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Posted on Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:53 a.m.

Reduced staff, 'archaic technology' inhibit new testing tool at Ann Arbor schools

By Danielle Arndt

Ann Arbor Public Schools overcame a myriad of challenges in the first round of a new standardized, student testing program launched this year.

But reduced staff in the Department of Research Services and outdated technology may prevent the district from implementing the assessment tool effectively in the remaining four K-8 buildings: Tappan, Slauson, Forsythe and Clague.

Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services Alesia Flye said both "obstacles" are being considered and there is no current plan or timeline for when AAPS will expand the testing.

Ann Arbor approved spending $92,700 in May of 2011 to purchase the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment from the Northwest Evaluation Association.

The test was rolled out in the fall to each grade at the district’s 21 elementary schools as well as sixth through eighth graders at Ann Arbor Open and Scarlett Middle School.

Originally, when the board first considered the test, it was told the district’s existing computers would suffice to implement the assessment program but additional server space would be necessary — an expense of about $31,500, covered by the Child Accounting and Assessment budget.

But the first round of testing, which ran Sept. 14 through Oct. 7, proved to be difficult after all.

A short window to train staff, complications with the vendor itself and “archaic technology” almost led the district to abandon its efforts, said Superintendent Patricia Green.


Patricia Green

“We had to make a decision whether to jettison it or to continue to collect the very valuable data that we thought would be beneficial to us moving forward,” she said, adding the assessments tied up computer labs because the district’s classroom technology is “not as compatible as we want it to be.”

Ann Arbor Public Schools currently is in the initial stages of gathering support for a three-phase technology bond. The millage proposal will appear on the May 8 ballot and if passed, will allow for AAPS to purchase new or upgrade its tech infrastructure.

Green called the first round of MAP Assessments “a real nightmare” and praised administrators, teachers and building principals for their patience and perseverance.

The second round of testing began Jan. 10 and will wrap up Feb. 3. Data will be released to parents the week of Feb. 13. The third and final annual testing period will be from May 7 to June 1.

Flye said administrators and teachers alike have been pleased with the second assessment and have not reported any computer freezes.

MAP, which evaluates students in math and reading and compares their scores to national standards, provides results to teachers within 24 hours.

Flye said there was a learning curve getting all of the teachers set up and comfortable with how to access the system, but now staff is using the data on a more immediate basis. She said the data helps teachers adjust their instruction to improve individual learning.

In recent years, the Michigan Department of Education has placed a greater emphasis on data collection in schools. BOE Vice President Christine Stead asked how this push for data and now the new testing program has impacted the staff in the research services department.

“It’s a real struggle,” Green said. “Jane (Landefeld, director of student accounting and administrative support) and her colleagues are already on overload and yet whenever we ask for anything, she comes through with it.”

Flye said once the issues following the initial implementation were resolved, teachers have generally been in favor of the testing tool. The district will continue to monitor assessment scores as well as to seek feedback from staff and parents, Flye said.

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



Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

"A short window to train staff, complications with the vendor itself and "archaic technology" almost led the district to abandon its efforts, said Superintendent Patricia Green." How come the focus was on 'archaic' technology when two other reasons were cited and don't we all know that humans make mistakes not computers?. With all things being equal 66% of the problems were human related (training staff and vendor complications) AND "The second round of testing began Jan. 10 and will wrap up Feb. 3. Data will be released to parents the week of Feb. 13. The third and final annual testing period will be from May 7 to June 1. Flye said administrators and teachers alike have been pleased with the second assessment and have not reported any computer freezes." With the pleasing 2nd assessment, sounds like the learning curve was mastered and problems solved with said 'archaic' technology. This is a wolf in sheeps' clothing ploy to get the millage passed. I say Vote No until they reduce administration positions by 10%. Whose with me???


