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SAT Scores Cause Concern; Trustees Pass Resolutions Opposing Legislation

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education regular meeting (October 25, 2017): Allen Elementary School, 2560 Towner Blvd.

The evening begins with the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) Board of Education (BOE) trustees celebrating the Allen Elementary Building Re-Dedication at 5:30 PM. After a broken water main flooded the school in August 2016, the building has been renovated and refurbished. The public is invited to the dedication ceremony.

The regular board meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

The Annual SAT Achievement Report will be presented as an information item.

One generic first briefing item is listed on the agenda.

Second briefings include the 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase Recommendation and the Bulk Salt Purchase Recommendation. The total for the bulk salt purchase will be approximately $50,751 and will be funded through the General Fund. Funding for the $184,6894 cost of the reading materials will be provided from the 31A At-Risk Grant Fund and the General Fund.

Voting will be on the 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase and the Bulk Salt Purchase.

Board action will be taken on the approval of a Recreation Advisory Commission Recommendation for Membership and the approval of the Superintendent Evaluation Timeline. The trustees approved the superintendent evaluation tool at the last meeting. Tonight they will approve the timeline.

Items from the Board include two resolutions to review. The first is to review a Resolution to Oppose the Approval of Michigan SB 574 (Enhanced Millage Funding). The second is to review a Resolution to Oppose Legislation to allow Guns in Schools, including Michigan SB 584, SB 586, HB 4876.


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

Trustee Harmony Mitchell  will call in via phone. Her children are sick, so she is at home with them.

7:21 PM President Stead calls Trustee Mitchell on the phone. Stead calls the meeting to order.

Stead recognizes those in attendance who were here to celebrate the dedication of Allen Elementary. Prior to tonight’s meeting, there was a celebration and tour at Allen.

AGENDA APPROVAL

Stead asks to move up the approval of the Recreation Advisory Commission Recommendation for Membership, as two students are being recommended for the commission. She asks that they move it up to before public commentary.

The agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION: Recreation Advisory Commission Recommendation for Membership

Jenna Bacolor, Executive Director Community Services & School Wellness, begins by thanking Patricia Manley for her service on the Recreation Advisory Commission (RAC). The RAC has six members appointed by the school board, six members appointed by Ann Arbor City Council. Bacolor brings forward the recommendation of two student candidates to the commission: Nathan Lee, junior at Huron High School, and Santana Malnaik, Skyline High School sophomore.

Both candidates have been involved in Rec & Ed sports and summer camps, most recently serving as high school volunteers in the summer camp program. If confirmed by the Board, Lee and Malnaik will join RAC as full voting members at the December RAC meeting.

Lightfoot asks the students if there is room in their schedule, to which both students say they have cleared their schedules.

Baskett asks how long the appointment is for. Bacolor says the appointments are for three years, and typically, students serve out the rest of their term until they graduate. Students have been on the commission before.

The recommendation is unanimously approved.

PUBLIC COMMENTARY

Chandani Wiersba, UofM senior, speaks on behalf of CivCity. She is working on a research paper which looks at the level of diversity in councils of elected officials. She is looking to gather age range, gender, SES status, education level. She will also ask about how the trustees feel about the level of diversity in their elected board.

She will be comparing local and national levels in her report. Hoping the report will ignite discussion on diversity.

Kathy Griswold: One year ago today that we lost a student crossing near Huron High School in a crosswalk that was unlit. There has been progress made, but there are still unlit crosswalks. She acknowledges that AAPS has been working more closely with the city of Ann Arbor. Parent groups have stepped up. Safe Routes to school grant. A2STEAM has received a grant for over $200,000. Safe Kids Worldwide – grant for $30,000.

It is key that we have leadership for the transportation committee that has strong content knowledge: pedestrian safety, bicyclist safety, she asserts. We need someone with expertise.

Gaynor recognizes and applauds the work Civcity does to foster education and engagement. Gaynor says he is currently a member of the Transportation Safety committee. He is pleased that they meet twice a month.

ASSOCIATION REPORTS: None

PRESIDENT’S REPORT 

Stead thanks Gaynor for the work he did to work on the resolutions they will discuss later in the evening. Part of the work the Board does is advocacy, and one of the ways they can do that work is by passing resolutions.

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT

Superintendent Jeanice Swift extends her gratitude to teachers, parents, and students for successful parent conference evenings.

Swift reminds the public to be mindful and aware of pedestrians and bicyclists. Student safety is their top priority, she says. They are working with the Transportation Safety committee on sidewalks, signage, lighting, and other areas.

