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Posted on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ypsilanti High School facing major changes as district seeks grants to boost achievement

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti Public Schools could receive up to $2 million in school improvement grants to help boost achievement at Ypsilanti High School.

But to qualify, the district must make major changes by selecting one of four models to restructure the school.


Ypsilanti High School held its graduation last week. The school could be seeing some significant changes.

File photo

Ypsilanti High has been identified as achieving in the lowest 5 percent of Michigan high schools by the Michigan State Department of Education. Thus, it is eligible for grant money made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act via the U.S. Department of Education.

But participating districts must agree to implement one of four models developed by the U.S. DOE to restructure the school. The options are:

  • Turnaround model, which requires replacing the principal and not rehiring 50 percent of the staff. The new principal would be granted flexibility to implement changes to improve achievement.
  • Close the school.
  • Restart model, which would place the high school under a “charter-like” arrangement with an entity such as a charter company, university or Washtenaw Intermediate School District.
  • Transformation model, in which the district would replace the principal, take steps to increase staff effectiveness, provide operational flexibility, increase the school day, institute comprehensive instructional reforms and create community-oriented schools.

The district must submit a decision to the state today, but will have 30 days to select a different model, at which time the board will vote on the decision.

Jennifer Martin, assistant superintendent for educational quality, said the district is not considering closing the high school because there are no other high schools in the district.

At the June 7 special board meeting, numerous community members expressed opposition to the idea of “chartering off” the school. Martin said she “does not have the details” on how an agreement would work. But she said the school would be placed in a “charter-like” arrangement under which guidelines could vary depending on the organization with which the district partners.

Martin said the district has established a School Improvement Grant Committee comprised of representatives from Eastern Michigan University, WISD, high school staff, administration, students and parents. Its purpose is to complete a “comprehensive needs assessment” to help determine which of the three options is best for the district.

Once a restructuring plan is being developed, Martin said all decisions on what classroom changes to make would be based on data indicating where the school’s weaknesses lie.

The state used a formula that included MEAP scores and graduation rates to determine which schools fell in the bottom 5 percent, according to district spokeswoman Emma Jackson.

Seeking the funds is not mandatory, but Martin said a list of the state’s poorest performing schools is issued in the fall, and if Ypsilanti High is on that list, it will be required to submit a restructuring plan.

She said the district has already enacted numerous measures to boost student achievement, and recent data shows it has made gains - but the district doesn't want to pass up an opportunity for additional funds.

“If we are facing a restructuring plan in the future, it would only make sense that we apply for financial assistance to make the changes,” Martin said.

The district would receive between $50,000 and $2 million over three years to enact one of the plans. She said the district does not know how much money it would qualify to receive, and does not know the state’s formula for determining that figure.

Money could only be spent on student improvement at the high school. For example, no money could be spent on building maintenance.

A monitor from the state’s DOE would visit the school weekly to oversee the plan’s implementation, with the number of visits and oversight reduced as the district makes progress.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

A2 Agnostic - Wow, I hope you're really not an Ypsi teacher. You have lots of excuses (learning disabilities,living and legal issues, drug problems, ECA etc.) and seem to think the situation is hopeless. If you really love your job, then start doing it and find out how to reach these students. They are, by the way, students just as much as any in the ECA; they also need some extra motivation. There are successful teachers working with the same students; they are successful primarily because they don't make excuses - they figure out what works. Try starting with high expectations and making each class meaningful. Break out a little Ruby Payne and take her lessons to heart. Good luck, drop the excuses; Ypsi deserves teachers who are proactive and find out what works.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

