't bother to present any. Thank you again for the entertainment.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Without the waiver, all schools would eventually be penalized as the Bush Administration was requiring that 100% of third grade students be proficient by the year 2013, which, because of childhood development, is as silly as expecting them to all be 5 feet tall by then.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

So how does forcing Title 1 schools to use some of their funding to bus students to other schools, rather than use it to help educate students, make things any better??


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

"Erocypsi 7:16 AM on 8/24/2012 This seems like a great way to get families to switch from high performing schools to charter schools. Not surprising that our Republican led State Govt. came up with this one." While many of the commenters have good points about why this is not the right way to address any issues of school performance I read the article with the underlying question of: Why? What is the real reason? And Erocypsi nailed it. This government wants to privatize everything and this is a shoehorn to charter schools which are profitted by their cronies.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

If our right wing state govt had their way...they would just get rid of those pesky under performing public schools...all the people with money would send their kids to private and/or charter schools and those who couldn't afford it? Too bad...


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Focus, Reward, Priority schools labels are the new "fancy smancy" scam that the repubs in MI are using to destroy public schools in MI further. Parent notification is not nearly as surprising as the "silence" of the media and parents to this latest government push by the repubs to destroy public schools in MI. The repubs are inventing these categories to continue to perpetuate their lies about how they came up with this "most unrealistic outcome" based on nothing yet tied up with a realistic term called "academic achievement." Academic achievement is real but not attainable with the criteria that the repubs got from their charter school masters, Devos & their friends & CEO political contributors from the charter schools. When will the media & people of MI not funded by the charter schools stand up & revolt against such blatant attempts to destroy schools and take funding away? Shame on the media, annarbor. com for not calling this for what it is...pure politics & lies. If they really wanted to close the achievement gap & save funding they would close those multiple ISDs, school districts in every little town & go to a county-wide or bi-county school system & decrease class sizes dramatically in every classroom especially in Title 1 schools like many successful states. Instead, they are targeting teachers, making stuff up which is vertified by an outside impartial entity and using that to take funding away because things are so bad...In the meantime, we are all paying for the private education of somebody's child with public monies in the guise of charter schools with CEOs linked to the very politicians who created this farce. I hope you people are happy with the repubs that are destroying this state...because the unions, teachers, state employees were greedy & repubs were honorable enough to take away your vote, democracy, benefits & public schools so they can push forth the

Tony Livingston

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

The great thing about Ann Arbor is that all kinds are here together. Everyone from very wealthy families to very poor families, all races, all cultures are all in school together. It is something that is considered very desirable but at the same time it seems to be something that results in punishment.

Dog Guy

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

The bottom 30 percent of test takers in AAPS are by encouraged by e-mail to bus to Lincoln or Ypsi where they will fit in academically and experience improved self-esteem. AAPS will lose its "gaps" and the receiving districts will get billable bodies. Weren't schools run this way a century ago?

Walid Yassir

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

No Child Left Behind is Bush policy, one of the intended effects being the transfer of children and money to Charter schools (which in some cases are better than the local public school). The problem is that test scores track very closely with median income which won't change with a school transfer. Taking a low scoring student out of a great Ann Arbor elementary school to a school with less disparity (and probably lower means) on standardized testing makes little sense unless someone can show that a child performing poorly in Ann Arbor will get more attention and perform better in Ypsi or Willow Run, both school districts with well publicized problems.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

we can do all this complaining or read the notice, quickly and easily compare the stark differences in the options and...toss the notice out (delete). 5 minutes. move on. in more common instances, my guess is that there is more actual positive choice involved. Just not this one.

Susie Q

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

The Republicans always claim to want less government. Ha! There is WAY too much government interference in education. We are one of the few states in which districts cannot choose their "starting day".....for the last 10 years or so the tourist industry dictates that school must start after Labor Day (thanks to the Republicans). This latest baloney about "Focus Schools" is EXTREMELY confusing to parents, educators and community members. Any school that has a population of high-achieving students will end up on this list. Perhaps we can ask the high-achievers to test poorly on the MEAP tests so that all the student appear average or low....problem solved. Focus, AYP, NCLB, Reward Schools, Priority Schools, etc, etc...what a bunch of malarky.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Granholm (D) signed the law to start school after Labor Day in 2005.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Suzie Q you are so right. The republicrites that spout "less government" are over-legislating and creating unheard of government interference in education. We must vote them out in November.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Since when did they start caring about avoiding unfunded mandates? Paying for choice busing because they're required to offer a choice? That's new and strange.