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

I deplore the way AAPS schedules high school exams by giving an entire week each semester over to a day off, then 4 days of holding 2 two-hour test sessions per day when most HS students have 4 or fewer classes that give exams instead of projects or a research paper. The major result of this schedule is that almost everyone gets a Friday off school/work twice a year, but the school district gets to claim it as "instructional time" to the state. (Does anyone know if Skyline does this 3 times /year with their trimester system? ) The principals I have asked about it claim that this is to "get students ready for college". But the last time I checked with my friends still in college, UM, EMU and MSU schedule 4 exam slots per day, and hold their exams over a 3 day period. AAPS's extremely drawn-out testing process also gives 9th, 10th, and 12th graders 3 school days off while 11th graders take the MME (high school MEAP, which is mostly the same as the ACT). When my oldest son was in HS, he also took the ACT outside of school. That test required only about 5 hours. Why should we waste those other 2 school days for 11th graders, and 3 days for all the other HS students? It seems that now AAPS has done something similar for the elementary and middle schools due to the way they have chosen to schedule /implement the NWEA MAP assessments. Too bad that they couldn't find a way to get all students through the assessments in less than 2 weeks / school. Now students will not be able to use their schools' computer lab for total of 6 weeks of each school year. I definitely believe they have an infrastructure problem in using a served application. The connections available in the school buildings are slow and inefficient. The bandwidth available is barely able to keep up with 2 classrooms' worth of computers (computer lab and laptop cart). However, that particular problem can be addressed with sinking fund money, and does NOT need a Technology Bond to ad


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

I agree with you concerning the high school exam weeks. I also wonder, if it is going to remain that way and they are only there for those few hours each morning, why not make it in the middle of the day, they can sleep in from a night of studying and have time to study in the morning? I'm sure it has something to do with busing but still.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

I am familiar with the NWEA MAP test from a tech support standpoint and I can say, without a doubt, it was a technological nightmare at times. The program does not work well with Apple computers and the company acknowledges that fact. It is a large sum of money for a district to pay for something that does not work well. This is not a "planted piece" for AAPS to garner support for a technology bond. The article is truthful, and the facts and examples stated here are, indeed, very plausible.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

So AAPS uses Apple and they invest in a program that does not work well with Apple?


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

So, because the product lacks cross-plarform flexibility, AAPS plans to buy a bunch of equipment to accomodate the software? Tail wagging the dog?

kindred spirit

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

Parents: You can opt out of the test. Write a letter. There are better things that can be done for the 18 hours of testing that are required with this testing. And yes, it impacts the entire school because no other class can use the computers while the testing is going on. Save money on the test and buy the new computers with that money.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

This idea that this test somehow helps the teachers by giving immediate feedback is ridiculous. I have yet to encounter a teacher who does not know exactly what my kids' strengths and weaknesses are in every area. And they do a huge formal evaluation twice a year to get ready for report cards. This test is just another way to try to quantify how "good" a teacher is. Which is also ridiculous. Because EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS who the poor teachers are. Just ask any parent, the other teachers, the principals! PLEASE no more testing, it's a malignant waste of time.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

Sorry -- I'm the same as a2anon, but I'm signed in on a different device.... I need to fix that.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

I would advocate a combination of parent feedback, peer review, principal evaluation (after all, the principal is in fact the teachers' boss), and some student feedback as well. There is no doubt in my mind this would be successful and accurate.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

Would you advocate then that in place of testing data in evaluation; we use parent surveys to determine the effectiveness of a teacher? I agree, the parents all know who to avoid.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Oh, and the students -- ask them too, they'll tell you the same thing as the grown ups.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

I agree with markbn. It seems like this is nothing more than a marketing attempt for a technology bond. I find it hard to believe that reduced staff and archaic technology are making it difficult to implement this test. After all, from what I understand, the Ypsilanti Public Schools successfully implemented this test probably 5 or so years ago, and they don't even have a Department of Research Services or the same budget as the Ann Arbor Public Schools. What gives? If our neighbors to the East have figured this out years ago, why can't we? Maybe we should learn from them.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

The millage proposal will appear on the May 8 ballot. These elections typically see low turnout and if a lot of AAPS staff vote (the polling stations are in the school buildings), then it will pass. Residents of AA who do not believe this tax increase makes sense, then get out there and vote! I think these millages should be on the November ballots along with the rest of the issues and candidates. Having them in May guarantees a low turnout and a better opportunity for AAPS staff to "stuff the ballot box" by turning out in large numbers. As far as the Skyline computer $$ that was diverted to Athletics, all the more reason NOT to have any new technology millages. AAPS blew it. Obviously they cannot be trusted to spend money for purposes for which it was intended.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

