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Posted on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

U-M celebrates launch of education partnership at Ann Arbor's Mitchell & Scarlett

By Janet Miller

It had all the markings of a rock concert: Ear drum-vibrating music, screams that could almost break glass, an energy level ready for liftoff, even special T-shirts.

Instead, it was Scarlett Middle School and Mitchell Elementary School officially kicking off the "lab school" partnership with the University of Michigan meant to boost student achievement and improve teacher education. To show that U-M means fun, the kickoff event included roof-raising break and other dancing and vocal performances by college students.

With a year of planning and piloting programs behind them, the partnership was given a new name - the Mitchell Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaboration (TLC) - and an official start inside the middle school gymnasium Tuesday afternoon.

“Today is like going live,” Debi Khasnabis, clinical assistant professor at the School of Education, told the U-M student interns before the celebration.

With maize and blue balloons and Scarlett band playing the U-M fight song (organizers nixed plans to have the U-M student interns enter football-style slapping the school banner in favor of a less flamboyant entrance), the celebration brought some 800 K-8 students together along with another 125 U-M student interns.

While the U-M has had many programs in schools around the state, this is different, said Catherine Hindman Reischl, clinical associate professor of education at U-M and coordinator of the partnership.

It focuses on building a K-8 campus between Scarlett and Mitchell and there is a long-term commitment, Reischl said. Also, school staff, parents and university officials were part of the planning process.

While partnership is meant to improve teacher education, ultimately the goal is to improve student achievement, Reischl said. “We see it as being mutually beneficial with kids at the center.”

The partnership has attracted some controversy. Mitchell is one of four feeder schools for Scarlett, said parent Susan Brattin, yet is the only elementary school that hosts of the partnership. Pittsfield, Carpenter and Allen feed into Scarlett.

Also, the proposed balanced calendar - where the school year would run from early August until late June -attracted fire and was postponed for further study. A different school calendar would make it difficult for families with students in other schools, Brattin said.

“That’s craziness.” Still, the partnership has merit as a way to improve achievement, she said.

A balanced calendar was eliminated for at least the first year of the partnership after some parents complained. Reischl said a balanced calendar still offers six weeks of summer vacation.

” We wanted to look at how to use time creatively to promote student achievement,” she said. “We can do the core work of the partnership with or without a balanced calendar.”

The extended school year is still under consideration for next year, she said.

“We will work with school board to decide the next direction. It’s on-hold right now.”

The U-M interns are embedded at Scarlett and Mitchell, taking School of Education class, working with students and observing on site. The partnership re-envisions teacher education, Khasnabis said.

“It gives (U-M) students a greater range of opportunities and experiences.”

Interns observe classrooms, but also work directly with students. Interns volunteered in an ESL program at Scarlett last summer and will volunteer in after-school programs at Mitchell and Scarlett, Reischl said.

It doesn’t replace student teaching, which will continue at schools throughout Ann Arbor and other districts. It does give students more time in the field before they begin students teaching,

The partnership allows the U-M undergraduates to learn a lesson in the classroom and to literally step outside the door to see it put into practice, said senior Stephanie Huber.

In her second year working with the partnership, during last year’s pilot she worked with Scarlett students on math and observed Mitchell students in the classroom.

“For example, we learned that the teacher shouldn’t be the sole person in charge of the classroom,” she said. “Then we went into a kindergarten class and saw one student leading the morning meeting and another doing the word of the day.

"It aligns well with what we’re learning and allows for rich discussion.”



Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

Having had children at Scarlett, (the most recent graduated last year and a frosh at Huron) this is a great idea. As an Ann Arborite who attended Forsythe, growing up Scarlett had been known as a "ghetto" school (spare me the responses for that term, even Congress is a ghetto in the true form of the word). However, when I purchased a home in Pittsfield township I glad my kids attended Scarlett. That old reputation is so untrue once you become active in the school and personally see how students are developing and learning. Their test scores are on par with other middle schools in the district. But, Scarlett, along with Mitchell, gets it reputation due to economics. Their side of town is more affordable than most other parts of the city. They've had a large minority student body for years, and AAPS has not closed the learning gap for decades. To have a top rated local university become a partnership with the school can only be viewed as positive. The current principal along with the former, have really changed Scarlett for the better. Even the teachers were excited each year for their leadership while both of my kids attended (five years a part). Good luck to both AAPS and this pilot program.