AAPS received a 2017-18 Erg Ed Grant, which provides the district’s middle and high schools with Erg rowing equipment. AAPS is the fifth district in the country to be awarded this grant. From the Erg Ed website: Erg Ed brings equipment (indoor rowing machines – ergs), technology, curriculum, and training to middle and high school physical education classes so that teachers and students can access rowing without ever leaving the classroom. Through Erg Ed, students learn basic rowing skills, exercise intensity, goal setting, and teamwork in a fun, highly engaging 5-day core curriculum.

Swift highlights other teacher and student accomplishments, as well as events around the district.

During her Superintendent Report, Swift will begin giving highlights from the different advisory committees. This report, she focuses on the Teacher Evaluation Advisory – third year of this advisory team to work together. There are 19 members in the advisory group. This year, several teachers will go through advanced training on the Danielson model, which the district uses.

Swift encourages voters to educate themselves on the upcoming Special Education Millage Renewal vote that is happening on November 7. She finishes her Millage Information Tour tomorrow night.

Mitchell thanks everyone who is working on the Transportation Safety Committee. She extends her thoughts to the Community High School community on this first year anniversary of Justin Tang’s death.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Planning: Manley notes they will be meeting in the near future.

Performance: Lightfoot notes that their whole conversation centered around SAT results. She reminds parents that some of the things they learned about the SAT is that 9th and 10th grade students should get practice. They are continuing to improve opportunities for students to take pre-tests. They welcome ideas for getting more practice opportunities.

Finance Sub-Committe: Next meeting is November 1.

Governance: Has not met since the last regular meeting. Next scheduled meeting: November 17.

INFORMATION ITEM: 2017 Achievement Report: Annual Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT)

  • All Michigan 11th grade students are tested.
  • Administered April 2017.
  • Required by State of Michigan for Accountability
  • Michigan is one of three states that test 100% of 11th grade students

Swift speaks on what she sees as the advantages of the SAT:

  • National assessment
  • used as a college readiness assessment

Community, Skyline, Pioneer, and Huron High Schools showed improvement in overall scores. They do not publicly publish the data from Pathways to Success Campus, as there are fewer than 30 students who take the test.

AAPS 2017 mean: 1192.9, state 2017 mean:

Indicator of need for additional work: economically disadvantaged students, African American students. Not enough gains made from

Student Gender Comparison: Both AAPS females and males made gains from 2016 to 2017.

Swift also walks through a comparison of AAPS to other districts in Washtenaw County and other comparative districts in Michigan. AAPS comes out on top.

AAPS National Comparison: Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, CO and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Chapel Hill, NC

AAPS: 1192; Boulder: 1141; Chapel Hill: 1185

After looking at the mean scores, Swift focuses on Reading & Writing. This year: African American, Hispanic, Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learner, and Special Education students are closer to the state level than AAPS would want.

Mathematics: slight decreases with African American, Hispanic students. There are disparities and “work to do in those areas,” notes Swift.

SAT: College Readiness Index Score

What is College Readiness?

  • Student earns score within the Meet/Exceed Range:
    • Evidence Based Reading & Writing: 480-800
    • Mathematics: 530-800
  • Student has 75% chance of earning a C or better

AAPS: 70.1% of students demonstrate college readiness according to the metric.

Subgroups: African American students, Hispanic, Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and Special Education students score lower using the College Readiness metric.

Lightfoot wants to know what plan is going to be put into place, why there was a drop within the district’s specific demographics. She says she would like to have a conversation Swift notes that students take the PSAT in 9th and 10th grades. She wants to be in the room as the administration comes up with their action plan.

Gaynor cautions comparing the rankings between 2016 and 2017 rankings, as it appears the top 20 ranking scores have all increased. He wants to know the reason why Pathways scores are not published. Swift again reiterates that because the school population at Pathways is so small, they do not break out the scores as an individual school.

Manley echoes Lightfoot’s concern, saying she has seen the same groups with low scores over the past several years. She is anxious to hear what the plan will be. She wants to see improvement in the groups they continually see the low scores.

Kelly asks if they can determine which students are doing preparation in addition to what is being offered by the schools. Is there a way to even out that playing field, she asks.

Community partners, such as Peace Neighborhood, offer test prep. Kahn Academy prep is available online free of charge to all students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The challenge is to develop an action plan to getting the preparation to the right students.

Baskett is “in a panic.” No matter which test the students take, “there is that certain group that is there.” She says that while they do all they can, they can’t do this alone. She also brings up issues of equity and accessibility.