DonBee is not correct that money from the "Skyline" bond was diverted. That 2004 bond was 40% to build Skyline and 60% to make additions and improvements to every other building in the district. Moreover, the technology money in that bond, now eight year ago, was spent at that time. It's now time to plan for the next ten years.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

I am also an AAPS staff member who will be urging my friends and neighbors to vote NO. Balas and the BOE are completely out of touch and increasingly irrelevant to my students' achievement.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

Sally, I am an AAPS staff member and I will actively work my neighbors to vote NO on this millage. Many of us in the district see the waste and misuse of funds, we have learned over the years not to trust AAPS as stewards of our tax dollars. Yes, the locals involved in administration will encourage everyone to vote on this! Hopefully, many voters will have the common sense to realize that sometimes we all just have to live with what we have, and learn to live with less. Funny, it seems the NWEA testing is working just fine on the technology in my building! So even my staff is wondering why the district is pushing the technology bond based upon this test. Wish the public could have some honest reporting related to this issue and not just what AAPS wants everyone to know!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

NO new taxes. Sorry AAPS.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:57 p.m.

I would much prefer that my kids take the MAP over the MEAP. The MEAP results are given to parents so late as to be irrelevant. I just had a conference with my student's teacher and the most recent MAP scores from a few days prior were right in front of us and informed our discussion. I have never seen my child's MEAP scores used to help determine future instruction for him.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

It is unfortunate that it isn't either/or. I agree. And I agree that every teacher has been able to generally know my child's strengths and weaknesses. In our case, we (the teacher and I) both knew he was really good in a particular subject, but the MAP test showed he is testing well into high school although he is in elementary. Neither of us realized just how advanced he was because he was never asked harder and harder questions. Now he will be receiving advanced lessons. He has never had this offered before and I credit both the MAP and the teacher for being on top of the scores and what they mean.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

Unfortunately, it's NOT either/or. It's just adding more, more, more. I have yet to have a teacher who couldn't tell me exactly what my kids' strengths and weaknesses were. They do a huge evaluation for report cards, too. This doesn't help the teachers, it just gives them more stuff to do, and inhibits creativity in the classroom.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

I agree! Our kids to the MEAP in September and the MAP in September and January. I already have the results from the MAP for both September and January, I know how much my kids grew academically in that window. Yet, WE STILL DON'T HAVE ANY RESULTS FROM SEPTEMBER'S MEAP! Schools got them December and I thought I read they're not permitted to share them until March.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

Enough with the testing. Experienced teachers know when the students are learning; less experienced teachers will figure it out. It is about knowing each child, not relying on tests and technology. When will folks face up to the fact that better education comes from two things -- devoted teachers and invested parents. Testing, technology and all the other bells and whistles can't make up for kids who do not come prepared to learn in a structured environment and teachers who are overwhelmed by ever increasing demands to teach to the tests and the constant, bitter attacks against them.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

This is going to be hard for me. I fully support AAPS, and want desperately to increase their funding, and would gladly vote for a millage. However, I hate all the testing. Hate, hate, hate it. It's way too much, and I've seen first hand how teachers are doing less project-based, innovative things in the classrooms cuz they are always "getting ready" for the next test. So if this bond is going to ensure that this test is implemented, well then that changes things entirely.

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

Sadly, the testing will happen whether we like it or not. Thanks to our current Legislature, "objective measures of student growth" will be mandatory to evaluate teachers - and presumably schools. The law passed last summer makes test scores a minimum of 50% of a teacher's evaluation. Same goes for building administrators. Moreover, the MAP test is only one thing being complicated by tech resource issues.

Ron Granger

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Could someone please explain this 'archaic technology' problem in specifics? The article suggests this test merely provides different questions depending on the level and answers provided. The computational requirement should be absolutely trivial. It should run fine on a 20 year old computer. Any application costing $93,000 should be very versatile in that regard. So I don't get it. Also, shouldn't they verify that they can run an application before spending $100K on it? HELLO?

Michael K.

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

This testing is a direct result of "No Child Left Behind" and the current aggressive demand to "rate" teachers and "get rid of bad teachers." Smaller government, but micro-manage every detail of the system. Which is it? These are what used to be called "unfunded mandates" when "states rights" was the issue. "Teaching to the test", and the whole process of administering the test is the primary result of "No Child Left Behind." Bigger government, less local autonomy, and overriding the best research and tools that professional educators use to determine the curriculum.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 4:20 p.m.