I disagree, Lorie. Yes, you need parents who support their children in school. But, if they don't are we just supposed to write them off and do nothing? I have seen teachers inspire kids to be something other than the slackers their parents are. I have seen our schools be the only safe haven some kids know. Are we supposed to throw these kids aside? YHS has made a lot of progress in the past few years. Could it be better? Absolutely. Do we need a community outreach program to get more parents involved? Without a doubt. Are these changes going to continue heading us in the right direction? Ah! That's the part that's still up in the air, since we just changed three positive, progressive administrators for people we don't know yet. It's up to us, as parents and community members, to keep the pressure on the BoE and administrators so they know we aren't going to settle for what was before. Ypsilanti deserves better. And A2 Agnostic, no, I don't think you sit back and wait for learning to happen. But, I think blaming the students for their home-life is hitting an easy target. If the only reason you got into teaching was to have a roomful of A students, you're not in the right district. You have access to young minds that can be changed. You need to ask yourself how you can make a difference in their lives. And if you feel you can't, maybe you should think about doing something else.


Tue, Jun 15, 2010 : 7:01 a.m.

@A2Agnostic I hear ya - Ypsilanti is officially, even with the last adjustment, worse than many/most Detroit Schools in terms of incoming student quality. As of this typing, I have spoken with yet another family who, after reviewing the year with their elementary aged kids will be pulling their kids into a private school. Now, what does that mean for Ypsi Schools? It means that another one of their top performing families (very supportive family, top academic students, healthy living environment, etc.) is pulling their kids out of YPS because they want their kids to go to college and not get held back or derailed along the way. And what kind of student remains by the time they get to high school - check out the comment from the teacher above...its pretty bad. Summary: you can get a grant for $2M and change to one of those models and not achieve a bloody thing. I suggest that you close the school and distribute the teachers and students out to the other schools.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 10:01 p.m.

- Turnaround model, which requires replacing the principal and not rehiring 50 percent of the staff. The new principal would be granted flexibility to implement changes to improve achievement. - Close the school. - Restart model, which would place the high school under a charter-like arrangement with an entity such as a charter company, university or Washtenaw Intermediate School District. - Transformation model, in which the district would replace the principal, take steps to increase staff effectiveness, provide operational flexibility, increase the school day, institute comprehensive instructional reforms and create community-oriented schools. Once again, blame is being focused on the school system and the teachers. The saying "it takes a village" doesn't exclude the parents and the students themselves. The teacher bashers will say that the teachers are overpaid and underworked and kids in their classrooms should be at or above grade level...I get it, some of you are so anti-teacher that you can't seem to look at real problems and real solutions. When kids arrive at school without having eaten breakfast, it's nearly impossible for them to learn. If a kid hasn't slept, or is living in a situation where he/she isn't supported in anything they do, why care about the science lesson their teacher is trying to teach? Why and how? What will firing all of the teachers and hiring new teachers do? What do you think will happen? Those kids will finally learn? And yes, there are BAD teachers out there. What profession/job doesn't have that?! I know, I know, the unions protect these horrible teachers...okay, what about the person who screws up your dry cleaning, or the the rude guy at Lowes? They might get fired, but most likely, they won't. It takes so much energy for everyone to bash teachers, it would be so much more helpful/useful for those people to be a part of the solution, not adding to the problem.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 5:35 p.m.

Skip down to,A2 Agnostic,and Angela, you'll be at the root of the problem. Ypsilanti is Ypsilanti.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 4:42 p.m.

For the record the kid who got tazed would not be harverd bound. How could you ever teach a child like that. These childeren are a product of welfar plain and simple. Parents who have nver had to earn a thing raising childeren who believe they will never have to earn a thing. I believe these teachers should get hazered pay, The educational is not the fault of the teachers, my guess it is the fault of the kids with the bad grades. At some point we will learn that making excuses for for people will never help them. What is the saying " you can take the horse to the water but you cant make it drink". Teams of the greatest teachers in the world could not get a student who has to be tazed in school to drink from the water of knowledge


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 4:13 p.m.

