Monday, January 7, 2013

Choosing Schools (The 2013 Edition)

Ann Arbor Public School Choices

In Ann Arbor, in response to some of the new county-wide options, the Magnet and School of Choice timelines have been moved up, relative to last year, and there are a few additional changes.

Elementary and Middle School

Ann Arbor Open: If you want to apply to this K-8 school, then you are encouraged to come to the Open House and you must do either an Orientation and/or a Tour. (Depending on how you choose to do this, there are different instructions on the web site. Find the application information here.)  Here are the dates for the Open Houses and Orientations:
Sunday, January 13, 2-4, Open House
Wednesday, January 16, 6:30-8 p.m., Parent Orientation
Sunday, February 3, 1-2:30 p.m., Parent Orientation

According to Liz Margolis, AAPS Director of Communications, whether there will be any in-district transfers offered for other AAPS elementary or middle school will be determined in the next few weeks. (In past years, there have been limited spaces at about half of the elementary schools and one or two of the middle schools.) 

High School

Community High School: If you want to apply to this school, located in downtown Ann Arbor and open to students throughout the Ann Arbor school district, a parent/guardian and a student must attend one of these orientations:
  • Tuesday, January 8, 2013,  7:00-8:30 PM        
  • Sunday, January 13,  2013, 2:00-3:30 PM                
  • Thursday, January 31, 2013,  7:00-8:30 PM 
  • Monday, February 4, 2013, 7:00-8:30 PM
  • Thursday, February 7, 2013, 7:00-8:30 PM               
Applications are due Friday, February 8th, by 4 p.m. at the CHS main office. Applications are available here.

Skyline High School: Curriculum night is January 23d, with tours beginning at 5 p.m. and curriculum presentations at 6:30 p.m. There are 100 slots available to incoming ninth-grade students from other parts of the Ann Arbor school district. Applications are due by February 8th at 4 p.m. Getting into Skyline does not mean that you will get into the magnet program of your choice (that happens in 10th grade). Find out more and get applications here. [The link to "Open Enrollment," found at the very bottom of the Skyline home page, appears to be broken. When it is fixed I will add it.] I think you can access the application form from the front page here. Don't click the "enrollment" link unless you want to know about general enrollment into the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Have questions? Contact Tanishia Peterson at

Pioneer High School and Huron High School have 25 spaces each available for students who live in  other parts of the Ann Arbor school district. Unfortunately they are only available to incoming ninth grade students. Parents are responsible for transportation. Applications are due by February 7th. Read about the application process, and download the applications, here. According to Liz Margolis, AAPS Director of Communications, there are no special information sessions scheduled. She said that the high schools have set up information sessions at the middle schools, and that's it. [Note the difference between this and the other schools? There is no systematized opportunity for parents to get information. They really don't get it.]

Other (non-Ann Arbor) School Options 

In addition to the possibilities listed below, most of the other school districts have school of choice programs. Look at the individual district web sites for more information.

You'll notice that for the first time I am including a couple of charter schools in this list. Obviously there are lots of charters, but these two are ones that are: a) non-profit; b) in one case, operated by our local community college and in the other supporting the same kind of "open" philosophy that Ann Arbor Open has, but you can go there even if you don't live in Ann Arbor; and 3) my friends who have children in those schools have been pretty positive about them.

Elementary and Middle School

Honey Creek (a non-profit, K-8 charter school with an "open" philosophy): The school is open to K-8 students residing in the Washtenaw Intermediate School District catchment area. This resembles, but does not exactly match, the county boundaries. (For instance, if you are in the Grass Lake or South Lyon school district, but you live in Washtenaw County, you are not eligible.)
Applicant families are required to attend an enrollment meeting, which I believe are scheduled from 5:30-7:30, January 22nd and January 28th at Honey Creek, which is in the WISD building. Applications are then accepted between February 1 and February 15th (postmarked by. . . most of the other applications need to be in the office by the date stated above). Find out more information here.

High School

Washtenaw International High School: a consortium program that involves most of the local school districts, this school follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. It opened in 2011 with 9th graders only, so this coming year there will be 9th-11th graders.

Information nights for this program are January 10, 15, and 30, 7-9 p.m. at 510 Emerick Street, Ypsilanti, MI. Get more information about the program at or call (734) 994-8145. Applications are due February 8, 2013.

Early College Alliance (consortium program at Eastern Michigan University) is a consortium program that allows students to graduate from high school with up to 60 college credits. Most local school districts participate (check the partners page to see if your school district is participating). The remaining information sessions are on: January 8th at Pioneer High School and January 9th at the EMU Student Center. (I know! Short notice! There were several sessions in December. I don't think they are mandatory though.) Both sessions are from 6:30-8 p.m. Enrollment is open to 9th and 10th graders. Find out more here.

Washtenaw Technical Middle College (nonprofit charter, operated by and on location at Washtenaw Community College): WTMC is now open for 9th-12th graders. (Previously it was a 10th-12th grade program.) I got this from the web site: Admissions "invitationals will be held on January 17 (early admissions) and February 6 (regular admissions) in the Towsley Auditorium of the Morris Lawrence Building, on the campus of Washtenaw Community College. Information about the WTMC Ninth Grade Academy will be provided at a separate invitational event, held at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12, 2013. This invitational will also take place in the Morris Lawrence Building on WCC's campus." I'm not sure exactly what early admissions vs. regular admissions means. My impression from the kids I've known who have successfully gone to WTMC is that the students who do best are fairly independent in their orientation to school, work, and activities. Find out more here.

[Updated 1/8/13] New Tech High School: It occurs to me that I should add Ypsilanti's New Tech High School to this list. This program has been praised by several families that I know. However, there is a lot that is up in the air with this program next year given the Ypsilanti/Willow Run consolidation. The unified board has agreed to keep the program, but it may not be in the same location.

There are some other options, including private schools and other charters. For them, though, you will have to do your own research.

And while you are looking, remember what Sy Syms says: 
"An educated consumer is our best customer."


  1. I would encourage all parents to consider all the options on the table rather than opting for the default. After much debate, my kids now go to an NHA charter and while it's not perfect, we're thrilled we made the jump. Here's some more food for thought...


  2. There is a rollicking debate about this article in the Michigan Parents for Schools facebook page. For the majority of schools there was no difference in reading or math test scores, and they only used comparisons between charter and local public students who actually live in the same school district, and that meant that more than 2/3 of all Michigan schools and students were excluded from the study.

    A New Jersey public policy professor reacts to a similar CREDO study on New Jersey charters here:

    [Note: I have not read either the original study or the New Jersey reaction. I would encourage everyone to read the original study.]

    However, dswan, I agree with you that parents should consider all the options on the table that seem realistic to them. Sometimes, public policy ideals do not match up with individual family realities. More on that in another post!