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Posted on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Lowest-performing school list includes Lincoln, Ypsilanti, Willow Run high schools

By Janet Miller

Two Washtenaw County high schools again found themselves on the list of the state’s lowest performing schools for the second year running, while a third area high school was placed on the list for the first time.

Willow Run High School and Ypsilanti High School again made the state’s Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) list while Lincoln High School was added to the 2011 list, released this morning by the Michigan Department of Education.


Lincoln High School was included on the low-achieving list for the first time this year.

Lincoln Consolidates Schools photo

Lincoln Superintendent Ellen Bonter said she was pulled out of a meeting Thursday afternoon to take a call from the Department of Education, telling her the high school had landed on the PLA list.

“I was extremely surprised,” she said. “By all measures, we are not at the bottom of lists when it comes to graduation rates or student achievement. I asked people at the state how Lincoln found its way on the list, and they said the feds changed the rules. ... I would need a PhD in statistics to understand their metrics.”

Nevertheless, Lincoln will need to develop an improvement plan, said Bonter, who joined the district July 1. The plan would likely use less drastic measures than a complete redesign, she said. “We will probably not have a plan that changes things inside out and upside down. We’ve already done things that we will probably build on.”

That Ypsilanti High School was on the list came as no surprise to Superintendent Dedrick Martin. “When we made the list last year, it began a year-long process to redesign the high school. It will be implemented this fall. We were not required to implement changes until the fall and we are on schedule.”

The PLA lists the lowest performing 5 percent of state schools. All schools on the list must submit a detailed improvement/redesign plan to the state within 90 days. Ypsilanti and Willow Run were required to do that after being on the list last year.

Statewide, 98 schools are on the list. They all remain under the supervision of the school reform officer until the officer decides there has been significant improvement, School districts have three years to improve, but must show incremental improvement along the way, said Jennifer Martin, assistant superintendent for educational quality in the Ypsilanti district. They must file monthly reports with the state.

At the same time, the Department of Education released its Top to Bottom list this morning, individually ranking all of the state’s schools. Three Ann Arbor elementary schools - Angell, King and Wines - were in the 99th percentile, the best ranking possible. The highest-ranking high school in the county was Community High School in Ann Arbor, which landed in the 95th percentile.

Schools from other area districts, including Saline, were also ranked highly.

The PLA list measures student achievement on state tests in math and reading. The Top to Bottom list measures student achievement over four years on state tests in five subjects, including math, reading, writing, science and social studies along with graduation rates.

Since it appeared on the PLA a year ago, the entire Willow Run district has been redesigned: Kaiser Elementary School and Cheney Academy were closed at the end of the school year, leaving only four school buildings: Pre-school through first grade will attend Willow Run Primary (formerly Henry Ford Elementary School); second through fourth grades will attend Willow Run Elementary (formerly Holmes Elementary School); fifth through seventh grades will attend Willow Run Intermediate (formerly Willow Run Middle School); and eighth through 12th grades will attend Willow Run Secondary (formerly Willow Run High School).

The high school has adopted the New Tech model, which uses project-based learning and technology. That model will be unveiled when school opens in the fall.

Ypsilanti responded by redesigning the high school into two smaller learning communities: The Global Leadership and Public Policy Academy and the Improv Academy.

Each will have about 550 students, Assistant Superintendent Martin said. The two learning communities will be on different floors of the building, creating smaller, stronger and more accountable environments, she said, that is expected to improve achievement. There will also be more instructional time.

Ypsilanti and Willow Run have more in common that just making the PLA list. They are among the 23 Michigan school districts that have a deficit of more than $1 million. Having that deficit opens the possibility for both districts to be taken over by a financial manager.

Schools required to implement a redesign plan must do so no later than next school year. The four models allowed are:

Transformational model: Districts would address four areas: 1) developing teacher and school leader effectiveness, which includes replacing the principal; 2) implementing comprehensive instructional reform; 3) extending learning and teacher planning time and creating community-oriented schools; and 4) providing operating flexibility and sustained support.

Turnaround model: This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school's staff, adopting a new governance structure and implementing a new or revised instructional program.

Restart model: School districts would close the school and reopen it under the management of a charter school operator; a charter management organization; or an educational management organization selected through a rigorous review process. A restart school would be required to enroll, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend.

School closure: The district would close a failing school and enroll the students who attended that school in other high-achieving schools in the district.

