By Andrew Cluley
Last summer students at Scarlett Middle School explored area businesses to learn more about making a living while at the same time improving their English. It’s just one of the programs developed through the Mitchell Scarlett Teaching and Learning Collaborative between Ann Arbor Public Schools, the University of Michigan School of Education, and Community Action Network.
The five-year-old partnership uses extended day and extended learning opportunities, teacher education, and school-wide initiatives. The school improvement effort is targeting an elementary school where 75 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunches and Ann Arbor’s middle school most impacted by poverty.
These schools are now also making the transition to International Baccalaureate programs, but that doesn’t mean the partnership with the University of Michigan is ending. In fact, Mitchell Elementary Principal Kevin Karr believes the development of an IB program is only making the partnership more robust and focused. He thinks developing the IB curriculum supports teacher education efforts. “I see that happening with development of units of inquiry, which are part of IB curriculum, and very similar to what teacher education students need to provide for their coursework,” Karr says.
Officials at the University of Michigan agree. Clinical Assistant Professor of Education Debi Khasnabis says there are definitely connections between IB curriculum and what the School of Education already expects from students. She says it aligns nicely with things they teach interns to do. “The way that IB goes about unit design is a very similar setup to what we teach our interns. It’s oriented to thinking about student outcomes, to assessment data, to aligning assessment, and instruction, and learning goals very carefully. It’s oriented to global context, to diversity. The IB core values really align with what we’re doing already,” Khasnabis says.
University of Michigan officials are side by side with the Ann Arbor Public Schools team during discussions about creating IB programing and sit on all of the IB committees.
The partnership already gives the university a chance to better integrate course work and fieldwork than most teacher education programs because professors know the schools well. Khasnabis believes adding the IB component into a diverse school setting will prepare student teachers for a career in education. “IB is highly regarded across the world so having experience both in a diverse setting and with this very strong curriculum is something that employers everywhere are looking for so our students will have a very strong set of initial experiences,” she says.
As the partnership moves forward the goal is to maintain existing projects with revisions made to support IB and continue developing new efforts that fit with the IB curriculum while offering students an enriched learning environment.
Karr says this means continuing what’s working at Scarlett and Mitchell.
“It’s all about trying to figure out how do we give kids experiences that are going to support their learning going forward. The other exciting part about it is the making connections to families, and that’s been part of our most recent work” He says.
The success of the collaborative is getting attention and Board of Education trustee Andy Thomas wants more kids to benefit.
“I’m excited and enthusiastic about what’s going on at Scarlett and Mitchell. I hope our entire community can learn about this, really leveraging Ann Arbor Public Schools and the greatest resource in the community, the University of Michigan, to benefit our students,” Thomas says.
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