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Posted on Tue, Nov 9, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

Proposed 'Lab Schools' program will be presented to Ann Arbor parents at two upcoming forums

By Kyle Feldscher

The proposed lab schools collaboration between Ann Arbor Public Schools and the University of Michigan will be presented to parents in two upcoming forums.

The lab schools program, slated to be housed at Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary School, would create a K-8 campus between the two schools through a partnership with the U-M School of Education

The forums will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at Scarlett, 330 Lorraine St., and from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 18 at Mitchell, 3550 Pittsview Drive.

The forums will offer parents a view at basic information on the program and will allow for questions and discussion, said Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez.

“We want parents to know that we are working on this as a process, and we want them involved in the process,” he said.

The lab schools program was first publicly discussed in mid-September at a meeting of the Performance Committee of the Ann Arbor Board of Education.

District officials said they envision the Scarlett/Mitchell campus as a gathering place for families and a place to enhance teacher learning and teaching practices. Education students from U-M will partner with teachers at the two schools in the classroom, which officials believe will enhance student achievement and growth.

“We can pre-teach and re-teach in a way that it basically doesn’t allow there to be a gap,” Vazquez said in September. “That would be the hope.”

The proposed program includes the possibility of expanding or reorganizing the school year, with one option being strategically placed “inter-sessions” throughout the year, which would be similar to a year-round academic program.

The proposed program is the third academic initiative being developed between the university and AAPS. The Summer Learning Institute brings U-M education students into AAPS classrooms each summer, and the Ann Arbor Languages Partnership teaches world languages to AAPS third- and fourth-grade students and was launched in 2009.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at


Andrew Smith

Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 10:10 a.m.

Studying foreign languages is part of restarting Michigan's economy - we do so much international business now. But note this - our main global partners are: (a) Pacific Rim - China, Korea, Japan (b) Central Europe - Germany, Austria, Switzerland (c) Russia and former Soviet Bloc countries So why are between 80% and 90% of our state's students enrolled in Spanish? That's not where Michigan's business opportunities are. Let's make sure that our students are studying German, Russian, and other economically relevant languages.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 8:29 p.m.

jns131, AAPS' enrollment may have declined co-incidentally to the Pfizer move, but a lot of local districts are experiencing declining enrollment, which has nothing to do with Pfizer or any employer in particular. The number of school-aged children in Washtenaw County is declining, as is the number of families with school-aged children. (Couples are having fewer children and fewer couples are having children, if that make sense.) Ann Arbor doesn't offer much for couples who are considering starting a family: high entry costs into aging housing stock; high property taxes; the unresolved question of income taxes; congested roads, declining city services, etc. Families move to Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township, or Saline Township where they can get more bang for their housing buck; pay lower taxes; and live in newer houses. In the case of Saline, they get a good public school system, too. SEMCOG predicts that by 2030, fewer than 1 in 5 households in Ann Arbor will have school-aged children. They have a similar prediction for Ypsilanti. Policies like the greenbelt, which are designed to prop up property values in Ann Arbor, guarantee that fewer families will be able to afford to live in Ann Arbor. These families will look elsewhere, and they will find a broad range of acceptable alternatives. A recovery in the Ann Arbor housing market will only accelerate the location/re-location of families to the outlying townships, which opens the possibility that children who might have gone to AAPS will end up in a neighboring school district, a charter school or private school. When we were looking at starting our family, we did the math and determined rather quickly that we'd come out more than $100,000 ahead of the game by buying in Ypsilanti and paying for private education for our children than by buying a home in Ann Arbor and sending our children to AAPS for "free." Ann Arbor's declining enrollment may indicate that at least some other couples are doing the same calculations and looking elsewhere for less expensive alternatives.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 5:09 p.m.

@YpsiLivin - those numbers don't necessarily translate to lots of slots being available to in-district transfers, however. For example, Allen has empty classrooms (used by resource teachers, not actually vacant)and is not at "capacity". However, all the class sizes are large. Allen did not accept more than 5 in-district K transfers this year because the district said it would not give them the funds to hire extra staff. I believe it was closed to transfers at other grade levels. If enough students moved to the Allen attendance area then a new teacher would be hired, but the reality is that new students spread across the grade levels and don't clump at one grade, so you just end up with even bigger classes. I assume the same thing holds true at Tappan, and all the other middle schools - they have a staffing level that reflects the number of attendance-area students they actually have enrolled and not the number of classrooms, and they may not be able to accept more than a few transfers. If anyone from the AAPS board is reading this thread, please do touch on this topic at tonight's meeting!


