Board Unclear About Huron IB; Considers Expanding Mitchell Campus

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (January 20, 2016): W. Scott Westerman Preschool and Family Center

Tonight’s study session focuses on 2016-17 program enhancements.

Study sessions allow the trustees to explore a topic more in depth than is usually allowed for at a regular meeting. There will be no voting at tonight’s meeting.

5:49 PM The meeting has yet to be called to order. Technical difficulties have been cited.

5:50 PM President Deb Mexicotte calls the meeting to order. All trustees are present.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY: NONE

INFORMATION ITEM: 2016-17 Program Enhancements

5:51 PM To the “average parent or teacher,” Swift says, this planning work may seem a bit early. Five areas they will be discussing:

  • Early Childhood (including preschool and Young 5s)
  • STEAM, Project Lead the Way
  • World Language Enhancements
  • Focus on Middle School Enhancements
  • International Baccalaureate

Will end with some proposed changes to Mitchell Elem campus due to experienced demand.

Early Childhood Education:

Focus in on Young 5 program, which creates a 14 year experience in AAPS for students. Started in the Fall of 2013 with two classrooms; have since expanded to six classrooms for a total of 130 students. Will look at adding an additional 6 campuses for the 2016-17 year, for a total of 12 campuses hosting Young 5 Program. Students must turn 5 between May 1 and December 1.

Swift: “we know there is no more effective tool in closing achievement disparities than starting our students at a younger age and providing them with rich educational experiences.”

Thomas: asks about locations where they will not be opening Young 5 programs. Swift says there has not been the same kind of demand at those schools.

Lasinski: asks about change to law re: K start date and the Young 5s program. Dawn Linden reiterates there is a grace period for students who have birthdays between September and Dec 1. Those students are fully funded. young 5s is a program designed to make sure those students are fully ready for K. Advantages: “gift of time,” self-confidence, academic skill support. Linden says it’s a program that adapts to student need. Goal upon leaving Young 5s: fully ready for K. Added advantage, Swift notes, is smaller class size of 20:1 ratio.

Manley asks what the cut-off deadline is for K. Linden says it is September 1, with a grace period of December 1. Young 5 students would be eligible for K, but are on the younger side of their grade.

Baskett: asks how do parents decide where to send their child Linden says the district will be offering screening to help parents choose. Because Young 5s is fully funded and a full-day option, might be a great option for students who might otherwise go to a tuition-based preschool. Physical, social, academic needs all factor into parent decision, notes Swift.

STEAM, PROJECT LEAD THE WAY

6:08 PM Project Lead the Way is in all secondary schools. Next phase for 16-17, get program into another set of elem schools (6-8 schools). Working to get it in all schools within three years. If Lansing gave the district more money, the district would be ready to implement it into all remaining schools.

In elem schools, Project Lead the Way is incorporated into science curriculum.

Stead: What are some challenges of going from 6-8 schools this next year to implementing in all remaining schools? Are there any capital needs? Swift replies that from a systems perspective, it would be easier to do all at once. However, $50K/school to purchase the program. Swift says they are getting strong candidates for the work. Not asking general ed teachers to do this, but she would love if they wanted to do it. It’s specialized teaching re: engineering and math.

Thomas: $50K is a one time cost? Colligan says the cost is in the iPads, the kits, the carts, plus the program cost. Total price would be $650K if implemented in all.

Lightfoot: are teachers part-time? Swift says they schedule across buildings. Teachers move across the district to do the schedule. Full-time FTE, teach in two schools. Co-teacher program, so district hopes general ed teachers take the project based learning from PLTW.

Thomas: there is an incremental teacher cost. Three FTE for six schools. Another $300K/year. Swift says it’s entirely additional FTE as it is layered over the existing teaching.

Lightfoot: in addition to the cost of the purchases, personnel cost is “a lot of money.” Swift clarifies: $300K in “stuff” [which is a one-time cost] and $300K in teachers [a recurring cost]. As they prepare next year’s budget, they will be looking at that. It’s “an investment in this kind of education which is wildly in demand,” say Swift.