Does anyone else think its wrong to reward a school 2 million bucks for being a crappy school? At what point do we start placing the blame on the students and not the teachers? No matter what you do, this school will not be successful. Ypsi is not successful, just look at the headlines on the front page. Ypsi has a non stop string of bad stories, why would we expect the children of such a place to be any better? Childeren are having to be tazed by police in this school for fighting teachers! Only if the teachers taught better this kid would be straight a's bound for Harvard. Lets start with the good schools and insure their programs are there for them and the resources they need to succeed, but instead we will toss are tax money at another bottomless government program.

A2 Agnostic

Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

As a YHS teacher I dare any of you to walk a mile in my shoes and still spout the same anti-teacher rhetoric. What do you think we do all day, suck coffee, put a lesson on the board, wait for results? We at YHS have some of the best technology in the county and we use it to the best of our abilities to help our students learn. The problem is that we have a great deal of students with varied learning disabilities, living situations, legal issues, drug problems, and gang involvement. I know the probation officers by name when they come to visit their charges some of whom wear electronic teathers. We do have a lot of students that do the right thing but they have an out with the ECA (early college alliance) with EMU. So what are we left with? I'll tell you it's not much. So what do you teach children that see no use in it? They could care less about a grade, they want to know who is wearing what, who is doin' who has the newest phone or mp3 player, how to text in class with one hand. And of course this is ALL the teachers fault, get real people I love my job but I have to have at least willing participants.


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:24 a.m.

The families of "it's not much" would probably like to see you go. But where else could you go and make that kind of money? I feel sorry for your students.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

well, ypsilistener, i think the students are down because the heritage has gotten disrupted. a discouraged student won't care to study, thus won't bring their grades up. grades not being up causes them to loose interest. lack of interest = lack of support. lack of support = lack of heritage. it's all a circle. if the name came back to braves, the students would be proud of where they go and what they represent. BAM!


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

Actually, eyeheartA2, a lot of charter schools are not meeting the minimum requirements that were set for them. And some institutional supporters are pulling out because of that. Alma Wheeler Smith give a report a couple of years ago giving a lot of facts and figures on that. I don't have those figures in front of me, but I know the state hasn't been as eager to back that horse as it once was. Recently, the highly touted Colin Powell Academy in Detroit lost Central Michigan University as its supporter and are scrambling to find another entity to back it. If it does manage to come back, it won't be in Detroit. This is not to say all charter schools fail, but there is disappointment among the people who once lauded the concept. Charter schools simply are not the be-all and end-all some thought they would be. It depends on how they are run. Which, of course, is the same thing you can say about public schools. We had 11 years where YHS was neglected and the superintendent and director of education pulled the wool over the BoE's collective eyes. Poor administrators allowed - and granted tenure to - poor teachers. Evaluations were not done. Neither teachers nor administrators had their feet held to the fire. In five years, since David Zuhlke and Noni Miller are gone, things have started to improve with evaluations being done and bad teachers being ousted in one fashion or another. We were beginning to see an upswing, but it wasn't fast or steep enough. Now, we will see if restructuring, in any form, is enough - especially with the financial burdens placed on districts all over the state. I hope these changes are more than cosmetic, but we'll have to wait and see.


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

And would you happen to have a short list of the those "bad teachers ousted"? They would have to go topless in the classroom to have that happen, Dear.


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:16 a.m.

As a former charter school teacher in Detroit I can tell you that these schools have better teacher/ student ratios, uniforms and safety in their corners. I loved my charter school kids and I'm proud to say that they loved me back as only kids do!


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 1:56 p.m.

Just a little math...50,000/3 is $16,666 per year, $2,000,000/3 is about $666,666 per year. Bottom 5% in the state. Ypsilanti High School has what? 1000 students so this is like $1,600 to $200,000 per student. Those are some interesting numbers. I would like to confirm the 1000 students number AND I would like to know exactly how those models would impact student performance. I, frankly, don't see a link. More money is a good thing, forced silliness is not. I see several things going on, not the least of which is that those parents living in Ypsilanti Twp and Ypsilanti City who put their kid's education as their first priority and have any kind of possibility of a choice are pulling their kids out of this system. Leaving those who don't have a choice or, in their scale of priorities, won't/can't take the steps required to pull their kids out. This ranking isn't new and the slide certainly hasn't been over night. Am I crazy or doesn't that mean you can put any kind of model you want in place and you can have those kids locked up in the high school for extended days and during the summer and not even make a dent in the achievement issues because the behaviors are already ingrained/long repeated and/or the home situation is such that it won't/can't be reinforced?