The purpose of the Top to Bottom list, which has no reward for top districts and no sanction for lower performing district, is to shed more light on schools, according to the Department of Education. Washtenaw County high schools ran the gamut, from top ranking Community High to Willow Run High School, which ranked in the lowest 5th percentile. Percentile rankings for other county high schools include: Ann Arbor Pioneer (85th), Ann Arbor Huron (65th), Chelsea High School (91st), Dexter High School (90th), Saline High School (90th), Whitmore Lake High School (54th), Ypsilanti High School (11th) and Lincoln High School (10th).



Thu, Sep 1, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

As far as I am concern "If you do not finish High School you should not be allowed any government assistance money. Let the parents who do not care if there children do well in school support them the rest of their lives, not ME!


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Breaking News!!! There's a high school called Skyline in Ann Arbor! Who would guess?


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 4:04 a.m.

Blaming poor parenting won't change anything. We've done that for years and years ongoing, and while it is obviously a factor, whining about the parenting is not going to make anything better for disadvantaged children affected by it. Education is simple, you need to build a solid base for students in elementary school which leads into middle school which leads into high school. This includes study habits, doing homework, and covering essential knowledge students will need particularly in math and English. The reason so many of these high school students do poor is because they missed the basics. It goes all the way back to elementary school. The MEAP test is not the ACT or the SAT, it is a relatively simple state standardized test. Don't forget to factor in social influences in schools. One huge reason students get lackadaisical is because they're focused on their social lives and really not concerned with their school life. This is compounded by their at-home lives, and begins as children. Teachers and other people who work at schools have some of the most important jobs of anybody in our society. Though it is seemingly impossible for teachers to "save" many at-risk students, more needs to be done to prevent students from falling into this often inescapable hole. Teachers and school staff are often some of the only people in these childrens' lives who can make a difference, and it starts at the youngest, most impressionable age. It's funny to consider the flip side of this. Students who excel in the classroom and get the right kind of guidance in their lives often end up becoming the overachievers and shining star products our public schools love to tote. These students are nurtured properly, and begin to become the standard that schools wish their students to meet. I would go as far as to say that many public schools value students who are clearly "getting it" more than the struggling students.


Fri, Sep 9, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Totally agree with you, AMOC.


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

Ulysses - In my experience as an educated and highly involved parent, there is almost no base of knowledge and habits which is strong enough to withstand the pervasive rot of the Middle School model. The schools which actually practice teacher teaming end up creating cliques in which the unusual student's life is made hellish, because there is no escape from the other students, and very minimal supervision of students except in the classroom. Because the concept says that middle school students are preoccupied with the social and emotional changes due to puberty, the curriculum has been significantly dumbed-down, and fails to engage or inspire the bright kids, while still proving too challenging for those who do not care, or had a poor foundation from their elementary years. The issue comes down to the fact that to ensure that kids learn enough to succeed, we MUST break the lockstep between chronological age and grade level. Require that students advance through the school curriculum on a subject-by-subject basis as they demonstrate mastery. Commit to providing whatever tutoring, alternative presentations, or small-group instruction it takes to get one years' growth in student learning per year for every student who isn't cognitively impaired. It will probably take completely re-training many teachers to achieve this, but this would make our public schools true instruments of the social justice so many of them claim they wish to be.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

I see all this blame put on the school but where are the parents. Instead of pointing out the schools and telling them they need to change the parents should be confronted. If parents took an active role in their kids life and taught them the value of hard work and education this wouldn't be happening. If your child is consistently below a C average and you do nothing you should be reported to child protective services. What they learn at this critical time in life will make them or break their future. The parents are failing their kid and dooming them to a life of poverty and welfare because they are lazy and ignorant


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

What I found out when we enrolled at Pioneer High? The principal will be calling home if our child gets a D or an E. Plus he pulls the child out of class or after class and has a long discussion with them. I have already warned ours about this. This is what is so sad about WR. Where are the parents and why do they think WR is a babysitting service? One teacher told me they have to pass them even if all they do is show up for class. This is to make AYP. Sad sad sad.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

PARENTS, PARENTS, PARENTS. Any school is only good as the parents. If you have parents, that tell their kids just to make it through; that will be result. I support our Governor, but I do think his proposals for education are unrealistic. Administrators will pressure teachers to pass students, or the consequences will be a bad rating of the teacher. Unfortunately, parents today believe that their child is always a victim, and that teachers are too tough, or hate their child. Not until parents get off the " get through high school, and go to work" mentality, will we see any progress in this area.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

It is truly unfortunate that the State provided per pupil stipend, the only source of operations funding for all public and charter schools in Michigan, continues to be based upon the wealth of parents rather than the demonstrated educational needs of the students.