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

A hearty AMEN!


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

to xmo - these are interns in the same sense that medical schools have interns. Teaching, when done correctly, is a complex science that can not be learned from just textbooks. Interns observe, reflect and then practice. That being said their presence in the classroom is a wonderful way to provide some one on one tutoring for students who need extra help. Go to your local school, count the number of bodies in the classrooms, they are packed this year. Funding slashes have cut teachers and crowed classrooms even in AA. Walk a mile in some teachers shoes and then talk about them.


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

I am surprise that the Teachers Union is not all over this! (This has Gov. Rick Snyder all over it) Interns Volunteering, when paid Teachers should be hired? Sounds like we could cut the number of Teachers and use more VOLUNTEER INTERNS to balance the school budget! So, please don't tell us about over worked/underpaid teachers and how the schools are suffering under the new Governor!


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

@SPK-at times you have to ignore xmo. He/her isn't always clear on the facts. This program was getting started way before Snyder was elected.


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.



Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

"Interns observe classrooms, but also work directly with students. Interns volunteered in an ESL program at Scarlett last summer and will volunteer in after-school programs at Mitchell and Scarlett, Reischl said." These UofM volunteers are probably completing college course-work credit. Why is Mr. Vasquez making ESL such a priority when Scarlett is failing in so many other areas?


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

I'm not certain why there is this pervasive thought in the community that Scarlett is "failing in so many other areas." Please, I would rather you come and sit down with me and look over district data, than reinforce this extremely negative and UNTRUE statement. Scarlett is NOT failing, and it never has been. Quite the opposite actually. Our students have met or exceeded state expectations regularly, and our numbers look very similar to those of Clauge, Forsythe and others. PLEASE inform yourself before you speak. As for the ELL summer program, it was a summer program. What is the issue? Are you implying that Mr. Vasquez is somehow showing favoritism because of his Puerto Rican decent? That is ridiculous. Our ELL students are not exempt form mandated standardized testing. These students who are still acquiring the English language are expected to perform at the same level of a native speaker. Do they need, or should I say DESERVE a program to prepare them for success? I would argue yes. I work at Scarlett, and I have for many years. I've seen the initiatives come and go, and let me assure you that it had nothing to do with teacher "buy in." It had to do with money. These teachers are the most dedicated in the entire district. That is a fact.


Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 11:24 a.m.

Bravo! AAPS has been there and done that before with Scarlett. Similar launches were made with the one on one laptop program, the NASA partnership and the model middle school program. Unless there is a serious attitude adjustment by, teachers, unions, parents the entire AA community and Yes the principal this too will fail. There is no reason on earth for the students at Scarlett to fail except that we continue to look at them as the "poor" spot in our community. It sickens me when I hear parents of other schools and real estate agents refer to it as "that school, Those students. " Please EVERYONE let this initiative be the turning point for scarlett. Teachers please listen and adopt all the university has in the way of best practice. Unions rather fighting the process move teachers out and replace them with younger one who would love to be part of the change. Parents and the greater community remember the trite saying...It take a village. Let's all make it work for Scarlett. Let's help it become an outstanding middle school and neighborhood. These students are as capable as any other students in AA. They have not failed us, we have failed them.

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 11:04 a.m.

My youngest 2 are at Mitchell and Scarlett. I heard about this from my 3rd grader yesterday, she thought it was the coolest thing ever to get to go to the middle school. (My 8th grader was out sick, so she missed it.) I like the idea of the partnership and I was one of the parents in favor of the balanced calendar, though I totally understand how parents with kids at other feeder schools could/would be against it. I'm hoping they'll be able to figure something out, because I really think it's a great idea.