Trustees Focus on Third Grade Reading, Summer Learning

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education study session (May 17, 2017): Pioneer High School – Cafe Annex – 601 W. Stadium Blvd

The Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees will vote themselves into executive session at 5:30 PM this evening, discussing a attorney/client privilege item. Last week, the trustees went into an executive session, saying they were working on contract negotiations. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

Tonight’s study session, beginning at 6:30 PM, allows for the trustees to dig deeper into topics. There is no voting involved. Superintendent Jeanice Swift will give an update on the district International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. Both Huron High School and Scarlett Middle School recently received accreditation as IB Middle Years Programme World Schools.

Swift will also give an update on district high schools. Four AAPS high schools earned silver medals in the latest rankings of U.S. News and World Reports 2017 Best High Schools. Community High (64), Huron High (29), Pioneer High (8), and Skyline High (15) are among the top 64 public high schools in the state of Michigan.

In addition to those updates, there will be a preview of  summer 2017 learning, as well as an update on the 3rd grade reading legislation.

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Present: President Christine Stead, Vice President Susan Baskett, Trustees Simone Lightfoot, Harmony Mitchell, Jeff Gaynor, Patricia Manley, Jessica Kelly

6:44 PM President Stead calls the study session to order.


The agenda is approved unanimously without change.


Clague Middle School principal Che Carter introduces two Clague eighth grade orchestra students who perform a piece of music.

Manley says the students “managed to make two instruments sound like a whole orchestra.” Gaynor recognizes one of the students as a former student of his. Mitchell says the students “fill the song,” not just play the song. Kelly asks the students if they would like to formally recognize their private teachers, since both students indicated that they have been playing for a long time.


Steve Norton, district parent, Executive Director of Michigan Parents for Schools: Norton speaks on the 3rd grade reading legislation, calling it one of the more disappointing moments in legislation he’s seen in his 10 years with MPS.

His organization originally came up neutral on the bill when it was first proposed. The bill actually acknowledged the need schools had for resources to help students in reading. This bill, originally, did not come with an appropriation, but it did go into some detail of services districts would need to offer to help students.

His organization could never pry away the insistence on mandatory retention, he says. Unfortunately, the bill as it went to the floor was not satisfactory. Several changes promised on the floor was not made, so his organization withdrew their support. The law is a product of the “most black boxes of black boxes,” the committee process.

Unfortunately, “that’s where you are.” He wishes the district the best of luck as they try to implement the legislation without support from the state.

Lightfoot thanks Norton for the context. She looks forwarded to suggested suggestions as they grapple across the state on how to do implement it well.

STUDY SESSION ITEM: International Baccalaureate Report

Superintendent Jeanice Swift shares two recent updates.

Both Huron High School and Scarlett Middle School are officially authorized to offer the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP), as they were recently accredited as IB MYP World Schools. Huron received official Diploma Programme certification at the end of 2016. The third leg of the stool, Swift says, is for Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett to attain Primary Years Programme (PYP) certification.

Gaynor congratulates the teachers and staff involved. The more he learns about IB, the more impressed he is with the staffing and the commitment to the IB programme. He is trusting the district, the board, and the administration will trust teachers to fulfill the goal of IB.

A portion of the class of 2019 will be the first to graduate with full IB Diplomas.  Huron is working to create their IB programme to be equitable for all students.

STUDY SESSION ITEM: U.S. News and World Report Best High Schools

Four AAPS high schools earned silver medals in the latest rankings of U.S. News and World Reports 2017 Best High Schools, mostly based an algorithm that indicates college readiness for students. Community High (64th), Huron High (29th), Pioneer High (8th), and Skyline High (15th) are among the top 64 public high schools in the state of Michigan.

Swift compares where the same four schools were two years ago. Pioneer – 20th in 2015; Skyline – 21st in 2015; Huron – 33rd in 2015; Community – 67th in 2015.

Swift says this is just once again another confirmation of the excellence of the schools.  She is proud that “all means all” in AAPS.

STUDY SESSION ITEM: Dicken Elementary Fire

There was a fire in one of the bathrooms at Dicken after school this afternoon. Dicken will be closed tomorrow for two reasons. #1 So AAFD can complete a thorough investigation; #2 So appropriate clean up can be completed at the property.