Life in Ypsi

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

My children attended Willow Run for quite some time. They are "A" students and by no means are we even close to being middle class. I stayed involved with their education. The teachers are great. The schools at the elementary level had excellent programs and activities. I was a very vocal supporter of Willow Run Schools and believed as long as I stay involved my kids will be okay. I also bought into what the board has been saying every year since I moved here. They are making changes and things are improving is what I kept hearing. Then my kids went to middle school and that's where it started going down hill. Yes, the brand new middle school helped keep us in the district. The outside doesn't match the inside. Kind of like an attractive person with a rotten personality. My kids were frequently targeted and bullied by others. The school was not very helpful in solving the issue. It put a lot of stress on my kids and they started having their grades slip. I have been to the school in the day time and witnessed many behavioral problems that required security have to pull kids out of the classrooms. You don't see stuff like that on the after school building tours. When I have tried to address parents of problematic children I have been sworn and yelled at. This is after pleading with the school to take action. I have been pretty much told it's hopeless because the parents just yell and swear at the school insisting their children did nothing wrong. As much as it broke my heart, I had to pull my kids out of this district. There is just not a large culture (beyond the teachers) that value school. I can't tell you how many school events I went to and hardly any parents came. When they did come (usually for promotions to the next grade or holiday concerts) there was so much whistling, cat calling, talking, and yelling out student's names that it became clear to me why the students conduct themselves in such unruly.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

I am not surprised by this at all. I was a building sub for WR to help where needed a long time ago. I mostly helped at Ford School until I left for Ann Arbor. But the most help needed was the K group. This one class had a 30 plus size and I was told that if the children did not finish their work they were to keep it at school or I was to keep it until the next day. I was told not to send homework home because it would not get done. Why? Because it was the siblings that picked up the children, took them home and put them in front of television until they went to bed. I was told parents are working two jobs and the siblings did not want to be bothered with homework. Sad to say it, this is why ours does not attend WR even though it is our district. I keep hearing from teachers and parents more and more they need to shut this district down. I could not agree more. All it is is a babysitting service for parents who do not want to be parents.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

My kids went to willow run also.. all 3 did great. but to most parents just like Fed Up..the change into middle school was a glaringly bad. 3 years in middle school and they are lost.Try as the teachers and admin. at high school might.. many kids and behaviors were lost by time they get there. When my oldest went to take calculus, there wasnt even a class. The adults are there to teach and train, not to be the kids " bff". which is how i saw it .


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

That is really just plain sad, Fed Up. Does the school not have any legal rights as far as disciplinary action when parents yell and swear at them? I can't even imagine how frustrating that must have been for you and your family.

Life in Ypsi

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

My kids language was also being affected. They were speaking in double negatives with lots of slang. I would go to the school and not only hear students speaking like this, but the staff as well. I raised my children to speak standard English. While some may argue different dialects are cultural and should be accepted, the bottom line is that when my children interview for jobs they need to have the ability to communicate in standard English and be highly skilled in speaking and writing. When I hear staff members introduce themselves as "I'z" so and so and "I'z a" insert profession, it does not sit with me well. When the principal of a school is allowed to stay after 2 drunk driving charges it does not sit with me well. If that happened in Ann Arbor the principal would have been fired! We live in a community plagued by crime and unemployment. Now we are basically saying to our students it's acceptable to commit crimes and have no consequences. Does Willow Run think that lowly of their students that this is the best they can do with role models? My kids are now doing much better in a school of choice. Gone is the constant drama with kids at school. I'm sorry I left you Willow Run, but my children will no longer be a part of your social experiment of trying to get back on the right track.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

I have 2 children that have gone through the Lincoln School District. My daughter graduated and is currently doing very well in college. She will be graduating next year. My son is still in the high school. I am VERY involved, and take offense to those who sit on their high horses and make comments about demographics, and parent involvement. My husband and I are middle class, and very interested in our children and their schooling. So, I think before you throw stones, you should take into consideration that you are making a generalization that does not pertain to every child, parent, etc in this district. Yes, there are parents that are not involved, but trust me, that happens in Ann Arbor too! Do I think Lincoln needs to consider this a issue and figure out a resolution, absolutely! But making generalizations about the people in these school districts is inappropriate, and absolutely not true about all of us!