Some principals get very defensive if parents have an issue with a particular teacher. Especially if that teacher is a principal favorite. At least that is what occurred in my child's previous elementary school

J. A. Pieper

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

common_cents It is sad that there are teachers who hide behind the tenure law, and principals who support them. The principals have to do their job when evaluating teachers, and it takes a lot of documentation and work on their part. Over my years in AAPS I have found that there are some principals who just don't do their job. I have seen children suffer through having one of the weak teachers, and it breaks my heart. But, I do know that parents have to continue to write and complain to principals, or even their bosses, it can make a difference. You are right, every parent, many teachers, and even students, know who the weaker teachers are, and sometimes the AAPS just keeps sending them around to different schools. Many who criticize educators never stop to think about how the poor ones got tenure, it is not just a result of union support, the administration doesn't always do their job either!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

It's also a direct result of the very low percentage of ineffective teachers that have been able to hide behind tenure. The Parents of every school know who these teachers are, and fill out placement forms at the end of the year hoping, praying, that their kids are not among the unlucky ones. And when you happen to get that teacher, and you try to make the best of it while watching your child suffer, seeing that they are headed for a lost year; you reach out to the Principal. The Principal's response is to defend the teacher at all costs, after all there are no other options; there are no tools to reward or develop the teacher. The teacher still gets his/her step increases no matter what.

Michael K.

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:10 p.m.

Thanks Scott. I am not in the system, so I am eager to hear the real issues. I used to do " process engineering" - how to make systems work better for less money. It starts with look at the true roots of any problem. So completely impossible to do in a hostile environment. I knew Snyder was a threat though when day 1 he compared teachers salaries to the "private sector" WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR EDUCATION! Yeah, people who "on average" have a maters degree and 20 years experience are going to make more than someone with a GED working at Quiznos.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

It's not just NCLB, it's a lack of people who understand teaching and learning, it's a lack of people that will stand up for teachers, it's a lack of positional employees that feel comfortable saying some of this is going well and I shouldn't stick my face in the way of it, it's more than just politicians.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

can students be learning with all the emphasis on"tests". The developing brain is so complex-just teaching it to memorize material to pass tests sounds like we're getting hoodwinked. Any thinking person understands we are not discussing learning the way these discussions have gone.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

mtlaurel- The recent research shows that students learn best when they are frequently tested, and required to review those items they got wrong. And there is no better way for teachers to get feedback on what each child has learned in order to adjust both the content and the pace of their teaching than a "formative" test like the NWEA MAP test.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

This story is just a huge ploy to get everyone in the district to vote for the technology bond! Vote NO, send the AAPS a strong message that we, as tax payers, will no longer support their desire for an endless supply of $$$$ The more they continue to beat the system of using sinking bonds for what they want, the more tax payers have to suffer. Every raise in any kind of increased tax forces some of us to rethink why we live in this district, because we just can't afford the increase added to our mortgage payments. VOTE NO NO NO They can give themselves HUGE raises out of their regular funds, and then turn around and say they need an additional sinking fund for costs that should be within their budget!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Maybe if this article were reported with all the facts it wouldn't look so bad for AAPS. This type of testing is being required by our "brilliant" governor per his new education laws. The district HAS to do something about the testing. The article is definitely skewed toward the district manipulating the public to pass the Technology Bond, but that's not the case at all! The district needs the technology to comply with the laws. Maybe if people don't want the technology bond to pass they should look seriously at our "brilliant" governor.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

Contrary to the numbers in braggslaw's post, Ann Arbor's per-pupil allowance is about $9000, not $10-12,000. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Yup. A school's budget is just like beer in the dorm. That is, if one wants to misrepresent the facts. GN&amp;GL


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Ghost - It is just a bogus as when you were in college and your parents paid your room and your board (well maybe not you specifically). While you could not use the room and board money for your beer on Friday night, it did let you use more of the rest of your money for beer. This is what is going on, and to deny that the local tax payers provide these funds, means at some point they will not and when they don't then the unrestricted funds will have to be used to pay these bills. Not bogus at all. But you don't like the facts.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 11:13 p.m.

sh1 - I am not your research service, you have access to the same data I do. Take a few hours (that is what it takes) and do the research on each district. I think you will find AAPS gets more per student than any other student.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Don, what about other districts in the county? You can't change the formula for AA and compare it to the rest that were arrived at by a different formula.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 1:28 a.m.

