Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wednesday 1/27/2016: AAEA Press Conference, then AAPS Board Meeting

Ann Arbor teachers have a new evaluation system that involves more testing (of students) and much more paperwork, and they are not happy about it.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, January 27, 2016, the Ann Arbor Education Association (teachers' union) is having a press conference at 6 p.m., at Forsythe Middle School in the Media Center.

After that, the school board meeting will also be at Forsythe Middle School.

The board meeting is supposed to start at 7 p.m., also at Forsythe.

Look at the agenda and board packet here. [The system is not at all intuitive. To see the meeting packet, click on the agenda. The agenda opens up and on the left side of the page, there is a navigation panel that has documents attached. If a document has been uploaded in advance of the meeting.]

Can't be there in person? A nice new feature is that you can live stream the board meetings. Go to this web page and look for the live streaming link.

Want to see what the teachers are talking about? 

What catches my eye is that in a recent survey of over 600 teachers, over 90% of teachers don't believe the administration or school board supports them.

There are lots of links to documents on this web page, and here is an infographic they have shared.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

[When] Are We on the Same Team?

I'll start with a story I heard from my kids several years ago. I wasn't actually there. Every year my parents run a "grandparents camp" where the parents aren't allowed. (Cool, huh?!) And this story is from there.

Two of my nieces (sisters) used to fight a lot. Now they get along well, but back in the day, when they were closer to 8 and 10 years old, that wasn't the case.
So the story goes that they had been fighting while in the car, and they started yelling at each other,

"I'm telling Mom and Dad on you." "I'm telling Mom and Dad on you."

And my kids intervened (according to them), and said,

"What are you two doing?! You're on the same team! You're on the same team!"

Side Note: You might be thinking (accurately) that this tells you something about my and my husband's relationship with our kids, and you'd be right...


So anyway, I've been thinking about the relationship between parents, teachers, and the school board. Right now, trust is kind of low (between teachers and the school board/administration, for sure, and maybe between parents and the school board as well), and I've been wondering:

Are we on the same team? When are we on the same team?

Take me, for example.
I'm clearly in agreement with lots of the Ann Arbor school administration and board's initiatives: A2 Steam, the IB program, taking a clear stand against guns in the schools, just to name a few.

But I'm not in agreement with some positions they have taken on testing, on the processes for decisions, and on teacher evaluation.
[Quick summary: I believe parents have the right to opt students out of testing; that the end does not justify the means; and that you'll be hearing a lot about teacher evaluation in the coming weeks.]

But I AM completely in agreement with the school board and the administration on how much harder we need to fight to get adequate funding for schools--not just Ann Arbor's schools, but Flint's schools, and Detroit's schools, and Traverse City's schools, and Alpena's schools.

What's more, I really appreciate when the administration and school board are willing to stand up to the state and demand safe schools and well-funded schools.


So I sometimes find myself torn. I want to support the school board and administration's work in Lansing; I want to support many local initiatives.

I don't want to support testing. I don't want to support activities that alienate and frighten teachers. I don't want to support pushing anything through without due process (except in an emergency, obviously).


And as I reflect on my children's interactions with their cousins, I think the appropriate answer is:

Sometimes we are on the same team. And sometimes we're not.  But a lot of the time, we're really on the same team, in that we all want the same thing--excellent schools.

Yet we don't necessarily agree on how to get there.

You know what? I don't think that is a bad thing.


I hope we can remember that when it comes to Lansing and funding or keeping guns out of our schools, no matter what our local differences are, we will need to unite.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016