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

right - and what many here are saying, me included is that it says more about you and your home than it does about Lincoln's performance as a school.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Before anyone freaks out, look at the demographics of each school. Of course Angell, Burns Park, and Wines are preforming well, look at who attends those schools. What is their percentage of free and reduced lunch students? What is their family involvement like? I feel almost certain these students are much better off financially than students attending Willow Run Schools, Lincoln Schools, and some of the schools in the southeast area of Ann Arbor. Besides, it's not the school or the school system. It's the teacher, the student, and the PARENT INVOLVEMENT!!


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

Having looked at the lists there is a simple non-PhD level thing that is painfully clear: we still live in areas that reflect our demographics. So public schools located where people live that are generally white, affluent, and highly educated, are at the top of the list. Which means this list really doesn't reflect much about how effective the schools are. And when you talk about spending per student ...that is a wildly inaccurate assessment as well - if you live in Ada, Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and have trouble in school - your parents send you to a tutor after school on their dime. They can afford testing for physical and mental questions. They can pay for that laptop and they are willing to push their kids to compete academically. Private music lessons, art supplies, text books and supplemental texts. Stable living situations, good nutrition. Sucks to be in Willow Run or Ypsilanti or, argument or not, Lincoln where there is question about students being able to perform at basic levels and the parents don't have a way to get proper testing, or pay for extra help or are even able/willing to help kids do homework. Where the record keeping per student , especially as they float between schools following family instability, is at best questionable. Each of these schools can point to anecdotal successes but their majority...its problematic. So clean up the schools as you can and as Ypsi and Willow Run continue their route to consolidation but really, if you are going to 'rank' schools they find a proper way to measure them - student performance isn't it.


Sun, Aug 28, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

@ViSHa: first, there is a HUGE difference between private tutoring paid for by parents and some optional hour donated to one or several students by a teacher. This isn't about meeting class requirements. Private tutoring involves study of a student's individual learning style and an individual plan to teach the kid both what he/she needs to know in the short term how to learn and advance in school in the longer term.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

Many schools offer after school tutoring and I know of teachers who offer to have the student come in before school or during their advisory period if they need help. I think it would be interesting to know if these three schools offer any of this and if so, how many take advantage of it? It could possibly be a "you can lead a horse to water..." situation?


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 3 a.m.

The public school system is dying a slow death. It is not long before many of the traditional school districts find themselves in a similar situation unless the game changes. It is unfortunate but true. Think of it this way, the teachers and schools have not forgotten how to teach, but the environment around them has changed. The rules of public education have changed. The financial game to kill the traditional public school system has been effective.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

Unions have also killed off the traditional public system as well. Look at charters. They don't pay much and they do not have a union. Fortis Academy made AYP and are not a failing school. It is the public schools that fails the children and the politicians that go with it.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

Ellen Bonter said: "I asked people at the state how Lincoln found its way on the list, and they said the feds changed the rules. ... I would need a PhD in statistics to understand their metrics." What a ridiculous statement, as if what you stated was a fact. I will say, in my humble opinion, most of those in charge of running a large public school district truly have no idea what they are doing. They might have a PhD but it most certainly is not in business, management or finance for the most part. These are multi million dollar enterprises being run by folks with PhD's in education, which is a recipe for disaster ! Can't blame them for everything, they are handicapped by unions and special interests but then they are in bed with them as well. I think that is what we call cronysim is it not ? Good Day

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:15 a.m.

So here is a thought experiment. If all schools in Michigan improve 100%, INCLUDING the lowest-ranked, what happens to the ranking? The lowest-ranked stay lowest. In other words, this means of measuring school performance does not recognize improvement in individual schools, assuming that all schools are attempting to improve performance. I base this comment on something I heard on the radio. It wasn't my original thought, but one of the administrators of the program who pointed this out.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:04 p.m.

Don't you think the true reason we have this problem is the testing itself?. We have schools that teach to the test.. cheating we all know has happened. The meap test was not meant to figure out who gets what money . It was a way to test where the children stood in their grade level. The amount of funding is way out of balance. Why do A2 schools get 3000 more then willow run or ypsi.. makes no sense. They include the special needs kids in this also. Seems there needs to be a better way to test .