Thanks, Don, for confirming my post. Bogus numbers. Capital funds are one thing. The operating budget is another. Bogus numbers--again--as per usual. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

sh1 - From the budget report 2011-2012 posted on the AAPS website (though where it is now in the new site is beyond me). Foundation - $147.78 Local Sources - 2.34 State Sources - 1.42 Federal - 0 (but they got $1.4 million a couple of weeks ago) WISD - 21.49 Schools of choice - 0.9 Parking fee increase - 0.1 Capital needs fund 0.1 Sinking fund $14.9 Bond fund $15.9 Food service fund $5.0 (which nets to 0.5 after expenses) Rec and Ed $5.3 (which nets to zero) Pre-school $3.2 Grants $12.7 Total revenue in the budget - $231.13 Total student count in the budget document 16,432 Amount spent (all sources per student) - $14,065 Missing (these have been reported in other documents but are missing here): Football parking $1 Student parking permits $0.4 Athletics tickets $0.2 Adult education $0.2 Bilingual education $0.2 AAPS Foundation $0.3 Rent on Dixboro school and other buildings $0.2 Total missing - $2.5 million plus the $1.4 million in medicaid reimbursement - total $3.9 million or another $237 a student. And of course none of the booster money (estimated at between $5 and $14 million a year) and other club or activity revenue is included in these numbers. Yes, some of this money is from restricted funds, meaning you can not spend it exactly like you would want, but having it means that the unrestricted funds can be spent on things the restricted funds don't cover. If you want a much more detailed look at the numbers, posted a spreadsheet about a year ago with very detailed building by building numbers.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

Yes, DonBee has done this many, MANY times. He piles capital expenditures in with the actual operating budget and comes up with a wildly mis-leading per student cost. Good Night and Good Luck


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

I don't know why we can't just use the numbers provided by the state. But, I am willing to keep an open mind. Don, can you also show the numbers for the other districts in Washtenaw County and how you arrived at all of them? (Citations will prove helpful.)


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

sh1 - I have done it and shown it here several times, braggslaw is low. The real number for total spending is closer to $15,000 a student (all sources). The final number for 2011-2012 is not available because the budget documents on the website are out of date.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Well, if you're going to create your own formula, please at least show us the raw materials you're working with and where you got your information.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

There are other sources of funding Divide enrollment by budget


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

Let's be clear, Ann Arbor schools receives more money per student than any other washtenaw school district. They get in the range of 10k-12k per student while the surround area in in the 6k-8k range. Why? because of all the bodies that have attached themselves to the public trough flowing into Ann Arbor. They don't need any more money.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

To be fair DonBee, that is an average. Many children in AAPS are quite a bit cheaper to educate, but a lions share of the money goes to educate certain groups of kids, who would probably be excluded from many pricey private schools. I feel like you are insinuating that the result should be the same as GreenHills when they don't have to deal with all the special ed, low performing kids etc. It's not a very fair comparison.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

braggslaw - All it bonds, special funds, grants, basic allowance, etc. Over $15,000 per student - in the range of what it costs to send a child to Greenhills.

Alan Benard

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3 p.m.

This standardized testing bologna has to stop. Let teachers teach and stop the attacks on public employees in Michigan.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

@angry moderate, not it's not Sincerely, a good teacher who wastes a lot of time with this crap......

Angry Moderate

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Testing whether students are learning is only an attack on bad teachers.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

Danielle, could you clarify this? I thought the $97,000 purchase price was just for the 2011-12 school year and the program will need to be purchased again each year.

Hot Sam

Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Software is rarely a one time deal....


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

I am a strong proponent of the MAP test. We first got exposure to it while living in New York, and we were disappointed when we came back to Michigan and our district, Plymouth-Canton, didn't have it. It's a progressive test and must be taken on computers, as the questions change for each student based on skill. Get the first answer wrong, the next one is easier and so on. The kids aren't left feeling frustrated at the difficulty (or ease) of the questions. You get a snapshot at the beginning of the year of where your child stands (a baseline) and updates on their growth in January and June. By the end of the school year, you know whether your son/daughter experinenced 9 months of learning. The MAP test was a big factor in our move to an NHA Charter School, where all students take the MAP. Furthermore, if all schools had MAP, we could measure growth at each school, rather than MEAP proficiency scores which are heavily predicated on each student's starting point. There is a state committee meeting now to develop the standards teacher evaluations, which will include measurable data; it's highly likely MAP will be part of the evaluation process.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 3:34 a.m.

