Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ten Thoughts for the Last Two Weeks Before School Starts

1. M-Live has an article, that says there may be a tentative agreement between the teachers and the Ann Arbor school district. I have no idea if it is true, but here is the article (along with a document that looks authentic). If you haven't already read it, take a look, and see what you think.

One thing is for sure--even if there is a contract that ends up being like the tentative agreement referenced above, I think it's going to take a bit more to mend fences between the teachers and the administration.

2. Apparently, a lot of people were unaware that Powerschool is owned by Pearson Systems. Yup. Pearson has been in our district with Powerschool since 2007 (and many, many others too)--and probably earlier with textbooks. The alternatives to Powerschool are also owned by big corporations. I guess the question is (and I don't know)--what kind of data does Pearson get to use and keep about us and our children? What kind of safeguards are there? (And starting this year, I believe grading will also be done in Powerschool.) Powerschool is a *huge* convenience--but based on my facebook feed this afternoon, parents need to be convinced that our data is safe.

3. Riding my bike past the "Pathways Campus" today, I decided I like that name, much much better than the old A2Tech name. It implies that there are multiple ways of getting to the same destination.

4. Please--as you turn your thoughts toward the school year--take my survey and offer some meaningful critiques of the Ann Arbor district's new web site. It's my impression that a lot of stuff that was on the old web site is not on the new web site, but I don't know if that's true, that is really based on some cursory searches that I have done. What do you like and what don't you like? Take the survey!

5. Want to be a guest blogger? Let me know.

6. Back to School Helpline: From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. you can call 734-660-9911

Now that helpline is truly a great idea--I have often gotten panicked questions from parents in the last few days before school. I hope it works well (in other words, I hope that they have the staffing to handle the call volume). I also hope that the people answering the phones have the correct answers at their fingertips.
At the end of Rick's Run, 2014.
I got my son to come with me! Thanks Joel!

7. Let's talk about Rick's Run! It's a fundraiser for Ann Arbor Rec & Ed scholarships, in memory of Rick DeKeon, a favorite PE teacher at Northside Elementary who was also active with Rec & Ed. I ran last year (the inaugural run) and it was at Pioneer, and it was freezing cold. OK, actually, I half ran and half walked, and it really doesn't matter, you can run or walk. It's a little bit earlier this year so it should be a little warmer (October 24th) and I'm signing up! Join me? (Maybe I should form a team...the blogspots?) You can register as a family or an individual right here, and tomorrow (Monday! August 24th) is the last day for a discount. Who's with me?!

[I went searching for the piece I wrote about Rick DeKeon and the Northside naming of the gym in his honor, and now there is a new gym being built over at Northside--so I'm wondering if the new gym will also be named after him.]

8. There is a really interesting lawsuit coming out of New York about how standardized testing can (or can't)--certainly shouldn't!--be used to evaluate teachers.

New York: Controversial teacher evaluation method is on trial--literally--and the judge is not amused

and a Slate piece on why this is a big deal.

9. Also in New York, where about 20% of students opted out of standardized tests, the New York Times reports that school districts will not lose money.

10. John Oliver takes on standardized testing!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Comments, Please: Ann Arbor Schools New Website Debuts

It's starting--those back to school emails...those slightly shorter evenings...

Earlier this summer, the Ann Arbor schools took a big leap, and switched over to a new website. It looks different. It feels different. It's now a very manageable link:

In fact--the second part of staff emails used to be, and now it's the simple:

So, that's the good news.

School websites now have a more consistent look. And they seem to be named as: then a number OR by name (but you might have to guess at the school name--for instance, it's /aaopen and not /a2open for Ann Arbor Open).

You may have had the experience of clicking on an old link (perhaps you had bookmarked, or found via google) and that may have taken you to the main page for the Ann Arbor schools, or you may have gotten this:

To which I say: patience, grasshopper! At least this is a friendly message, and gives you a link for help.

You might be thinking that you really like some things about this web site... and/or that you are confused by other things... and/or that something from the old web site is missing that you think belongs on the web site.

You might have opinions, and knowledge, about the general web site or a specific school web site. Please, take this as your opportunity to provide comments to the school district.

Either...fill out the form below (as many times as you want, for different schools/pages) OR email John Stahly, the webmaster, directly. Email: stahlyj

Your comments can be general (for instance, "I really like the fact that the staff directory search seems to work better now") or specific ("I like that there is a new FOIA page but I can't tell if the FOIA procedures are still in draft form--which is what it states--or is now finalized"). There is an option to point out broken links.

This is a big web site! There is lots and lots of information on it. Try to be helpful, even if you have a specific critique. I will share all of these with the staff, but if you want a reply to a specific concern, it is probably best to email your concern.

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