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

I'm wondering what people who live districts that did well will do when their school reaches that magic lowest 5%?If you keep closing schools that underperform, you will always have new schools added to that list. I'm no math genius, but I'm thinking at some point every school will get on this list if that is the criteria. But perhaps the playing field will be evened out when Snyder's plan to go to 100% schools of choice comes to fruition. Think of all the people wanting out of these "bad" schools coming to a place near you!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

There will always be a lowest-performing 5%, but there need not always be schools where a substantial fraction of students fail to meet the minimal standards we have been calling "proficient" on the MEAPs. Nor do the laws require the Persistently Lowest Achieving schools all to close. That only happens if they are charter schools. If they are operated by a public school district, they can try re-organizing the school instead. By re-organizing every 3-5 years, even the worst-performing schools in the whole state can offer employment security to most or all of their staff.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

It's interesting to see Huron at #65. With more and more students scamming the AAPS attendance boundaries and coming to Huron (supposedly living with "cousins" and "uncles" within the boundaries that no one checks out beyond looking at a name on a lease or utility bill), I'm not surprised to see this high school in the middle of the pack, rather than closer to the top. AAPS likes the added dollars from these students, but let me assure you that these are not the best and brightest. Quite the opposite. Most have failed in other districts.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

@sallyxyz, Huron in the 65th percentile? Take a look at where they get their kids! Sure, quite a few have an Ypsilanti address, but guess again if you think they're coming from Ypsilanti, Willow Run, or Lincoln. That's where the Scarlett (57) kids go to high school. And Scarlett draws their kids from Mitchell (18), Pittsfield (28), Carpenter(64), and Allen (79). You see, redlining is alive and well in AAPS. Most have "failed" right here in our own Ann Arbor schools!!!


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

There is no scam. AAPS has school choice now. Also? NCLB and Title I under the low performing schools initiative? This is something a lot of parents do not know, but i did, if your district is failing miserably? Like say WR? You can petition Ann Arbor to take yours in. No scam. Use the law to help better oneself. Pioneer High School, BTW, is #25 on the list nationally.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Sally - With the degree of overcrowding that existed until this year, I doubt that anyone sane wanted to scam their kid into either Huron or Pioneer. The problem is not that these kids failed elsewhere, or that they spent their previous school careers in other school systems, it is that AAPS has been resting on the laurels of the students who moved back into the system for HS, when all the private high schools cost too much. Now that there are free or low cost options like WTMC, Early College Alliance at EMU, etc. you will naturally see some slippage as those kids no longer return to inflate the HS scores.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

It is true that low income children have generally less overall parent involvemen in their childs life and that is the problem and not failing schools. But blaming low income parents isn't the answer either. Low income parents are not involved because they are lazy, it is because in large part, they are uneducated about the benefits of school and the importance of parent involvement. The importance of school may seem like common sense, but as I sometimes say "you didn't know how to wipe your butt until someone taught you." People don't know things until you educate them. More education for low income parents on the importance of parent involvment is part of the answer. The other part of the answer lies with the schools. For too long, schools have unintentionally and unknowingly discouraged parent involvement. It is hugely importnat for every member of the school to actively participate in a campaign of parent involvement in the school. The two efforts combined will begin to make a difference. "


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

The reason I say that schools are unntentionally discouraging parents from participating is because I've personally visited half a dozen schools. The high schools especially are run like fortresses. They don't want anyone in or out. They need to have an environment where parents are encouraged to be in the schools during school time. The elementary schools do a pretty good job but the upper levels struggle with this a lot.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

In reply to the person who said that low ses parents have many other problems and education of the importance of parent involvement won't work I say look at head start. It works very well there because head start is supportive of parents and because their philosphy is that they aren't educating children, they are educating families.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

I agree with most of your post except the part about schools unintentionally discouraging parent involvement. It seems like the schools, with and through the PTSO's, actively try to get parent involvement, although maybe we are talking about two different kinds of involvement? I would be interested to hear some examples of what you mean by discouraging involvement. Also, many schools have Black Parent Student Groups that are open to everyone and often their meetings center on parenting skills to help students.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

Many low SES parents have problems of their own (drug abuse, violence in the home, single parenthood and large families, etc) and are not in a position to be involved in their children's education, even if they wanted to. Campaigning for parent involvement isn't going to change the unfortunate reality many families are living with.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

It's the parents. Period. The schools, teachers, administrators, et al cannot make the students study or do their homework. With few exceptions it's the parents that are the problem. I dare anyone to prove me wrong and hope that you can.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

The flaw in your "proof" is that correlation is not equivalent to causality. Its easier to be an involved parent when you have free time and money, not to mention a lifetime experience of success and knowing how to get your way with people. And being one of the "People Like Us" also helps break the ice at all those PTO events, further increasing involvement.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

I agree Lola!