Baskett suggests that Swift does another Listen and Learn tour for students. She thinks they need to do a crisis analysis. In 2017, 24.7% of African American students meet the College Readiness criteria. That means 75% of African American students are not college ready. As a community, we need to solve this, Baskett says. “This is a crisis, and it’s just getting old.” She suggests talking to some of the parent associations to make it more of a community effort.

Stead appreciates the conversation and says she believes everyone shares the concern. When they see data like this, it is “a surprising trend,” given M-STEP data. She wants to look at PSAT results to begin preventative work. Stead touts Kahn Academy as a great resource. Students get told about it in their classrooms, parents get told about it at the school events. She suggests getting students more serious about it earlier on, beginning with the PSAT.

Lightfoot asks about the timeframe of any plan that would be enacted, given the test is taken in April of every year. Swift says their sense of urgency is focused. Lightfoot wants to expedite whatever they need from them at the Board level. She wants to work outside the box by enlisting students for their input.

Gaynor says this discrepancy has been there for the 40 years he has been in education. Achievement scores can be correlated with family education and wealth. They need to look at every possible factor. They need to have courageous conversations about race, about class. He worries about a greater focus on grades, testing. The system, he says, is exacerbating the feelings of acceptance, feelings of worthwhileness. They need to look at more than just data as they look at students.

Kelly asks if the students who are not College Ready by this measure feel as if they are college ready before they take this exam. Maybe this is just a short way of seeing that they need to talk to students before and after taking the test to see if their attitudes are reflected in the test taking.

Baskett stresses that if a student doesn’t get a score that indicates they are college ready, it does not mean that they cannot be successful in college. The SAT scores, however, are the canary in the coal mine. It’s an indication that they need to get more of their students ready for college.

Kelly is reminded of some of the innovative programs Jazz Parks, Executive Director Middle Level Education, brought to them. She specifically is reminded of the growth mindset, etc. She thinks they are asking the right questions.

Manley says this makes her think of the importance of the focus on 3rd grade reading. Some of these students in 11th grade don’t do well because they are still struggling with reading comprehension. While those students in the future will be helped, she wonders how they are helping the students right now.

Stead mentions the book called Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance. She speaks to a study that is referenced in the book, saying having high expectations of students and communicating those expectations can be key.

FIRST BRIEFING ITEM: None

SECOND BRIEFING ITEMS: 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase, Bulk Salt Purchase

No changes are made to either second briefing item. There is no discussion.

CONSENT AGENDA

  • 3rd Grade Reading Materials Purchase
  • Bulk Salt Purchase
  • Approval of Meeting Minutes

The consent agenda is unanimously approved.

BOARD ACTION: Approval of Superintendent Evaluation Timeline

Stead notes that this is the third time the Board will have been talking about the superintendent evaluation. There are two timelines the board is considering: either a calendar year option (Jan-Dec) or an academic year option (July-June).

Baskett prepared a document that walks through the difference between the timeline options and how that would look on the actual calendar, what the possible implications would be. She highly recommends having an informal review of Swift in December of 2017 and continuing the one-on-one conversations each trustee has with Swift.

Baskett walks through some of the considerations when looking at the timeframe. The Board has already approved the tool, and if they decided to go with an academic year timeframe, it looks as if they are retrofitting the tool.

Mitchell expresses concern that since they have started the academic year, they would already be behind. Baskett says that if they said they wanted to do the 2017 academic year, they would have to go back to July 2017 to use the tool they approved in October.

Manley brings up the fact that they all have to be trained. By the time they get themselves trained, it will most likely be January.

Stead reminds the trustees that they’ve been meeting with Swift all along. They had a board retreat in August to set the goals of the Board. They wouldn’t change district goals based on a superintendent eval tool they are mandated to use from the State. They will continue to ask the Superintendent to conduct the climate survey, as well as the 360 Evaluation survey.

Stead hopes they pick a timeline to evaluate the superintendent that aligns with her work, that when they are evaluating her, that it aligns with her job.

Kelly says she can’t find anything that mandates they must have training before they begin the evaluation. She argues that maybe there is a compelling reason for them to do the training closer to the time when they get the binder of information from Swift regarding evaluation.

Baskett says that they should be trained. It’s best practice to know the tool they are evaluating someone on. The tool may be helpful as they address issues along the way, especially as they get to the “binder stage.”

While they did get together in August to identify Board goals, Baskett wonders questions how public they made those goals. She affirms they will not change district goals based on an evaluation tool.

Gaynor references the problems that occurred when teachers were given an evaluation tool with little preparation. He says he would like to have more preparation with the superintendent eval tool.