Question is, what does the MAP test? Is it aligned with what the teachers are currently teaching or will the teachers need to start &quot;teaching to the test?&quot;


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 10:36 p.m.

Absurd or not, a teacher evaluation that includes measurable data is coming. This is supported by Republicans in Lansing, President Obama, and the Department of Education. I am not a teacher; but if I were, I'd be more apt to support an evaluation system based on MAP than MEAP. With MAP, a student performing below grade level can still show growth. With MEAP, such a student is unlikely to score 'Proficient,' especially under the higher cut scores that when into effect this Fall. With MAP, the results are immediate; MEAP results come in December with nearly half of the school year over. To learn about the members of the Council on Effectiveness, go to: <a href=",4668,7-277-57577-262871--,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,4668,7-277-57577-262871--,00.html</a> While there are no current teachers, and I agree that's a valid point; there are administrators and college professors that were once teachers and by many accounts would still be considered educators. There are many things the Ann Arbor School Board and the Superintendent say they can't afford...a reasonable busing system, upgrades to technology from the general fund; yet they can afford top adminstrator raises, they can afford to keep under utilized elementary schools open, they can afford a pre-school program that requires subsidies. It's all about priorities. Teachers do have a lot to contend with, kids from varying backgrounds, some from homes that are less than conducive to learning; special education kids that previously were segregated from the general student population, English Language Learners. But we don't hear much from the MEA regarding policy that would improve the classroom environment. Instead, we hear concerns about compensation, benefits, and evaluations. Where is the MEA on these issues? Do they have positions that aren't covered in the media?


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

I feel like I get that same information from the person who just spent the year with my child (i.e., his or her teacher) and from my own attention to how each of my kids is doing. Testing scores are fine, and I look at what I receive, but they don't say much about the things that concern me -- my children as learners, how they learn, what interests and suits them, and how they are doing within the broader world. I rather see the money spent on smaller classrooms.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

I'm not going to argue that measuring should be done with, but you are referencing a lot of time and trust in a test that could be very counterproductive to your child learning. Be cautious with that blind trust and be wary of absolutes.

Que escandaloso

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

All fine and good if you can afford it. Ann Arbor cannot afford to spend money to test whether or not the students are learning at an acceptable rate if we cannot afford the teaching staff to instruct them. Never mind the absurdity of a state committee that is meeting to develop standards for teacher evaluations which are likely to include MAP results as part of the evaluation process. My first question is how many teachers have been included on this state committee? My guess is none. This state committee is not likely to include anyone who could truly be considered an expert in the area of educating our children. Second question, will this teacher evaluation process take into consideration the number of students per classroom, the number of special education students per classroom or the number of students who are sent to school by parents who provide little or no support to the educational process at home? I can't tell you how many times I have been frustrated when my children's teachers have had so many other issues to deal with in the classroom that my children didn't get their fair share of her time. This has been a real issue in the elementary school and the middle school. I can't imagine that it gets any better in the high school. I worry that many of the good and experienced teachers are retiring and AAPS is not doing enough to attract the best of the new teachers to our district. Maybe I should move to NY where they can afford such luxuries.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

I can't argue with any of the comments about how AAPS has spent its money in the past. It is my understanding, though, that there are technology upgrades and purchases that MUST happen, and if the technology millage does not pass, the money will be taken out of the general education fund, directly impacting kids and teachers - much like the special education millage. Can anyone from AAPS comment on this, or can anyone from find out more?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

As to DonBee's claim that much of the spending could come out of the sinking fund, first off, that assumes that it's not needed for anything else. I have yet to see that any sinking fund money went to athletic facilities, but I'd welcome actual evidence. However, the limits on sinking fund uses are very strict: Sinking funds may be &quot;used for the purchase of real estate for sites for, and the construction or repair of, school buildings&quot; only. [MCL 380.1212(1)] However, schools may use bonds for &quot;acquiring, installing, or equipping or reequipping school buildings for technology,&quot; [MCL 380.1351a] which the law defines in some detail in that section. In every legislative session for the last ten years, a bill has been introduced to allow sinking funds to buy technology and school buses, but it is killed every year. Contact your legislators?