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

So, if a football or basketball did does poorly is it the players or the coach who get fired? If a school does poorly, do the students or the teachers/admin get fired? (Usually everybody gets a pay raise, more tenure and a better retirement package) Ever wonder why teachers are not paid like professional or college coaches?


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

What I find stunning is that to do varsity sports you had to have a 3.0 or better to play. That was 30 years ago. Now? 2.0 or better. What has happened to make us lower these standards? I heard at this one charter school they do monitor the grades of their athletes and if they fall below a certain average the coaches go see the teachers to try to raise that grade. I know of one teacher who told me that he refuses to lower his character by tweaking the grades. Child got an E? Child has an E. Period. Child needs to work at it not me. So, there you go. Coaches blackmailing teachers so their star players can play. Sad.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

If a player has no talent, doesn't show up for the game, doesn't make an effort at practice, uses illegal drugs, I'd say it's the player who gets cut. Isn't that the real problem with public educaton, and why private schools succeed?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

Probably because public school teachers don't get to scout and recruit students. They just work with what they get. And most do a darn good job.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

I always find it interesting when articles like this come out, you get those that either blame unions and teachers or the parents. I want to mention that the school board and administrators are the leaders and the ones who should take full responsibility for failing these students. The school board hires your administration, the administration hires the teachers, the parents elect the school board. It is a vicious cycle of shared responsibility. Blaming fault on any single group is ignorant and will not improve anything….. or help the students. Has anyone ever considered the culture of the community may have an impact on our educational system? If the community pulled together and worked on the same goal of improving students educational experience, you probably would see a positive impact. I watch adults behave like children on a regular basis and have a hard time blaming students for falling through the cracks. Until adults can start behaving in the manner that we expect our students to behave, the students will be the ones to pay the price.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Parents elect the school board, that's true. But turnout at these elections is abysmal and voters are often poorly informed about their choices. I've lived in many school districts and attended board meetings at nearly all of them. I'm sad to say that many candidates are ill-prepared to serve and often run for ego-driven reasons or because they aspire to higher elected office. Some of the nastiest campaigns I've witnessed were in school board elections. How can you expect someone who doesn't understand finances to make wise decisions for a school district? Or someone without academic experience to influence curriculum? Or choose superintendents? The system doesn't work.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

One thing that you never see in articles like this are the per pupil funding levels for the districts. Lincoln receives the lowest per pupil funding that is allowed. Before people begin throwing stones, perhaps they should find out all of the facts and then do some thinking. If schools of choice and charter schools are taking students, who is left at the public schools? If schools receive one to two thousand dollars less per student, how can they compete, and if a school's socio-economic demographic is much lower, how does that impact a student's ability to compete academically? I would also like to know why Lincoln wound up on this list. Was it overall performance or was it a sub group? There are lots of parts to this story. Get all the facts before the bashing begins.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

I agree that the problems are multifaceted and often beyond the control of teachers or administrators. Yes, demographics plays a big part in the performance of schools, and yes, test scores are not the only or best way of measuring overall performance. However, like others have said, the teachers and administrators of these districts need to do everything possible to improve. It seems like competition might be the only thing that will drive them to do what is really necessary to improve. I'm thankful that East Arbor and Arbor Preparatory High School are beginning this fall allowing us to have a possible option to escape these low-performing schools.


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

It must be so easy to "jump ship" rather than stay and be a part of the solution. My children have been in Lincoln Schools for 8 years now and I have been pleased with their academic performance as well as their MEAP performances. While I can take some credit for that as their parent, credit has to be given to their teachers who have taught them over the years. Yes, improvements need to be made, but for us, leaving the district for an "unproven" school like Arbor Prep doesn't seem wise either. They only have two other high schools on the west side of the state and it hasn't been open long enough (one since 2008 and the other since last Fall) to really make a determination if they are effective. They are NOT managed by National Heritage so you can't use their reputation as a backing either. The real solution is to work within the community to improve on our schools in Lincoln.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

I stand by Lincoln Consolidated Schools. I am the parent of two successful Lincoln graduates. They are happy, well adjusted young adults who have been accepted to excellent colleges, in very competitive fields of study, and are well on their way to becoming equally successful adults. I would like to thank Lincon teachers, from elementary all the way through high school - for the role they played in my kids' education. I can't imagine my kids getting a better education anywhere else. And just for the record, I am not a teacher or on staff at Lincoln, I am not a board member or have any affiliation with Lincoln other than as a parent.


Mon, Aug 29, 2011 : 11:37 a.m.

