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