Baskett moves that they evaluate the superintendent using the calendar year timeframe, beginning in January 2018 and ending December 2018.

Stead says she will be voting against the motion, saying she believes the calendar year is “as opposite from what Swift does.” Swift works all year round, but students come to school every September. What they do that year is the board’s and the district’s work. The end of the academic year is always a busy time. A calendar timeframe does not align with the work Swift does at all.

According to the particular eval tool they are using, Manley wonders if they would have missed something because they will be using the tool retroactively, beginning from July 2017. Either way, they will have the 360 Evaluation, they will have the binder of information. They can always end up changing which timeframe they vote on, if they find the one they vote on tonight doesn’t work on this.

Lightfoot says this conversation is in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. They will need to make adjustments, as things come from the Federal and State level. She would love for them to save this time and energy for the changes they will need to make that are outside of their purview from the Federal and State levels. The timing of the superintendent evaluation does not need to change.

Kelly says that once they are in a rhythm, they will collect everything. She is concerned that they won’t have another formal evaluation until December 2018 if they adopt the calendar timeframe.

Mitchell doesn’t want to miss collecting any information. She is concerned about a new board member coming in and not being able to fully participate in a

Motion for Calendar Year Timeline:

Baskett: yes, Gaynor: yes, Kelly: no, Lightfoot: no, Manley: tries to abstain, no; Mitchell: yes; Stead: no

Motion fails

Motion to adopt an evaluation that begins July 2017:

Baskett: no; Gaynor: no; Kelly: yes, Manley: no; Lightfoot: yes; Stead: yes; Mitchell: no

Motion fails

Stead recommends they move forward with the next steps, as they are at an impasse.

Manley says that if they go with the calendar year, there wouldn’t be a formal evaluation of the superintendent until December 2018.

Baskett recommends that, as Stead suggests, they go through the training. As they become more familiar with the tool, it would help them determine the timeline.

Stead says they have been evaluating the superintendent all along. They continue to do the work they have always been doing. Each trustee meets with Swift about once a week in one-on-one discussions. There are always opportunities to talk about priorities and issues. They will still conduct an informal review in December, as they always do.

AGENDA PLANNING

Stead reaffirms their desire for a plan of action for improvement on the SAT for some of the district’s sub-groups.

Gaynor appreciates Swift’s comments on the Teacher Evaluation Advisory group. He expresses the amount of overwhelm and the amount of time it is taking teachers to input all the data. He did not hear Swift mention that particular issue, and he would appreciate it being a known factor. Swift says that in her observation of the advisory group, that has been fundamental in every single conversation. All of their work has been focused on that endeavor, she says.

Kelly asks if there is a possibility of getting a report on the number of students who are identified to need additional reading and literacy support. Swift expects the timeline to be in January.

ITEMS FROM THE BOARD: Resolutions

RESOLUTION: Resolution to Oppose the Approval of Michigan SB 574 (Enhanced Millage Funding)

Stead asks Gaynor to read the resolution and put it forward as a motion to approve it, as he did most of the work on it. The bill would divert funding from county enhancement millages from traditional public schools to charter schools.

AAPS opposes SB 574 and any similar bill that transfers money away from traditional public schools that are held accountable to the public for their policies.

Swift offers a friendly suggestion to add the Presidents of MASA and the MEA to the list of people to received copies of this resolution.

Kelly asks that if it makes sense to add to the title “and any companion bills,” as the Senate has already acted on the bill.

The resolution is unanimously approved.

Resolution to Oppose Legislation to allow Guns in Schools, including Michigan SB 584, SB 586, HB 4876

Stead makes a motion to approve the resolution. She reads it aloud.

Baskett thanks Gaynor and Stead for their work. She points out the irony that no student can bring in a toy gun or knife into their buildings. They add in a “whereas” that acknowledges the fact that students and staff are prohibited from possessing weapons, real or not, on school property.

Lightfoot thinks the third and the sixth “whereas” could be combined. Stead says they could delete the sixth one, as it is a bit repetitive. They do some wordsmithing.

The resolution is unanimously passed. 

Stead echoes Swift’s emphasis on the Special Education Renewal Millage. She encourages folks to vote. It is not an increase, but keeps funding in place.

10:29 PM MEETING IS ADJOURNED.

3 thoughts on “SAT Scores Cause Concern; Trustees Pass Resolutions Opposing Legislation”

  1. We are also expecting to consider two resolutions regarding action in the state legislature. One opposes a bill that would require money from enhanced millages to be shared with charter and virtual schools, and one that opposes bills that would allow guns in schools.
    – Jeff Gaynor / AAPS Board of Education Trustee

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