Swift says it is “too soon” to share if it will be a multiple day closing. They will do everything within their power to take care of this quickly, efficiently, and safely. She asks for members of the public to not go on the property.

STUDY SESSION ITEM: Summer School Updates 2017

Lee Ann Dickinson-Kelley Assistant Superintendent Instruction & Student Support Services presents the summer school updates.
Dickinson-Kelley gives an overview of the themes that will be focused on in the overview: Focus on personalized instruction; Teaching with an Understanding and a Belief in a Growth Mindset;  Removing many barriers that have traditionally impacted families, by waiving and reduce tuition for students who are economically-disadvantaged. They aim to make summer learning exciting and relevant.  Dickinson-Kelly says their work will improve district graduation rate.
Elementary Summer Learning Institute Changes
  • Added 2 week Fractions Academy
  • Co-teaching model. There is a Math and ELA Lead teacher pair in every classroom.
  • Project based instruction – 2017 understanding plant structure and function
  • Technology and blended learning enhancements –
  • Enhance and Build multiple community partnerships
  • Impact of reconstruction: Students that completed the program in 2015: 211, Completed the program in 2016: 432. Completion rate improved from 70% to 98%, while increasing the number of students in the program.


  • making a bridge for students who decline the enrollment
  • limited number of seats in Fraction Academy
  • Leveraging opportunities for instructional rounds

Secondary Summer School Enhancements

  • Middle School Math – two course choices (both free).
  • High School Math will be significantly redesigned.
    • Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II
  • Free tuition for Algebra I students (.5 credit) for students who did not receive credit in Algebra IA or IB
  • Academic Youth Development
    • Course for incoming 9th graders in partnership with EMU and UofM. Designed for students entering Algebra I and/or Algebra I and Algebra IB.
  • Community Center Opportunities (dreambox learning)
    • Plan currently in place for: Hikone, Bryant, Peace Neighborhood, Green Baxter

Summer School English Redesign:

  • Students will be able to recover credit for any English course.
  • Develop personalized learning plan for each student
    • using six different performance assessments to create personalized learning plan

Summer Online Options

  • Self-paced learning options that adjust to students’ individual schedules
  • opportunities to accelerate and continue learning
  • tuition waiver is available if students have previously failed and demonstrate financial need


  • Ensuring students are recovering credit for graduation – onsite counselor for the first time in 2017
  • sometimes students aren’t able to participate in summer learning opprotunites
  • to ensure students are engaged in rigorous preparation for future success

Next Steps

  • High School Informational Meeting: June 14
  • Middle School Informational Meeting: June 13
  • On-site counselor
  • Monitor success into the year

Dickinson-Kelley notes they will be piloting some things during summer school that may make its way into regular learning opportunities.

Manley asks about the supplemental software elementary students will have access to. is usually made available to students during the summer, but it will now be made available to the students year-round.

Manley also asks about how students will get to EMU and UofM  – the district is providing transportation.

Gaynor is impressed by the range and breadth of programs provided. He asks about the Fraction Academy, wondering if it is age appropriate for students to focus on fractions in elementary school. Dickinson-Kelley says it is a skill that best indicates if students are going to have success in algebra and beyond in math. She says research shows that students are capable of understanding fractions in fourth grade.

 Gaynor also asks if there is a way to evaluate the district’s work. He wants to know how students are tracked who go through this program. He also wonders about the software used. Dickinson-Kelley replies that they monitor students into the next school year and beyond. The students’ progress is correlated by their first report card. She says there is significant data that shows that students retain and gain knowledge through their summer learning. The software is used for only a short amount of time each day, he is told.
Gaynor is assured that he can visit the program and they’ll show him around.
Mitchell asks what they did differently between 2015 and 2016 to attract more students and retain those students. They changed to full day programming and reduced the number of days. Families also had more flexibility to choose which dates to attend. Transportation is provided for students.
Dickinson-Kelley notes that they survey parents and students at the end of the summer in order to better improve the program in following years.
Mitchell also asks how teacher input impacts the personalized learning plans for students, noting the importance of the teacher. The district is able to pull all student data from student standardized test scores and the Lexile score.
Mitchell also asks about how tuition will be waived. She wonders how parents will apply for that. Tuition is automatically waived for any student who did not pass Algebra. For every other courses, if families have economic need (generally shown by free and reduced lunch status), they can get waived or reduced tuition.
Lightfoot asks about the possibility of tuition-based summer school for students who do not reside in the district. The district already does that at the high school level. Tuition: $250 a course for AAPS students, $300 for non-AAPS students. Online courses are slightly more expensive – $399 for a Michigan virtual course, $269 for an Ann Arbor Ingenuity course.
The district does not enroll students from outside of the district at the elementary level. Elementary and middle school enrollment is based on the recommendation of the students’ teachers. Dickinson-Kelley says they are limited by capacity. She supposes they could think about that, but she would like to support AAPS students first.
When coming up with the summer school English curriculum, they focus on what matters most in English:
  • Close Reading
  • Literary Analysis
  • Research/Inform/Explain
  • Argue/Persuade
  • Creative Writing
  • Speaking & Listening