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

For the Mac-heads out there, the main problem is that the last time AAPS invested in a lot of computers (the desktops in the labs and most classrooms), the machines available ran on the PowerPC platform (the eMacs). Apple has since shifted entirely to the Intel platform, and it's getting harder and harder to find software that runs on PowerPC machines. It's been several years since any version of the MacOS ran on PowerPC. So it's not just the MAP test. And before anyone goes off on Apple, how long can people keep their Windows XP machines going? Time marches on, and software does not get slimmer.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

Yes, the technology upgrades are needed. Equipment is wearing out and becoming obsolete from old age.


Sun, Jan 29, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

I hope that AAPS will give more information about this. I don't want to see them waste any more money on sports facilities and administrator raises, but I also don't want to see them cut any more teachers.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

Beth - Much of this can be done with the already approved sinking fund (network upgrades, real infrastructure like the data centers), some of it cannot - like the individual computers. The original Skyline bond fund, was supposed to pay for computers all around, it did not - rather money was diverted to Sports facilities.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Take the money from the huge salary increases given to administrators!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

The NEA testing software seems burdened with significant hardware needs. It requires dedicated servers, a Windows-based PC for administration, wireless 802.11g networks (max 15 clients per airport), and client computers with multimedia capability. It may not be so much that AAPS computers are &quot;archaic&quot; as much as the software vendor's solution is fairly inflexible in its hardware requirements. When I think how much capability is provided by an average web browser, and that this capability is accessible across clients ranging from desktops to laptops to smartphones (think Google apps, YouTube, ...), it makes me wonder who is archaic--the system vendor or the school?

Chris Blackstone

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Those hardware requirements hardly seem excessive in 2012. Any application designed to be accessed by multiple users at the same time needs a designated server and best practice for 802.11g networks is 15 clients or less and almost any computer can have multimedia capability (including the 4 year old dell laptop I use at home). I wish there were more specifics from the Superintendent on what exactly is archaic about AAPS classroom tech. Is there infrastructure not there to get internet connectivity to each classroom? Do classrooms need more computers? Are the computers in the classroom old? Are the classroom computers Mac or PCs? Do they need a certain OS that they currently have? Unfortunately, archaic technology does make clear actually what the problem is and how it can be remedied.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

No prob.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

Once again I've run afowl in acronym world. Thanks for the clarification.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

They use the acronym NWEA (and the website is It makes a difference since most people associate NEA with the National Education Association.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

The Northwest Evaluation Association (NEA) sell the testing package called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). Link to their website from the reference link in the article.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

To clarify, the NEA has nothing to do with this test.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Looks like the &quot;administration&quot; bought some fools gold!


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

I understand the concern of so much assessment of students, but the problem lies with the Michigan Department of Education, not with the Ann Arbor School district. The MDOE requires that each student be individually assessed, and that all students must show one full year of growth, at least this is the goal. The means that even students who are performing above grade level should finish the year ahead of where they started. In my district, even music and art must now assess individual growth of our students. School districts are struggling to keep up with all of the assessing, and the teachers and administrators share many of the same concerns that people are sharing in these comments. I actually find the Ann Arbor Public Schools NWEA testing to take away less time than the testing tools used in my school district. Overall a very difficult and frustrating situation.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

It's not just the Michigan DOE but you raise a very good point. There are too many people who need to justify their existence at the expense of children...

Que escandaloso

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I'm sorry, but $92,700 to purchase a test that proves what and to whom? ?? Who is &quot;Northwest Evaluation Association&quot; and what makes their test worth that much money? This is just another of many poor decisions that the BOE has made with our tax dollars. Why does the BOE continue to spend our money so irresponsiblely? It's ridiculous that our elected board members chose to spend our money on a test to possibly prove that in AA our children are receiving such a top-notch education while making such enormous cuts in our teaching staff. Wake up BOE! If you continue to waste money in areas that don't directly benefit the education of children in the classroom our district is surely doomed. At a time when we're hearing that we will have to slash an additional $14 million from our district's budget for next year, our community has to remove these jokers from office! I say if your position does not directly impact my children's education on a daily basis, you are the first to go. We cannot afford administrators that are paid two or more times what a few of our highest paid teachers are paid. Let's keep in mind that a teacher has to have worked for 25+ years to educate the children in our district, spent his/her own money to further his/her education and earned advanced degrees to earn half as much as the top administrators who have done far less for our community. Never mind, the nearly quarter of a million dollar yearly salary we're paying our new superintendent who has invested nothing in our community and is very likely to move on in a few short years.