@Koko11 FYI: I attended Lincoln K-9th grade and I'm thankful I didn't stay. Many of my friends that did struggled with bullying and academic problems that, when they sought help, were blamed on them. I also know recent students that dealt with things I can't even imagine. For example, a former Lincoln student was allowed to walk right into the school and pick fights with other students. The only students I ever knew that ended up "successful" after graduating from Lincoln were considered "popular" and usually got special privileges that were not awarded to other students. The focus went to, for lack of better words, "affluent students and families", and many other students were neglected. From my experience with recent students, it seems it has only gotten worse for the "under-privileged".


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

Right! Your childrens success demonstrates the true power of parent participation, engagement and involvement with their childrens education! Unfortunately for these schools this success is apparently the exception rather than the rule.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:08 p.m.

Hopefully things have changed since 1997...I was told that a sixth grade reading level was acceptable for high school students.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

Not just 2 "obvious". I too have two successful graduates who have gone on to do well in college. They've received academic scholarships and excelled on the ACT. I also have a daughter who is going to graduate next year and she too is doing well and looking forward to college next year. While there are certainly things I'd like to see change, I can say that Lincoln is a great school and has been a good experience for our family. What exactly is your experience with Lincoln, obviouscomment? Or do you just like to comment on things that you have no idea about?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

2 of the few apparently

Designated Conservative

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Kudos to the leadership of the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts for taking big steps to change their learning environments for the better. It's too bad that the Lincoln Schools leadership prefers to whine about the "changing metrics" that put them on the list of failing schools than to take responsibility for a bad situation and act to correct it.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Yes, MEAP scores are still sorted by "economically challenged" students and they perform far below the general student population and in some cases worse than the kids with learning disabilities. I agree with the poster who said that this has far more to do with parent involvement than the schools or funding. The vast majority (there are exceptions of course) of kids aren't going to care about their education if their parents don't. Get a clue SES parents! Education is the key to escaping poverty.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:22 p.m.

Does ann arbor still break out their MEAP scores by SES level? I remember when we moved here many years ago we saw a report that did that and all the elementaries in AA were about the same when you just compared apples to apples. I don't recall seeing a report like that again. Looking at this report, you would think Angell is head and shoulders above, say, Pittsfield but would a rich kid at Pittsfield do just as well on the tests as the rich kids at Angell? And conversely, would a poor kid at Angell do just as bad as a poor kid at Pittsfield? That kind of examination would probably be really helpful in seeing if there really is a difference in our teachers or if kids from a higher SES just come better prepared to succeed. People try really hard to get themselves into certain elementaries and I guess I'm just wondering if it really matters at the end of the day. Will a smart kid be smart no matter where they go within AAPS?


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

Great question. I think a smart kid will be smart regardless. But the difference between a smart kid at a high performing school and a weaker performing school will the rigor and pace of learning within a classroom. If your student is in a class with predominantly smart kids, the pace will be quicker and attention will be focused on curriculum rather than behavior. So, in a class with other smart kids, your smart kid will be exposed to more (deeper) curriculum. In a class where the teacher spends time on dealing with behaviors and other non academic issues, your smart kid might be bored or pick up some bad habits.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

The data on scores by SES are still available, but AAPS no longer helps parents (or others) by publishing the MEAP or MME scores for any of the required sub-groups by school or for the district as a whole. You have to really hunt within the State web site and do a little math to find out how different groups performed at each school. Ordinary citizens can't normally get access to the classroom-by-classroom test data needed to compare teacher effectiveness within or between schools. However, the school districts do get that breakdown, and have supposedly been using it to make their School Improvement Plans. With the new teacher tenure and evaluation laws, I'm betting some of that data will be made accessible in future years, if only because the MEA will want to check the numbers for themselves. However, to answer your question, a smart kid will be smart no matter where they go to school, but they may or may not be exposed to the same content in different classrooms, even within the same school.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

No. Schools that are chaotic and teachers that have to deal all day long with behavioral issues rather than teaching are not an environment conducive to high achievement. Great students will survive in these environments, but they will not thrive.