Thomas: while supportive of the program, wondering if they will be doing any kind of assessment to see effect on student learning. Any measurable, quantifiable change. Swift says it’s a huge student engagement piece.

Colligan says it’s important to look at the numbers as students move into the middle school level, as they see the data from students who have had it in elementary schools. Colligan wants to see how that “design thinking” is filtering into students’ other work.

Mexicotte: if they do it right, not just science scores should go up, but it should be across the board. It raises the intellectual capacity and connectedness across disciplines.

Lightfoot: likes that students are putting together the project then getting critique on the project. Such an important skill, she says.

Colligan: district STEAM expo in February. Would love public to come to better understand how STEAM is working across the district.

Stead: she would support implementing it across the elementary schools sooner rather than later. Mexicotte says the question is if they have the resources to do so.

Swift: “if we build it, they will come.”

WORLD LANGUAGES

Swift: producing citizens of a globally connected world and are comfortable in understanding other cultures’ perspectives.

Seven languages offered, five all the way through AP course. Enhancements with world languages have run towards extending and deepening language study at elem school. Will look to extending more at MS level. Proud that they brought world languages into Pathways to Success Campus this past year.

Swift: heard in community the desire to have an immersion school. Not going to bring forward at this time for the 2016-17 year. For 16-17 school year, deepening offerings. Arabic will roll up to year 3 at Huron pipeline, Chinese across Pioneer and Huron and Skyline, ASL at Pioneer and at Pathways. All more traditionally offered languages (French, German, Spanish, Latin) at all high schools.

Manley: at schools that have two languages in elem, do students have options of what to take? Depends on school. Some have both at 3rd and 4th grade, then choice at 5th grade.

Thomas: clarifies time spent at elem level. 30 minutes, two times per week. Middle school level: electives, 9 week programs. Swift says they are looking at increasing middle school language offerings to full year programs.

Swift: IB corridor of Mitchell, Scarlett, and Huron – world language is a given and is required from every student from K-12.

Thomas is surprised at differences between language offerings at different middle schools. Swift says he is touching upon enhancements to middle schools.

Lasinski: when doing 30 minutes twice a week at elementary level, what is goal? Culture and proficiency. Having kids be able to use the language in an exchange between students. Food, greeting. It’s not just talking about food, but it’s talking about world hunger – what food looks like worldwide where those languages are spoken. It’s more about “what you can do with the language, and less about what you know.”

Swift: is there a more in-depth model more than 30 minutes/twice a week? Ideally, having it every day would be great.

Mexicotte: maybe the idea thing would be an elementary day from 8:00-5:00.

MIDDLE SCHOOL ENHANCEMENTS

Swift: middle school enhancements are a 3-5 year plan. Academics: by the age of 10-14 years, some students are ready for a more challenging experience. In aligning academics, looking to differentiate by offering a more challenging academic experience, but also ensuring all academic supports are in place. Critical when crossing over from concrete to abstract to have supports in place.

Academic interventions: Swift says it’s been about 14 months that she’s been meeting with middle school admins to work on being a “destination middle school district.” Principals excited about “getting the toolbox full” for academic interventions.

Aligning exploratory interventions. Principals and communities have chosen to keep most successful programs. Over the years, middle schools have become less consistent with the electives offered. Guiding question: what components are part of the promise that whichever school students go to, they will get those things?

Relationships: important that students can engage and feel comfortable. Must have plan for building relationships at middle schools. In 3-5 year plan, would like to “become whole again” with counselors at middle school. Behavior interventionist at each middle school.

Physical Plan: middle school buildings are in need of updating. Right now, there’s a lot of aging infrastructure. Pools are in need of some work.

Beyond the School Day: grateful to PTO Thrift Shop for providing third day of after school bus. Expanding after school offerings.

Principals hoping that with approval of BOE, they can begin to develop a teacher-admin program.