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:06 a.m.

People like you would not be welcome at school board meetings.==LOL You're too smart and quick on the math! In so many ways YPS is a sinking ship taking a lot of great kids down with it. This comment is never gonna escape The Sensors!!!!!!!!!!


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 1:56 p.m.

Do any of these options include removing the school board?


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

Now you're talking. I'd also consider going after the retirement funds we squandered on the likes of Hawkins and Fulton. S-h-e-e-s-h, what a waste.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 12:44 p.m.

@dading: Exactly how would this help student achievement?

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

what's the option for changing the name back to the "braves"?


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

Uh, Indians would probably not choose black and Vegas gold for their buckskin duds. The Braves ship sailed when the esteemed school board caved and renamed the teams after a large bird rising up from the ashes. You can't make this stuff up.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 10:32 a.m.

I would suggest a focus on doing at school what is not getting done at home. Specifically, a homework "club", class, team, or whatever you want to call it. Students stay at school and receive help and support with getting homework done everyday, on time, and well done. Unfortunately, it would have to be mandatory for some students in order for it to be effective. I am betting that doing only that would boost achievement tremendously. My observation is that students that are in school, making a reasonable effort, and completing all homework do quite well. It is a fact of life that some parents are unable or unwilling to supervise and help with homework. Nothing will change unless the schools address this problem.


Sat, Apr 13, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

Try getting teachers to volunteer for that challenge. Then there's the busing them home issue==What is more true is that instruction during class time is eaten up by kids who who should be in in- school suspension to preserve the classroom learning climate. That's the reality. Classroom time and teaching is eaten up by kids who have issues and take the teacher away from insruction time.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 10:08 a.m.

Seeing how many charter schools have failed to live up to their promise, I'm against going that route, but either the turnaround or transformation model would work for me. And @silverwings, do you really want our kids being used as lab rats to test a theory? I don't. We got too much of that when Noni Miller was the director of education and teachers were forced to "teach to the grant." @Ypsilistener is right that $50,000 doesn't sound like much, especially over three years, to make any kind of real changes. Is sure a zero wasn't left out of that? $500,000 would make more sense. I truly hope this committee comes up with a solid plan, because restructuring just for the sake of change isn't going to work.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Giving some credit to the teachers and administration...If you took this high school and staff and relocated it 10 miles west, would it still be as bad as it is? Are we being completely honest about the situation and by giving correct assesment of the students and families involved? Can we actually fix this problem by throwing more money at it?


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 8:32 a.m.

Charter model sounds pretty good to me. Two university education schools are within ten miles--give one of them a shot at putting all that theory into practice.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

Getting paid extra for not doing their jobs. Amazing. And people wonder why the public school systems are becoming more and more of a joke every year. Unbelievable.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 6:34 a.m.

None of the options say anything about home lives and parent participation.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 6:27 a.m.

@bruceae: Sheesh, way to jump to conclusions! I was just checking the accuracy! This situation is, of course, much more complex than one article can convey. I'm not interested in arguing with you over what I perceive as your snap judgments. I most certainly want what's best for our kids, so I'll leave it at that for now.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 6:08 a.m.

@ypsilistener: So I guess you're happy being in the bottom 5% of Michigan Schools? The district should be making one of these changes on their own with out money from the the DOE.


Mon, Jun 14, 2010 : 5:33 a.m.

$50,000 over 3 years doesn't sound like much money for a lot of disruption. Are those figures correct?