J. A. Pieper

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

And did the public know that some kindergarteners who take the test are so stressed that they wet their pants while taking the test?


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I am struck by the passive language in this sentence: &quot;Originally, when the board first considered the test, it was told the district's existing computers would suffice to implement the assessment program...&quot; I'm wondering WHO told the district that and if they were held accountable.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Or maybe someone who draws a 6-figure salary at Balas.

average joe

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Probably the saleman from Northwest Evaluation Association, the people who sold the AAPS the program.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I would guess this is just a way to the technology millage a boost. If they don't have any good reason for it, they have to create one. Just the way they will spin a reduction of puplic school transportation into the need for aata countywide transportation. Keep the government growing, there's no other way the public will survive.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Once again, maybe a little more aforethought should be taken before entering into new projects. I say take the funds and use them for teaching instead of all this testing which really does not show what all students are capable of doing. A sort of baseline maybe, but that's about all. Again, would rather use funds for education not testing.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Isn't this the school district that is currently &quot;exploring&quot; the objective of filing a lawsuit against the State to litigate a political dispute over school funding levels? Maybe they should divert the money from the courtroom and redirect it back to the classroom. And, aren't these kids already tested to death? Teach them for goodness sake -- forget the endless, and mindless, testing.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

The $11 million in bond (and some sinking fund) money they spent on new varsity sports facilities could have been spent on technology. No, they wanted UofM quality training rooms and locker rooms instead of computers for classrooms. Now that it is gone, they want us to folk over more money. The lead article in the AAPS newsletter is a sob story on technology. Sorry I learned as a child, if you spend your allowance all in the first store you come to, it does not mean that you are going to get more allowance. NO on the Technology Bond until they get the spending prioritized to be focused on the classroom... Not Balas... Not sports... Not consultants (yes, that includes the $$$ being spent for crony former Southfield PS administrators).


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

Who are the crony former Southfield PS Administrators? Where are they? What are they doing? Is it Bev Geltner, again???


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

This sounds like a planted piece by Ms. Green to get support for the so-called &quot;technology bond&quot;

average joe

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Makes one wonder how many hours the average student spends being tested/assessed/evaluated over the course of one school year. As olddog points out, we should be concerned about wasted instructional time caused not only by this test, but by all the others too.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

Probably around 10% of instructional time is a formal test in high school, so over the course of a year over 100 hours of testing time would be expected.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

&quot;Ann Arbor Public Schools currently is in the initial stages of gathering support for a three-phase technology bond. The millage proposal will appear on the May 8 ballot and if passed, will allow for AAPS to purchase new or upgrade its tech infrastructure.&quot; Wait....Didn't they just give generous unscheduled raises to top administrators a month or so ago? Why didn't they allot that money for technology upgrades if they knew it was needed? Surely the dedicated administrators wouldn't object to that. Wish we had a sarcasm font.


Sat, Jan 28, 2012 : 12:09 p.m.

Does Ann Arbor really need this additional level of testing? The technology question is not the important question. We should be concerned about the disruption of valuable instructional time caused by this test. Not only does the student taking the test lose instructional time but the entire building is locked out of the computer lab until the testing is complete and denied instructional time on the software that the system has already deemed valuable. Ann Arbor already has trained it's teachers in use of assessment tools that are not technology dependent. Imagine forcing first graders to sit at a computer for fifty questions that challenge their reading ability and stress them to the point of tears. We would be better off having them learn to love reading and learning in the classroom and avoid creating test phobic students and more neurotic parents that gage the quality of the teacher and child on useless testing. This test, that is not linked to the curriculum, endorses the belief that testing is more important than learning. BOE stop the testing mania and spend the money on technology that encourages the creative challenging learning that have been the hallmark of A2 education or additional teachers that reduce the class size and put nurturing back into learning.