Lightfoot asks about barriers they can move out of the way for students in the district. She asks them to keep capturing that information so they can do better.

Kelly asked about summer school for advancement. Dickinson-Kelley says not only can students recover credits, but they can accelerate and gain credits. Health and government are two courses students often choose to take during the summer in order to  have more flexibility in their scheduling during the school year.

Kelly asks how students and families find out about summer school programs. The district is actively recruiting students, she is told.

Baskett asks about the overall cost of the summer school program. It used to be a $1M budget line, but other items have been moved into that budget line item. Swift says they are blending together different funding buckets to pay for the program. She will need to get back to them with an exact number.

Are any summer academic enrichment opportunities offered at the primary education levels, Baskett asks. Swift recommends this students go into Rec and Ed programs, which are focused on stretching learners. Scholarships are available.

Baskett asks if they anticipate any challenges given the location at Skyline this year. Swift says they rotate the location, especially given the rehab that happens in schools over the summer. AAATA is going to maintain their school year routes during the summer months. the district will support students will bus passes. There will also be yellow school bus routes for students.

Baskett takes issue with some of the promotional material, saying it still sounds too academic. She calls out the title of the Academic Youth Development program, specifically. She asks how students are split between UofM and EMU. Families will be able to choose which university they would like to attend. Baskett would like some of the info to be clarified in the fliers for families.

Elementary and middle school teachers identify the students they recommend for the program. At the high school level, families can contact counselors if they are not sure if their student qualifies.

Kelly asks if the district puts out any summer recommendations for parents. Individual teachers make those recommendations, but Swift says she would love them to collect that information and make it available on the district website.

Mitchell asks how children ages 0-3 are identified for Early On summer programs. Dr. Elaine Brown, Executive Director Student Intervention & Support Services, says those students are paid through the General Fund. They are identified through evaluations through SISS.

Manley confirms that the Academic Youth Development is for students who have not completed a full year of Algebra I. In the fall, those students will take a full Algebra I course.

8:55 PM Trustees take a five minute break.

9:12 PM Stead resumes the meeting

STUDY SESSION ITEM: Public Act 306 – Third Grade Reading Bill

The documents the trustees have will be made available to the public via the website.

Swift says she is excited to talk about early literacy. It’s exciting to talk about intervention and supports for students. Why is it important to be reading by third grade? There is a connection between students’ third grade reading level and graduation rate.

Economically disadvantaged students who are not reading by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. Third grade reading proficiency is crucial for a student’s academic success through graduation.

Swift says this was their challenge and goal before Michigan legislators passed the legislation and it continues to be the district’s challenge and goal.

Swift thanks Norton and other legislators for their fight on this law. She knows the devastating effect of retention on students. AAPS will not be implementing retention as an approach. They will be using a “comprehensive approach.” Swift encourages other districts across the state to avoid the retention-promotion dichotomy. She notes that she has already implemented a version of this law when she was Assistant Superintendent for instruction, curriculum, and student services in Colorado Springs, CO.

Michigan is late to the table on third grade reading intervention, says Swift. When she sees the Michigan menu of interventions, she believes it was created from what schools were already doing. She does not believe that menu was refined to the interventions that are most effective. Sixteen states plus DC require the retention of students if they don’t pass third grade reading proficiency test. Of all the states that “require” retention, 12 will promote students if they participate in an intervention, are English Language Learners, or parental appeal.