Stead: all appreciate focus very much. Most important near-term initiatives. High on her list: add more counselors. Reading, grammar, comprehension area is one we need focus on. Ability to communicate is key and she would like to see the same kind of interventions as math.

Manley: gives a head nod. Agrees with Stead with much of her comments.

Lightfoot: AAPS students should be proficient in standard English. Is concerned comprehension “is a fleeting skill” and needs to be focused on. Would like to see higsth school students and current middle school students to be part of development program. Wants to know why middle school students leave district then return. Would like more rec and ed programming for middle school students.

Lasinski: students struggle with structure of middle school. Lack of movement during MS day – detrimental to learning. Interested in opportunity for outdoor time to middle school students.  Would like small adjustments to help students “be available to learn.” Would like Rec&Ed or Intramural sport teams be run concurrent with school sport teams.

Baskett: struggle with lack of support for parents parenting their middle schoolers. Parents seem to be “pushed out” or not as welcomed in, and not just PTO meetings. Parents are still needed at this age range. Asks Swift how items are prioritized over the 3-5 year plan.

Swift: would like to bring back a more specific plan for trustees, so they can see what to expect for fall of 2016. While some things are high in priority, may cost more money or need more time. If trustees are fully supportive, Swift could bring a timeline within a month or so. Everyone is waiting to hear how much money can be devoted to each individual endeavor.

Thomas: supportive of work. Roughly 10 year have been running with current schedule at middle schools. Would like to look at concept of 6th grade exploratories and advisory. Lasinski echoes Thomas’s concern with advisories.

Stead: has a middle school student. Advisory does allow some flexibility and personal responsibility for students. Doesn’t want it mis-portrayed as a waste of time.

Lightfoot: are we okay with 6th grade being put into the mix with 7th and 8th graders? Such pressure and responsibility at 6th grade. Swift says they’re working to make sure 6th grade is a proper transition year. She has spent a great deal of her career worrying about that very thing, but she has been convinced by the students that they were ready for it.

Mexicotte: we have great middle schools. We do not lose students, as is the mythology. We have a fine middle school program. Middle school is problematic for a lot of reasons the district has nothing to do with. So much of what happens in middle school is the social-emotional. Wants to start with this, because not everything needs to be fixed. last time she was involved in this discussion, Mexicotte says when thinking about putting back electives, looking at putting back resources: teachers, planning time.

Mexicotte wonders about the role of counselors in middle school. When looking at the counselor model, what are they there for?

Lightfoot suggests computer scheduling to replace counselor-assisted scheduling.

While a guidance counselor program/advisory program sounds good, Mexicotte wonders about the main goals. Manley says there are some counselor models out there that deals with culture and climate and the whole child. If that were the model the district were to put in place, it would be beneficial to students.

Swift: appreciates trustee’s support. Next steps: assemble advisory group dense with parents, teachers, community leaders, high/middle schoolers. Have asked admin leaders to visit districts around the country that have engaged, high-performing middle school programs. Doesn’t want to go backwards when designing middle school program, but move forward. Advisory group will report out on regular basis. Want to do the right work, to take the right steps to move forward.

Jazz Parks, Tappan Middle School principal: have been in middle schools in 9 years. So glad to have so much synergy with other middle school admin to work on middle school program. Ready to prioritize, ready to engage communities.

INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE PROGRAM

IB was most requested program on Swift’s Listen and Learn Tour. Demand is across the community.

District is hoping to have IB certification summer of 2017. 2019 will be first IB graduating class.

When students enter Huron HS, every student will receive a “rich IB program.” Students will need to make decision during spring of 10th grade for 11th and 12th grade. Swift says they are following full school model.

Have designed middle years program to keep students in IB program through high school. Mexicotte says having it be an opt-out program keeps more students in the program. Wondering how decision is being framed for students.

Swift: even if a student were to opt out of diploma-year graduation, default will be to a rich IB curriculum.