Linda Peck

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

I have no idea what this article is saying. Am I stupid or this is another administrative manifesto that cannot be explained in plain English?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Linda? I reread the article twice and I too am confused as to what the state is asking as well. So, no, you are not stupid. I too am in the same boat as you.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

The "less regulations are great people" made it confusing on purpose

Susie Q

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Linda, it is extremely confusing. Many of us in education have been confused since NCLB. The rules and regulations keep changing. The paperwork, surveys, forms, regulations from the state and the feds changes every six months. One semester a teacher is told he/she is "Highly Qualified" (a requirement from No Child Left Behind) to teach World History, the next semester the teacher is told that because the rules changed he/she is no longer legally able to teach that class and is removed from that class and kids get a new teacher. It is ridiculous.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

My two cents: have administration in the schools, particularly certain AAPS middle schools, that respect their staff, so as to inspire them to go the extra distance to close that achievement gap. Remove administration from the schools that don't inspire their staff- it comes from the top. Ive seen such a change in the staff at my childs school, they seem so defeated by their principal. Can't wait to be out of there.

andy kelly

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Yes, fire the administration (after all, they are from the bottom tier of students that grew up to be the administration)! Hire dedicated teachers that "really" teach (not regurgitate curriculum manuals)! Break up administrative duties among teachers. Get real! Enable Ann Arbor to be the progressive leader it could be and our children will surprise us!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

We simply need to eliminate math and reading from our schools. Focus on diversity and self-esteem instead. Problem solved -


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

"Critical thinking" and "Intelligent design" both involve value judgments, which are contrary to the self esteem process. Instead think of "Non-Critical thinking" and "I'm OK, as are you design".


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

And intelligent design.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Not really solved until we also throw out critical thinking, a la Texas.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

So lets see. Maybe the top 30% score 80 in math and 90 in reading and the bottom 30% score 40 in math and 60 in reading so you get an average figure that is quite high. But even the lower 30% score at or very near the state average so they can transfer to school who has a much lower bottom 30%. I guess if they do that, it will bring up the other schools average and make create a disparity at those schools allowing those students to transfer to another school. Eventually the entire state can be mediocre.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

No child not mediocre. That's the new name for this program. How many ways can you say, "What a pile of BS?" My kids is doing all right in a great school system. He'she will be fine. Yet how much better this would be if the top students were a lot more, well, mediocre. ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY!!!?????!!!


Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 7:45 p.m.

I just thought the typo was part of the whole "BillyBob" persona. ;^)

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Typo, dopo. You never made one? There is no edit function. I prefer to leave it alone and assume people have more to do than write comments about an obvious typographical error. Usually people are that bright. Not always.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

My kids is doing all right, is they? That's good, so they won't have to depend on parental help.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

The NCLB act should be renamed No Child Leading Ahead. This is all part of the right's push to kill public education in order to strip mine these public dollars into their own pockets through for profit charter schools.

andy kelly

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

here, here!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

This reminds me that schools often graduate pupils who can hardly read. How did they get that far without it? Because they were forgotten, given up on and "passed" through. Think this doesn't happen? Think again. I do think the schools concentrate on the "easier" kids, the ones who come from "good" families" who are pushing their achievement and athletes who can make the school look good. Reality hurts.

average joe

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

aamom- I agree with your post- It's the same at Brick elementary at Lincoln.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

" I do think the schools concentrate on the "easier" kids, the ones who come from "good" families" who are pushing their achievement and athletes who can make the school look good." Looking at it from an elementary level, I couldn't disagree more. All time, energy and resources are spent on the low kids because they know the "easier" kids from "good" families (as you put it) will still be easy and perform well whether they focus on them or not. The sad thing is that all of this time, energy and money appears to be wasted if the low kids still aren't performing at a proficient level. I'd kill to have the school spend even a quarter of the time, resources and money on the high achieving kids that they spend on the low performers, but then I'd be accused of not wanting the low kids to succeed. That's how it works at our school anyway. Seems they can't figure out how to focus on both.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

It is all about warm bodies in the seats now bevause the conservatives changed the system.

andy kelly

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

This again is best summed up by late philosopher/comedian George Carlin. "Not all children are smart and clever. Got that? Kids are like any other group of people: a few winners, a whole lot of losers! This country is filled with loser kids who simply...aren't...going anywhere! And there's nothing you can do about it, folks. Nothing!" Insulting/hurtful? Yes! True? Most definitely!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

I work with students at Lincoln Brick elementary and it is an excellent school from both the teachers and principal involvement. Students are given individual attention and they are supported by paraprofessional staff in all facets of their educational experience.

average joe

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

Gloria- While I won't disagree that the staff at Brick do a good job at educating the average student, I do have first hand experience that they do a rather poor job at 'pushing' the students that are excelling. There was nothing offered to help my child this past year, along with others in the room 'reach higher' than the levels at which was being taught to the balance of the class. It wasn't as though we didn't try to address the problem. We had many contacts with the Teacher & the principle about this throughout the school year, but nothing was done. The general rule was to not worry about the top tier as they 'get it', just help the others catch up. This isn't a bad policy to help raise the bottom, but not at the expense of the higher achievers. In our case, I consider this past year at Brick a somewhat wasted school year.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

