Ann Arbor, U-M eye partnership for campus at Mitchell and Scarlett

UPDATE: Parent information meeting to discuss the proposed Mitchell/Scarlett/UM Partnership begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18. A spaghetti dinner that was originally scheduled with this event has been postponed to allow more time for discussion about the project.

UPDATE: DEC. 8, 2010 from AAPS Board of Education meeting – Planning for a proposed Ann Arbor Public Schools K-8 campus on the east side will move ahead, but a balanced school year calendar will not be implemented in 2011-12.

AAPS and U-M partnership team
Several team members who have done preliminary planning for the Ann Arbor Public Schools and University of Michigan partnership at Mitchell Elementary and Scarlett Middle schools (from left): Ed Broom Jr., Kathy Scarnecchia and Gerald Vazquez of AAPS and Cathy Reischl of the U-M School of Education. The full team will present its findings to the Board of Education on Dec. 8

RELATED STORY: Mitchell Mighty Mustangs program incorporates U-M interns

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

Plans are being explored to create a K-8 campus between Mitchell Elementary School and Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor through a partnership between the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the University of Michigan School of Education.

Mitchell Elementary School entry
Mitchell Elementary School is being considered as part of the K-8 Ann Arbor campus.

A balanced school year calendar is being considered that could include a shorter summer break and “inter-session” breaks for academic enrichment or vacations at intervals throughout the year.

Parent information forums on the topic are scheduled for the evenings of Nov. 10 and Nov. 18 for those with children at Mitchell and Scarlett, as well as other elementary feeder schools including Allen, Pittsfield and Carpenter. Parents may attend a forum at either school:

  • 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.
  • 6- 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18, Mitchell Elementary School, 3550 Pittsview Drive (A spaghetti fundraising dinner is also scheduled here on this night.)

Scarlett and Mitchell schools are located west of Carpenter Road, south of Packard in Pittsfield Township. (Enter south off of Packard at the traffic signal at Fernwood Avenue to reach both schools.)

Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez said the forums are expected to offer basic information on the partnership and encourage discussion in small groups to generate ideas and raise pertinent questions. “We want parents to know that we are working on this as a process and we want them involved in the process,” he said.

Those working on the partnership say it would allow staffs from Ann Arbor and U-M to collaborate through innovative programs that serve students and families, as well as nurture the professional growth of new and experienced teachers.

Although the program has been generically referred to as a “lab school,” organizers have not yet determined a permanent name for the proposed new, combined campus.

The campus is being envisioned as a gathering place for families and as an incubator of new ideas and approaches enhancing teacher learning and teaching practices. Being discussed are different ways of organizing time to effectively support teaching and learning.  This includes the possibility of expanding or reorganizing the school year, or making adjustments to the school day.   One option being considered includes strategically placed “inter-sessions” throughout the school year that would provide targeted, academic support or enrichment opportunities for students and families.

“The lab school will be a place where teacher candidates, experienced teachers, administrators, and university faculty will work together to support student achievement,” said Catherine Reischl, clinical associate professor of education for U-M who is on the project’s organizing committee. “ We see this as a huge opportunity to play an integral role in our community.”

Vazquez said Scarlett and its feeder schools represent a unique opportunity for the program because of its diverse populations. “This quadrant of the city is different. It has different needs,” he said, adding that the K-8 approach to professional development will offer more continuity for students and support their academic achievement.

Mitchell Principal Kathy Scarnecchia said teacher collaboration at different levels would be “inspiring for professionals. This raises the bar for everyone,” she said.

Schools with balanced calendars are not new. At Holt Public Schools near Lansing, Dave Hornak is principal at Horizon Elementary School, where grades K-4 attend school on a balanced school year calendar and have done so for 17 years. In Holt, students typically attend school for 30 days – about six weeks – then are on a break. Hornak said students have a six-week summer break, ending in mid to late June and starting a new year in early August.

He said the balanced calendar helps students maintain their learning. “We are not re-teaching in August and September to get ready for MEAP tests,” he said. “We don’t have that summer slide (of knowledge.)”

Hornak said the school has more breaks than other schools in the district, but when they can they plan their “Inter-sessions” around traditional breaks.

He said new families coming to the school get acclimated to the calendar pretty quickly. “Parents seem to be right on board,” he said. Often, middle school students come by in August and offer to help. “They say ‘I’m bored, can I help?’” he said. “They’re ready to go back to school.”

Hornak estimates there are only about 20 schools around the state using the extended, balanced calendar. Jackson Public Schools is preparing to start an elementary program in 2011 and Grass Lake Community Schools is exploring the idea.

He said the K-8 campus concept being considered in Ann Arbor is unique, as is the district’s partnership with U-M.

This is the third major academic initiative developed between the Ann Arbor district and the U-M School of Education. The Summer Learning Institute brings U-M education students into Ann Arbor classrooms to teach each summer. The Ann Arbor Languages Partnership, a world language program launched in 2009, serves third- and fourth-graders and will expand to serve fifth-graders in 2011-12. In addition, teaching interns work with experienced teachers throughout the district.

A committee of stakeholders from both the Ann Arbor Public Schools and U-M School of Education has been working on preliminary plans over the past few months. During this school year, planning teams comprised of UM faculty, AAPS administrators, teachers, and parents, will set goals, draft program structures and calendars and build a timeline to launch the program for the 2011-12 school year. Also this year, pilot efforts are planned, including an after-school math enrichment currently underway at Mitchell; embedded teacher education that will provide extra support for sixth grade math students this winter; and professional development for elementary teachers in the area of literacy instruction for English Language Learners.

The partnership idea came from discussions last spring between former Ann Arbor Superintendent Todd Roberts and Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball of the

University of Michigan School of Education. Two Ann Arbor Board of Education committees have reviewed preliminary information about the program and a proposal is scheduled to be taken to the full board for consideration on Dec. 8.

Speaking at a community event this fall honoring Roberts, Ball said the university and school district partnerships that developed under Roberts’ watch are “unheard of elsewhere.” She said the university staff is excited about the lab school concept and called it a “model program that is a true partnership.”


Informational Meetings

Forums for the parents from Mitchell, Scarlett and the feeder elementary schools of Allen, Pittsfield and Carpenter interested in finding out more about the program are scheduled for:

  • 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at Scarlett Middle School, 3300 Lorraine St.
  • 6 – 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 at Mitchell Elementary School, 3550 Pittsview Drive (A spaghetti fundraising dinner is also scheduled on this night.)

Scarlett and Mitchell schools are located west of Carpenter Road, south of Packard in Pittsfield Township.

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