District officials consider high school enhancements

Administrators, BOE considering enhancements for alternative and traditional AAPS high schools

District principals presented options for high school enhancement to the Board of Education at study session in the Pioneer Annex Dec. 18, 2013.
District principals presented options for high school enhancement to the Board of Education at study session in the Pioneer Annex Dec. 18, 2013.

Dec. 20, 2013

By Tara Cavanaugh 

AAPS administrators and the Board of Education are considering ways to enhance high school education in the district.

Administrators and high school principals shared ideas with the board at a Dec. 18 study session. They will share an action plan with the board regarding enhancements for alternative and traditional high school offerings at a meeting on Jan. 29, 2014.

“We need to shift our thinking to offer multiple pathways to the goal of graduation,” said AAPS Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Swift. “We will intentionally deepen our work to offer a full continuum of services to our students.”

The team that presented options for high school enhancements included all AAPS high school principals: Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel, Huron Principal Dr. Arthur Williams, Community Dean Jen Hein, Roberto Clemente Principal Dr. Ben Edmondson, A2 Tech Principal Tyrone Weeks, Pioneer Principal Cindy Leaman and facilitator Tamber Woodward.

Dr. Swift’s expectations for alternative and traditional high school enhancements are:

  • Connection – alternative offerings that engage, relate and connect students
  • Flexible Schedule – featuring morning, afternoon, evening and year-round scheduling
  • Flexible Learning Environment – face-to-face, online options and blended learning
  • Credit Recovery options so that students are able to make up credits
  • Career Connections – leading to a certificate, internship or program
  • Full Course Offerings – including language, art and physical education
  • Health Support – maintain RAHS (Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools) clinics on-site at A2 Tech and Scarlett
  • Teen Parent Supports – maintain parenting program and day care offerings
  • Food & Nutrition – 3 meals daily, food pantry and weekend backpack meals
  • Recapture Program  – to reconnect with students who have separated from school
  • GED Support
  • Graduation Coaching, Counseling and Mentoring
  • Individual Graduation Plan for every student

Options for High School Enhancement

Early College High Schools

Early college high schools partner with a two- or four-year higher education institution and students earn credits for both high school and college graduation.

These kind of high schools focus on students who are typically under-represented on college campuses, such as first generation college students, underperforming students, students whose families cannot afford college or minorities.

A successful example is Southfield Regional High School, said A2 Tech Principal Tyrone Weeks. The school was recognized by the state for being the best alternative high school in Michigan. It has a 79 percent graduation rate.

Blended Classes

Blended classes use online classes and resources with a facilitating teacher. They accommodate different rates of learning, provide opportunities to fill gaps and require that the student master the subject in order to advance.

Students in a single classroom could take different online courses with the help of a teacher. The teacher is also able to provide traditional classroom instruction.

The WISD WAY program, which stands for Widening Advancement for Youth, is an example of a blended class program. 

New Tech Programs

New Tech high schools use a project-based and integrated curriculum with a focus on technology.

Skyline Principal Cory McElmeel, who was formerly the principal of Ypsilanti New Tech High School, is familiar with opening tech high school programs.

Students work on long-term, 3-5 week projects and take in instruction that is relevant to their project. “Learning occurs by the facilitator applying instruction and that instruction being directly applied to the project,” McElmeel said.

Integrated classes such as geo-art combine geometry with art and design and are taught in classes of 50 with two teachers. Each teacher is specialized in one of the two subjects taught in the integrated class.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are small learning environments that allow students to study specific areas of interest, such as technology, science, math, or the performing arts. Magnets can be set up within schools (such as those found at Skyline) or they can be standalone schools.

Flexible Scheduling

A high school that uses flexible scheduling creates students’ schedules similar to college students’. Students have the option for block scheduling, an extended day, a late start or early start, and a traditional day schedule.

With flexible scheduling, students can take more than six courses, have opportunities for credit recovery, remediation and advanced classes. Students can also schedule classes to accommodate personal and family needs.

International Baccalaureate

International Baccalaureates (IB) are internationally recognized programs of study. The rigorous, global education is accepted for qualification into higher education institutions worldwide. Some universities give IB graduates sophomore status during their first year.

IBs comprise two programs: a middle years program for grades 6-10 and a diploma program for grades 11-12.

Next steps

“We see our high school programs as a continuum so that we are offering lots of different options and both attracting and keeping students because we have what they want,” Tamber Woodward said.

“What we want to offer is something for everyone in our district, and that includes our alternative schools. We want all of our schools to be destination schools.”

“Our school ARE destination schools,” said Board President Deb Mexicotte. “We always are at the forefront of not just the traditional awards our students win but new ones we don’t know exist yet. Bringing that energy to the board at this time is extraordinary, a long time coming. We are ready for this.”

District officials will present an action plan regarding high school enhancements at a Jan. 29, 2014 meeting. Stay tuned to the AAPS News.

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1 Comment

  1. What I don’t see here is any commitment to vocational education. Not everyone wants to/can attend a four-year college. By forcing high school students to take college-prep courses, we are failing to educate future plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, food service and child care workers, etc.

    Apparently the district currently has a handful of vocational options, but this information is incredibly difficult to find; it’s not on the website, and when asked, most teachers, SSS staff, and guidance counselors do not even know about the existence of these programs!

    Meanwhile, vocationally-bound students who want a diploma must take classes along side those kids bound for Harvard. Teachers teach to the highest performers and to the college-prep tests, and the other kids suffer mightily. They feel lost and don’t learn.

    Ann Arbor public schools can and should do better for ALL our students!

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