I sub at Brick I have had very few behavior issues.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Subsitute parapro pay ways cut by 15%. So getting good subs is going to be tough it is $25 less than i can get substitute teaching.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

But from what I have heard the buses have issues and so does some of the schools. You may have an excellent school, but what about the behaviors and other issues I keep hearing about?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

So does this comparison between big gaps and small gaps mean that higher overall scores are still "focus" problems, while lower overall scores are the transfer option? for instance, if my school has the top 30% getting 100% on tests and the low 30% getting 60% on tests, would I be told I can transfer to a school where the top 30% gets 80% and the low 30% gets 50% (because this gap is smaller than the other gap)? If so, that seems like artificially making the GAP more of an issue than the scores, which seems to me to be really, really stupid.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

RUKiddingMe - you are exactly right. This meaningless "focus school" label is based on one worthless test (MEAP) given at the beginning of the school year and wasting valuable classroom time spent LEARNING. This is exactly why we must rid ourselves of these republicans who are attempting to legislate our public schools into extinction. Vote them out in November!

average joe

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

"I'm from the government, & I'm here to help you......."

City Confidential

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Reading articles like this reminds me how thankful I am, every day, that I don't have kids.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

I feel sorry for you. I can't imagine my life with out kids. Even at 50 is still would like to have more (although that is impossible).


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

You do have kids because they grow up to be employees.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

And mine are grown. I'm with you.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:48 a.m.

And how about an "economic achievement gap" between the top One Percent and all the rest, supported by a state government that squeezes public programs and monies into tax breaks for the rich? Do you suppose lots of folks would abandon that ship for something better? You bet. My wife and I have lost many friends - from engineers to teachers - who abandoned Michigan like a sinking ship. Building sustainability in our schools would be better than this toxic nonsense from the Far Right. A deliberate policy of "divide and conquer" will cause division and devastation in our public schools.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

So you want me to send my kids to a underacheiving school, to satisfy your moral outrage? Wonderful!! Another I know more than you. Sounds like the dems.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

This is what happens when you grow government at the state and federal (DOE) level and take away control at the local level. Top that off with union control of the schools and this is the end result. Get used to it since there are no politicians around that will risk personal attacks and intimidation to upset the apple cart. These are the rules, rules are meant to help and protect you, this is all about social justice and fairness......say that over and over again and it will start to feel better, soon you'll accept it like everything else. We are moving towards a society where everyone is equal. We attack those who are successful, especially if they are of color and reward those who sit at home waiting for their check. In order to have social and economic justice you have to bring everyone down to a lower level that all can achieve. Join an occupy movement and you'll understand better what I am talking about. Why is this so hard to see and understand?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Susie, Mun, Patty, SH - Try to get a teacher fired if they are a bad teacher. I don't mean bad like evil, I mean they just aren't well liked, cannot connect with students, even though they meet other requirements of their review. There is no input from students and parents. Every student and parent should be given an evaluation form to fill out. Why doesn't that happen? Because the union would never stand for it an is more interested in protecting teachers than getting an evaluation form end users. jcj - Bill Cosby, Herman Cain, Allen West, Danesh Desouza just to name a few. They are ostracized by the media because they don't tow the party line; while rappers, movie stars and sports stars are idolized. You can add to the list...........Juan Williams wasn't PC enough........... There is only one way to close the achievement gap and that is to lower the bar low enough so that everyone can make it. Social justice would have that as one of it's premises..............instead we throw money trying to solve the problem that some people do better in school than others, than some people get better jobs than others, etc.

Susie Q

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

None of this is the result of union control. There may be some bad things about unions, but all these new, confusing, ridiculous mandates are brought to you by state and federal government (mostly the "less regulation" Republicans).


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

"But the state also launched a new program, cracking down on the achievement gap in schools, per the requirements of a flexibility wavier it was granted through the federal government for No Child Left Behind." The state is run by Rick Snyder and No Child Left Behind was from GW Bush. So what do unions have to do with this?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

"Why is this so hard to see and understand? " Because it makes absolutely no sense, has no facts to back it up, and relies on nonsense like "union control of the schools" as the basis of its argument? Yeah. I think that's why.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Wait, exactly how are the unions to blame for this? And please cite your sources.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

"We attack those who are successful, especially if they are of color" Please explain and give more than one example.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

What caused this? Too much government intervention!


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Bi-partisan: Teddy Kennedy a big backer on NCLB. And we must continue work to defeat SOBBS* Perhaps a NIH grant? *Same Old Blame Bush Syndrome


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

@sh1 - when do you stop blaming the old guy and start blaming the new guy who didn't do anything about it? Still bitter about the 90 day wage and price freeze too?