Key Shifts Moving Forward

  • no longer in a wait-to-fail model. Beginning right away, when students come back to school in September, students will undergo universal screening to detect shifts in reading proficiency
  • intervention will be for any student who shows red flags in that screening, regardless of labelling
  • parents are invited in as partners in the work. Parents are engaged in family-whole literacy plan. Parents are provided with resources to help their students.

Michigan has not funded the endeavor very well. Swift says the district is going to pace their way through phases of change in order to do it well. If she has to go to Lansing to speak to folks to tell them why AAPS is doing things in a particular way, she “would be delighted.” The district is not going to “rush across the busy street.”

They will take the time they need, they will take a phased approach, and the administrative team will provide support for teachers.

Dickinson-Kelley walks through an Overview of Public Act 306 (House Bill 4822)

  • identification of K-3 students for targeted intervention
    • using a screening test
    • will not wait for students to fall behind before being identified as needing intervention
  • intensive intervention for K-3 students identified as below grade level
    • the intervention will be implemented during regular school hours, in addition to regular core reading instruction.
    • intervention must include a parent component for instruction at home.
  • ongoing professional development for teachers and administrators
  • retention, notification, and Good Cause Exemptions

Dickinson-Kelley says that despite the law’s reactive nature, they see it as an “opportunity to serve all students well.” They will systematically imbed the work into their practices.

Currently, intervention includes reading intervention (K-2), comprised of small group, supplemental guided reading and/or Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI). Identification is done through the NWEA, Fountas and Pinnell Literacy

What will change? They will focus on common reading units and strengthen core instructional activities to target: comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, and phonics.

The identification will be done through a Universal Screening within 30 days of the beginning of the school year

Intervention will be revised to:

  • implement LLI across the district
  • individual reading plans
  • consistent progress monitoring tools
  • targeted intervention for comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, and phonics.

If the district does this right, Dickinson-Kelley says, they will be on track for 80% of students to be at Tier I; 15% will need targeted intervention (Tier II), 5% of students will need intensive intervention (Tier III).

Initial screening will happen within the first 30 days of school. Early intervention (well before third grade) will occur to specifically address targeted needs. Parents will be partners with home literacy plans.

Challenges and Next Steps

  • Embedded, sustained, and incremental planning and implementation
  • Resources to support explicit interventions
  • Implementation planning with teacher leaders
  • Communication with and for parents

Swift acknowledges the realities of cost. The extra intervention will be impossible to achieve in a classroom. There will need to be extra individuals hired who can focus on this. Practices will need to be updated around this material, which means more professional development. Research based materials will need to be purchased, as well. “There is no joy in compliance. There is joy in seeing progress” in the students, says Swift. They are hoping for at-risk funds to help fund this endeavor.

Stead says she would like to take on the personal task of writing a case study to present to the State to look at the actual magnitude of costs to implement the legislation. She requests that they track the costs, not only for the case study for the State but for the county.

Kelly asks if they can provide the evidence that the NWEA is the appropriate tool for the Universal Screening. Dickinson-Kelley says they need to use more of the classroom and student reports that are available through the NWEA, that they are not using them as well as they should. She says NWEA is familiar, so they are using it. There are other approved assessments that the district is looking at.

What is the eligibility for getting the targeted intervention at the Tier II level? How does the screening impact a student’s ability of getting an IEP, asks Kelly. Given the screening and targeted intervention, Dickinson-Kelley says fewer students might perhaps need formal services through special education if they are able to improve reading proficiency early on.

Kelly is concerned with the potential negative impact of students who might not qualify for special education services if they receive the targeted reading intervention. She is worried that it might delay getting special education services. Dickinson-Kelley says they use a comprehensive battery of evaluations to determine need for services. Swift notes that she has found in the past that it smoothed the way to identification for students who need services because it eliminates some of the “noise.”

Kelly asks what the evidence will be to show that the curriculum that is chosen is the right one. She calls it a “future question,” to be answered once it

Kelly questions Swift’s use of the phrase “pacing” the implementation. Swift says they are making a fundamental shift on how they are attending to early literacy. They will not equivocate on students getting early targeted intervention. Kelly says this is their work. An unfunded mandate to work towards literacy is a mandate to do the work of the district.