Kevin Karr, Mitchell Elementary Principal; IB Programming Director: kids can’t opt out until the very last moment. Latest research on IB schools shows such a significant benefit to kids entering, staying in, and graduating from college.

Stead: a reduction in programming at Huron? Carr says no. It will only be enhancing program.

Lasinski: is there enough differentiation between AP and IB path to college to maintain two programs?  Mexicotte says that AP gets students college credits. Karr says scheduling might preclude mixing DP (Diploma Programme) and AP classes.

Lasinski: more complexity in adding to the decision making process, you lose kids. Mexicotte: and that is why everyone is in. People who opt out are the ones who have done some work. We have made it simpler.

Swift apologizes to trustees as they are getting in a short amount of time what the 9th graders will have two years to come to terms with. Lasinski says the complexity is too much. Mexicotte says the IB model is less complex than the current model of scheduling.

Thomas: from 9 and 10th grade, essentially each student at Huron will have the same experience. Swift says every 9th and 10th grade course has been developed as an IB course.

7:55 PM Mexicotte interrupts Thomas, as Manley needs to leave. Manley is given the chance to speak before she leaves.

Manley: she’s been asked by parents about the IB program. She explains that it is the same in 9th and 10th grade. Middle of 10th grade, students need to make that decision. That’s when an experienced and well-trained counselor, along with parent, needs to help.

Karr: need to look at strengths of students and what is beneficial to them. Swift: every course at school is taught IB style, with a global approach. In 11th and 12th, students choose to go for an IB diploma. Karr: once you’re a world school, you operate that way.

7:59 PM Trustee Manley leaves.

Baskett: “I thought I understood this until tonight.” Thought they had been telling community that if student did not choose IB diploma, student will be able to take “regular” curriculum. Baskett worries about putting all this on overworked counselors with students not getting enough quality advisory time with 1:300 ratio. Big decision made by student that needs to be made in 8th grade.

Swift: IB schools mean regular classes taught from inquiry method approach. IB diploma-ship is different. Experience over time is that parents find it is a richer experience for their students.

Baskett: where is parent going to get support for helping their child decide? Not increasing the number of counselors [Swift interjects that they have added the middle years and the high school coordinators]. Freshmen are being introduced to IB model. How aware are families that they need to make this decision. Swift says they have been communicating, but it would be disingenuous to say every family is aware.

Karr: on website, shows pathways students move through in IB high school. Important component to figure out how to reach every family.

Baskett: are middle school families required to go to IB orientation? Swift: students are given a presentation. They have held many meetings and will hold more.

Lightfoot: concerned that parents won’t get it. Also concerned that Huron will be seen as an “exclusive” school with IB and won’t be seen as inclusive enough for students who might be more comfortable with career tech. Narrative is critical.

Swift: nothing Huron currently has will go away. All career tech and vocational education programs will still be available.

Karr: the appropriateness of IB, when thoughtfully planned, all students can be successful. In the last week, the work has been what are the supports at Mitchell, Scarlett, and Huron for students. It’s not an elite, exclusive piece, Karr says.

Lightfoot: wants to make sure data backs them up that IB was the right way to go. IB may not be for everyone. Hopes program is set up for students who have no support at home.

Swift: that’s exactly the goal of the program. Every high school team has been to every middle school to present their high school program. Pioneer, Skyline, and Huron principals highlight what makes their schools special to all 8th graders. Has heard fear about communication.

Thomas: gives his understanding of what happens at Huron for students in 9th and 10th grade. Junior and senior year is different if planning to graduate with IB diploma.

Karr: it’s the approach of the teaching that is different.

Stead: if I graduate from Huron without graduating from IB program, what does my diploma say? Karr: Ann Arbor Public School diploma. Once certified, they can use the IB logo. Students will also have IB coursework on their transcripts. Same standards, but taught from different perspective.

Stead: if we’re going to make the investment, how do we show this?

Mexicotte: colleges know their high schools. They will know Huron is an IB high school.