Tex Treeder

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Ms Bonter: "I would need a PhD in statistics to understand their metrics." What a way to avoid responsibility, by pleading that you lack the ability to grasp how school performance was being measured. I assume Ms Bonter was just joking, but her appeal to ignorance here is disturbing.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

johnnya2, if one district scores 90th percentile on their standardized test, and another district scores 40th percentile, actually there is a simple answer to the question of "which district is performing better?" The district scoring 90th percentile, of course. The former district may have performed less well than they did a year ago, and the latter district may have performed better than they did a year ago, but that does not negate the fact that a 90th percentile result exceeds a 40th percentile result. Seems obvious and simple to me. Am I missing something?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

No, it shows that the metrics to measure performance are not easy to understand. They take in so many factors that it is not as cut and dried as your graduation rate is too low, your college attendance is too low, your improvement is too low. It really comes down to teaching to tests and to a one size fits all education. Imagine a district that has kids that all score in the 95th % on their standardized tests. The next year they drop to 90th%, BUT another district goes from the 33rd% to the 40th%. Which district is performing better? There is not a simple answer to that question because there are a myriad of factors that aren't accounted for.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

I'm not sure what more "we" can do about it. What's the average IQ score of their student populations? Facts are facts. You can spend all the money you want on these districts but at some point even unionized liberal educrats and their parasites have to finally recognize reality don't they? Just sayin'.

Basic Bob

Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

I have traveled a lot and met tons of people. I don't believe people anywhere are naturally smarter or dumber than others (on the whole, not speaking of individuals). The difference is the environment. It is easier to care about education when you have all the finer things in life. To think the difference is based on race is racist. To think it is based on income is elitist.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

Right to work states don't have failing schools, right?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

Not sure what your point is. Are you implying that tracking a student based off IQ will justify low achievement? Are you implying that union liberal educators teach poorly in comparison to non-union educators? Are you implying that the students and parents that live in these districts are parasites and you are implying they are a welfare population? Every school district has issues and you can't assume they are the same.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 6:36 p.m.

Or you can gone down south to the right to work parts of the country and the schools score at lowest levels on national tests. Just saying.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Each admin, each teacher, each student, and each parent - can either sit down sulk about this or consider this a personal challenge to try to move their school up a notch or two. . No one else is going to come to save the day. It is their choice and their future.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

They might want to double check that. has a link to the list and Lincoln is not on it according to that.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

Oh, well then, you can be proud of that.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

I downloaded the TOP to Bottom excel sheet from the MDE webite: <a href=",1607,7-140-37818_56562---,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,1607,7-140-37818_56562---,00.html</a> Not a shining beacon, but it shows Lincoln Consolidated's High School at the 10th percentile. Same thing on the Individual School Look Up excel sheet. So, how did they get in that memo if it's only supposed to be the bottom 5%?


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Schools do not perform, students do. It is misleading to suggest that these schools are failing, when in reality there are many complex reasons why these schools have large numbers of students who perform poorly. It is a shame that the media has bought into the argument that if students do poorly, it's somehow the school's fault. My experience is that parents play a huge roll in their children's success or lack thereof, and that there is plenty of blame to be placed elsewhere, not the least of which is the systematic defunding of public education and the enormous disparities in funding based on the community in which the school is located. The net effect is that these labels will end up weakening failing &quot;schools&quot; without really coming up with solutions to the underlying problems or providing the resources necessary to get students up to speed. By focusing on schools and shifting focus away from other important causative issues and culpable parties, these lists do our entire educational system a disservice.


Sat, Aug 27, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

I overheard a conversation last year between two teachers who said that one child told her that she could care less about school. Her parents don't so why should she. When I listened further I realized one thing, states mandate all this math and what nots but if the children flatly does not care? So why force them to go to school? McDonalds and Burger King are hiring. Let em work for companies that flip burgers all day. Keep the ones who want to further and better themselves. I do agree though, parents need to be involved. The schools can only do so much.


Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

No flamers: I've no intention of flaming you, but your facts are incorrect. In the 90s, an attempt to narrow the disparity was enacted, but it did not do very much. When the lowest funded districts are compared with the highest funded, the richer districts have more than 50% more per student to spend on their educational services. For example, in 2009, Bloomfield Hills received $12,443 per student, Birmingham $12,336. Ypsilanti received $7,983 and Willow Run received $7,840. When you factor in the ranking of thes districts, you can see a direct correlation between resources expended and student performance.

no flamers!

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

I agree that there is only so much a school can do if it is located in an area where the parents do not emphasize education. However, I don't believe a lack of taxpayer funding of schools is the problem--the USA funds schools at the highest levels in the world and we don't get the same results because of the other factors cited by the post. More taxes, or the same taxes paid but more diverted to education, will not change the causal factors--lack of parental emphasis on education, etc. I also don't agree that there are &quot;enormous disparities in funding based on the community in which the school is located.&quot; That hasn't been true since the mid-1990s overall of the tax system.

Bradley Pearsall

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.



Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.