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 4:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor has had declining enrollment since the closing of Pizer. Which is one of the reason for declining enrollment. Which is also why Ann Arbor has school choice for K, 1 and 3 and 6. To get buts in the seat. They had a disappointing count when school choice became an option this past summer. I am glad mine will hit hi school next year but then ECA we hope after that. I find the hi schools are still over crowded and like the idea of ECA over a 4 year term.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

Beth, According to AAPS figures provided in January of this year, in total, the middle schools in Ann Arbor are operating at less than three-quarter capacity. Listed are actual enrollment/building capacity. Clague: 727/956 Forsythe: 662/765 Scarlett: 538/893 Slauson: 719/935 Tappan: 721/978 Totals: 3367/4527 Plenty of open seats in all of the middle schools. No hand-wringing required. The rest of the capacities and enrollments can be found in the story linked below. These figures refer to the 2009-2010 school year. I doubt they've changed remarkably, but someone from AAPS could probably provide actual figures.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

@YpsiLivin - it is my understanding that students can only attend a different AAPS school if there is space available, which is not guaranteed. I think I heard the middle schools (other than Scarlett) had something like 5 slots available, each, this past year? Which certainly wouldn't go far. I do not know a lot about this, though,and I hope it is an option the district will address at tonight's meeting. I would want my kids at Tappan rather than Forsythe, Clague, or Slauson because Allen also feeds to Tappan, so they would know people there already. The impression I have gotten from AAPS news emails and from other parents, whether correct or not, is that the new schedule would have more and longer mid-year breaks but a much shorter summer vacation. Again, for those of us who would have children at both Scarlett and another school (not Mitchell), this is insane. Twice the daycare costs, for 2 separate sets of vacations during the year. A short "summer" to take family trips. My children not having breaks at the same time - so much for family activities. And what about things like summer sports programs, residential camps, even things like spending time with friends who attend schools on the regular schedule. If all of AAPS wants to go year-round, fine. But it is going to cause a LOT of problems to do it piecemeal like this.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

Beth, As an in-district parent, you have the option to send your children to schools other than the ones to which your children are assigned. Why would that change under this program? Second, Scarlett is nearly half-empty right now. Students at Mitchell could feed Scarlett exclusively and since there is excess capacity at ALL of AAPS' middle schools, families that don't want to participate in this program could go elsewhere with no problems. Mitchell-Scarlett effectively becomes one K-8 "closed system" school that operates on a different calendar than the rest of the system does.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

I guess I am trying to figure out where they say year round school. They say inter sessions which they say is the same as year round, but I don't think they would be all summer long. Sorry to say mine hits hi school next year. Wish she could be a part of this. Sounds terrific. Otherwise, with all the budget cuts coming this is a good thing. Remember Arizona parents hemmed when theirs started year round. With a month off during the year. I kind of like this idea. As for transferring children to other schools if parents oppose? Wouldn't this lead to over crowding of other schools?


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

I Went To Scarlett Middle School LAst Year. They Speaking On That Forever its not going to happen


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

these parents are fortunate that this proposal will be presented in a parent forum. at least they will have the information to make a choice about their child's future. i think if you want try something different to address the achievement gap like a lab school or say being a pilot school for equity platforms, parents have the right to know.

Basic Bob

Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

I am so happy my kids went to Scarlett. They learned more about diversity and acceptance than I could ever teach them. They also learned how rude and bigoted some of the students from other AAPS middle schools (Tappan) could be, just because they don't go to the "ghetto school". Unfortunately, this kind of special treatment just reinforces the view that a substandard education is offered at Scarlett. I don't want our children to be laboratory mice for an educational research project. If the intent is to improve achievement at Scarlett, that would be best served by redrawing the attendance boundary to include more single-family homes. But I don't believe there is enough community support to make that happen.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

@Don Bee - If all of AAPS were going to year-round school, that would be one thing. I am a teacher myself, and I do know that educational research supports that model. However, to have just 1 middle school and 1 of its elementary feeders be on a separate schedule from the rest of the district is insane. For 4 or the 5 years I would have children at Scarlett, my kids would have different vacation schedules. I have a very long list of reasons why that would be a problem. My kids currently attend Allen, which splits to Tappan and Scarlett, and there's already a perception among families at Allen, rightly or wrongly, that Scarlett is the inferior choice. If the kids who are moving on to Scarlett will have year-round school, I don't really see that improving its image...


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

@Beth - I will be happy to have my children trade places with yours. Year round school is a great idea for moving students forward. Now they just need to actually teach something in the middle schools.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

Will families in the Scarlett district who do NOT want year-round school - and there are many of us!! - be given the option of sending our kids to another AAPS middle school, like Tappan? And what about the parents in other attendance areas who might want this - can they choose Scarlett? Where will the money come from to pay for this and to add A/C to Mitchell and Scarlett? And why isn't that money being used to add full-day K at the majority of AAPS elementaries that do not yet have it?


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 8:12 a.m.

This is an amazing opportunity for the children of Ann Arbor. It not only addresses the achievement gap but also the global gap in education. I'm looking forward to reading about the successes of the students who are able to benefit from this program.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 7:01 a.m.

I attended a lab school in the 1960's on EMU's campus called Roosevelt. Has anyone looked at that model? Why reinvent the wheel?


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 6:09 a.m.

If you could answer these questions please: How does this affect the current teachers? Will the children who are districted to these schools have a choice of attending? Forsythe and Wines are also next to each other. Were they considered for this?