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

As I always say - there are pros and cons for any issue. When it comes to education the opposite of PROgress is CONgress.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:27 p.m.

Brought to you by the anti-regulation-for-businesses president George W. Bush!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Title I schools, unfunded mandates, AYP, flexibility waivers all resulting in nonsensical notices to transfer to even lower performing schools... What a bureaucratic nightmare. Seems like soon, all kids will be left behind...behind a wall of red tape and reg-speak. Nothing creates jobs like a governmental program. They last forever and become the hiding place for semi-competent and incompetent "administrators" who carpetbag and micromanage while sending progress into a devouring black hole. The high cost of sucking at the teat of the federal government--regardless of whether it is run by Republicans or Democrats.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

Thru Title I and NCLB we were able to send our child to AAPS and ours is doing really well because of it. Why would I want to send mine to the same district that can't even educate her? Totally weird what the state is asking.

Mike D.

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:28 a.m.

Warning: Your child goes do a school where the very brightest kids are a lot smarter than those needing the most help. Please send them instead to a school where everyone scores worse. It's like some sort of stupidity hegemony.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

I could not agree more with this. I am still trying to wrap my brain around this article. Why would we send our children to a school, WR hi school that is closing this year? And to others under achieving? Why wouldn't we send them to a school in Detroit is what it sounds like. Very confusing as to what our state is asking parents to do.

David Wizard

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

I don't think anyone's saying "please send them" anywhere - you MAY send them to a school which didn't fit the particular mathematical formula of an extremely flawed public policy. That doesn't sound so alarming to anyone capable of, you know, reading.

andy kelly

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:18 a.m.

There are so many issues with this that it is difficult to choose what to discuss. The idea that a mandated letter would be sent to home basically stating that districts need to "dumb" down our school to meet the requirements, so you need to send your child to a school that does not have as many high testing children as Ann Arbor's. Insulting? Well, yes! But this is the part of the bureaucracy game - hide the truth in euphemistic lanuage. Yet, the real issue of attempting to set a educational medium by "dumbing" down the smart kids is best summed up by late philosopher/comedian George Carlin. "Not all children are smart and clever. Got that? Kids are like any other group of people: a few winners, a whole lot of losers! This country is filled with loser kids who simply...aren't...going anywhere! And there's nothing you can do about it, folks. Nothing!" Insulting? Yes. True? Most definitely!


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

This seems like a great way to get families to switch from high performing schools to charter schools. Not surprising that our Republican led State Govt. came up with this one.


Sat, Aug 25, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

The repubs are making this as they go with the help of the charter school CEOs and the backers of Devos's failed charter school ballot. Private education with public monies = charter schools Seems like someone drank the Synder & repubs nasty Kool-aid of destroy public education & democracy in the name of "fiscal voodoo politics" with a slice of "sham & con game" on the side.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

I agree. That God for Snyder. Can you imagine Virg as a gov. He would just extend Granholms mess another 4 years. I hope Snyder decides to run again.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

This is not theory. It is no secret that many republican lawmakers would like to privatize education. They have already hammered the poor under performing districts, now it's time to attack something in the districts who are performing well. You explain why a school in the 90% in the state can be punished because their highest performing kids are too high. They are basically punishing these schools because they have a somewhat diverse socio-economic population of learners.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

Erocypsi, Another conspiracy theory?

average joe

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

The way I see it, this letter was required by the federal gov., by way of Lansing. No one is required to move their kids to another school, and the term Charter school was never mentioned nor is it an option offered.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:06 a.m.

@ Basic: It usually helps to read an article before commenting on it.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

Um, because every AAPS elementary school is on the "Focus" list, and they have to offer transfer options to non-Focus schools? It's in the article.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

So explain why these kids aren't able to transfer to Angell or King? Only to other minority schools in worse districts. No wonder charter schools can attract kids from SE Ann Arbor!

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 10:11 a.m.

This is the result of the economic redlining masterminded by the Burns Park elite. All doctor's and professor's kids, politicians and real estate agents live here. All the riff-raff live further out. They divert so much money from the state for each student that they under-serve, that they can keep their precious Community and athletic facilities in top shape.


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

@Basic Bob AHEM! "Why would Ann Arbor schools, whose students are typically among the highest-achieving in Washtenaw County, suggest parents might want to send their children to schools with lower test scores? Because the state says they have to."


Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

So, a state wide mandate is a result of the Ann Arbor elite? No, that's not "Arbor-centric" thinking...

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 24, 2012 : 10:50 a.m.

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a good conspiracy theory to start my day. Especially as I'm out here in the nether regions among the riff-raff.