Stead says of course this is their work. When they say they will not employ retention, it is because they will be doing all the work to not have to retain any third grader. It will need a lot of extra funding to do what it will take to get every student to be reading by the end of third grade.

Lightfoot thanks Stead for her ask for tracking the costs. AAPS can help chronicle the impact of the legislation to show Lansing what the actual cost of what they are asking schools to do.

Mitchell says it was intentional to not fund the mandate on the part of legislators. It was a surgical move to gut public education, to try to prove how public education does not work, to illustrate the narrative. She says she is willing to lend a hand in terms of advocacy. She wants to make sure students who transfer into the district after the 30 day threshold still go through the Universal Screening process. The district intends to make sure interventions are grade appropriate, continued all the way through fifth grade.

Gaynor agrees with Mitchell. He applauds Swift for standing up to the state for not retaining students, but says that he does not think it’s possible to get all students up to that level by third grade. Swift clarifies that they will continue to provide supports beyond the third grade year if students aren’t reading yet instead of retaining them.

Gaynor asks what the universal screening looks like. They are still working on the plan, but Swift equates it to vision and hearing screening. Gaynor says any online assessment though grade two would not give viable results.

He asks what students will be missing in the classroom since they cannot miss core reading instruction. Swift says it should occur in a time in a classroom when every student is getting what he or she needs.

Gaynor worries when they say “stretch to improve specific skills,” they are not thinking of how students are different. More and more schools are being defined as factories, and students are being defined as widgets, he says.

Manley asks for clarification on something Swift said earlier. Swift noted that in Colorado, the legislation was implemented on a rolling basis, starting in kindergarten. In Michigan, it is being implemented all at once, K-3.

Manley says anxiety and fear is “through the roof” for parents who are worried about their students being retained. While AAPS might say that they are not going to retain students, the state requires it. Swift clarifies that there are exemptions that they will be able to use.

10:44 PM Stead notes that they need to vote themselves another 30 minutes if needed to extend the meeting. She says that is not when they want to end, but they wouldn’t need to vote again if they needed to extend the meeting. The vote is unanimous.

Baskett wants it simple on the district website of what the district needs to do: Screen every child K-3 in the first 30 days, progress monitor twice during the year. If the child so needs, start the intervention process. At the end of the year, third graders would need to be retained if they didn’t have an exemption. Testing, instructional time, and money for expertise.

She asks if the WISD will be assisting AAPS in any way. Will WISD get any funding that AAPS won’t get? Swift says no one is coming to save them. Baskett asks if there is anything that prevent them from looking for private sources of funding.

Baskett says that AAPS didn’t teach her son how to read. She and her family financially came up with the money to get additional support outside of the school. He needed more instructional time, she says. Money can buy them expertise, but she’s not sure how it’s going to get instructional time. She’s struggling through this. She worries about the students who don’t have the financial means. Her fear is that a lot of students will be retained across the state of Michigan. She looks to parents to be advocates, as well. Because not only is the district committed to doing this, they are mandated to it.

Just to make Baskett even angrier, says Gaynor, there’s an article in the Detroit News today – there’s a plan in legislature to transfer money from the School Aid Fund to the General Fund.

Kelly says there is a plan here to replace for a child what doesn’t work with what does.


Kelly says she would like to hear from AAPAC, Ann Arbor Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education. She is assured that AAPAC has time available every regular board meeting to present during the association reports.

Baskett asks about a superintendent evaluation, which is already scheduled. Stead says the executive committee is taking up the items that came from the recent board retreat in early May.


Kelly congratulates the Scouts in the district who are receiving spring time awards.

Gaynor looks forward to participating in Portfolio Day at Scarlett.


2 thoughts on “Trustees Focus on Third Grade Reading, Summer Learning”

  1. I am appalled that the Superintendent and Board of Trustees are explicitly planning to directly flout both the new law about retaining students in 3rd grade if they aren’t reading at least at a 2nd grade level by spring of 3rd grade and the current laws about Special Education eligibility. The continuing AAPS practice of demanding that students fail significantly before testing them for Special Education eligibility, all the while calling whatever the untrained, frequently mis-informed general education teachers think they’re doing “Achievement Team” and “Response to Intervention” is profoundly unfair to kids of normal intelligence or above who have specific learning disabilities and executive function deficits.

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