Baskett: if students go for IB diploma, need to sit for an exam. There is a cost.

Swift: have budgeted for exam cost. Want to encourage students who have taken course to follow through. If district means IB for all, they need to take care of cost. Thankfully, two years away.

Baskett: budgeting for all students who want to take IB exam.

Swift: theory that it is good for families to have some investment. Details are still being sorted out. Cost will not be a deterrent. Karr is looking into other schools.

Thomas: what is the advantage of an IB diploma? Swift replies that some students get college credit. At UofM, an IB diploma is worth 24 credit hours.

Mexicotte: at the heart of it, we decided to do this program to benefit our students. IB focuses on inquiry, global awareness, action and service, world languages, and access and equity.

8:45 PM Proposed Expansion to Mitchell Elementary

Swift: No seats available at Mitchell. Currently sitting at 317 students, beyond capacity. Increased demand for school.

In-depth analysis, new construction for not much more than modular construction. Bringing forward proposal for new construction. Three phase process, occurring over three summers.

Phase 1: six new classrooms, and would open up an existing room as a family engagement room. Phase one would allow the district to open seats for this September. Cost: $2.1M

Phase 2 and 3: move from two classroom per grade level to a three classroom per grade level. Would also add preschool and Young 5s. Open up entry space.

Swift says the expansion will be brought in front of trustees at the next two meetings. This is an initial briefing. There will be two more second briefings, with a proposed vote at the February 3 meeting.

Stead: total student population at Mitchell with phase 3 expansion? With full Pre-K through 5th grade: 600+ students.

Thomas: how is Phase 2 and 3 broken down? Swift says that it will be determined by demand, which will be determined over the next year. It will be adding preschool and aesthetics. Thomas is skeptical of the “if they build it, they will come” philosophy. Experience with STEAM has better validated it, however.  How cool is it, Thomas says, that Mitchell is becoming a destination school.

Lightfoot: “Man, we are jamming.” Testament to team and community, that “still we rise,” despite the political climate. More concerned now about managing district growth. Seats will be filled through interest in IB, Spanish and Arabic, wait list, community interest. Need for redistricting?

Swift: she doesn’t want to build all at Mitchell all at once.

Mexicotte: redistricting has become less and less a focus. Boundaries don’t need to be changed as choice is creating more dynamic lines.

Lightfoot: with increasing housing in the district, possibility for building new schools.

Baskett: very exciting. Not worried about filling seats. Mitchell expansion helps create more competition against competing charter schools.

Lasinski: Phase 1: how much existing playground equipment will need to be removed? $50K for playground seems light. Majority of playground work will be done in Phases 2 and 3. Also concerned about cycling an additional 300 students through the school. Expresses concern over number of toilets in 3/4/6 wing.

Mexicotte: How does this interact with bid process or pieces down the road? Will be asking board to move forward with scope of work

Swift: Would like general approval on project, and would follow up with phase RFPs. She likens it to how the board approved the Northside expansion.

Thomas: Everything is driven by dollars. Working assumption was any additional costs would be covered by additional revenue. At this point, any further expansion is going to require expanding infrastructure. Take look at marginal revenue versus marginal cost. Any SOC student will bring less foundational allowance.

Lasinski: when package comes back, would like to know sources of money this would be coming from. Exciting, where we need to move ahead.

Stead: about 1,500 students within district boundaries who are choosing other options. Capacity study shows they are pretty close to capacity. As a board, will need to do some future planning for planned housing projects and economically what will drive further growth. Need to think long term growth strategies and how do we serve the growing community. Great problem to have. Facility review is being done this year. Lots of pieces to the puzzle, and we’re not going to know for sure.

Mexicotte: different capacity problems have different solutions. SOC is spread across schools. Different than a program that is attracting people to a particular school campus. Complex problem, but no one solution for each of the pieces. Mitchell piece is an acute problem, versus a chronic capacity problem.

9:32 PM Mexicotte adjourns the study session.


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