Frequently Asked Questions

In 2015, Tecumseh Public Schools began the planning process for improving the district to ensure that every child receives the highest quality education, has the opportunity to identify and explore their own unique gifts and talents, and is prepared for life beyond graduation.

Following months of collaboration with educators, families, and community members the district shared its new Strategic Design in the fall of August 2016. As a result of this work, a number of changes happened within our schools during the 2017-18 school year.

Facilitators, administrators, the superintendent, and the Board of Education have met, had phone conversations, and exchanged emails with parents and community members throughout this process and have made improvements to our schools, processes, and policies based on the feedback they have received.

Stakeholder collaboration is an important part of the district’s Vision and Strategic Design, and the questions, concerns, suggestions, and praises brought forth are extremely valuable as the district works together with the community to provide the ideal learning experience for learners and their families.

This page serves to provide answers to some of the most commonly raised questions in our community. If you wish to know more, or have a question or concern that is not addressed here, please feel free to call 517-263-2167. If you prefer to email, please send a note to connect@tps.k12.mi.us and your message will be directed to the appropriate individual.


Isn’t personalized learning just the latest trend in education?

The term ‘personalized learning’ has received a lot of attention in the district and in education publications recently, but the concept is not new. We have long known that there is no one-size-fits all method to teaching children. Educators have long known that children come to school with varying levels of prior knowledge, experience, and learning styles. Teachers have used numerous strategies over the years to address these varying needs within their classrooms. As early as the 1880’s, school leaders began introducing plans to enable students to learn at their own pace. These initiatives changed over time and with the introduction of new research, but the core has always been the same: How do we best support and educate children with varying needs?

Why is TPS moving in this direction? Aren’t these changes typically made in districts that are struggling academically?

While TPS is leading the way in Lenawee County, we are not the only Michigan district on this path. Districts across our state and many others are making the transition as well. TPS staff members have met educators from New York, Maine, South Dakota, and California and several other states at conferences and meetings where customized learning has been in place for several years.

Countywide customized learning is one of the goals of the Lenawee Cradle to Career Partnership. The organization is a public-private network of members from the academic, business, nonprofit, and public service sectors. Members prioritize data-driven decision making and collaboration to improve the quality of education for children in our county. More information is available on the Lenawee Intermediate School District (LISD) website at www.lisd.us/lenawee-cradle-to-career/

Why did TPS move grade levels into different buildings? It seems the entire district is facing a lot of change. Why did you make so many changes in one year?

Following recommendations received from a facility usage study in 2014, grades Young 5 through 8 were redistributed across school buildings to better utilize district buildings. The district still follows the Michigan Merit Curriculum, Michigan K-12 English Standards, Michigan K-12 Math Standards, Michigan Science Standards, and Michigan Social Studies Expectations.

Here’s what was new for 2017-18:

  • Early Learning Centers
    • Building populations shifted to include learners in Y5-1st grade; moving from four buildings to two.
    • Wit and Wisdom was added as a resource to support state curriculum.
  • Compass Learning Center
    • Building population shifted to include learners in grades 2-6.
      • Grades 5 and 6 have always been at this building.
    • Wit and Wisdom was added as a resource to support state curriculum.
  • STEAM Centers
    • East and West STEAM Centers saw the most significant changes.
    • All 7th graders attended West
    • All 8th graders attended East
    • Learners, with input from their mentors and parents, were allowed some flexibility in choosing their class schedules to allow for differences in personal learning needs, styles, and interests. As a result, some learners had what could be labeled as a very “traditional” schedule, others had schedules that best reflected their individual learning needs.
    • More adult support was available to learners due to these changes.
    • Introduced Learning Expos as a way for learners to present their work to an authentic audience.
    • The traditional A-F grading process was changed to provide learners with direct feedback based on their personal mastery of academic standards. Competency scores were then converted to letter grades for transcripts.
  • High School
    • No significant instructional changes were made at the high school level.
Why are the schools offering electives like hair braiding?

At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, staff worked with learners at Tecumseh West STEAM Center to identify areas of interest as part of team building. These icebreaker activities were not elective courses. Once a week for the first four weeks of school, West STEAM learners could choose to participate in a variety of 20-minute sessions as an opportunity to build relationships and community, one of which was hair braiding. The activities were led by a facilitator and included conversation starters to encourage interaction.

How is Project-Based Learning different from a group project?

“Projects” have long been a part of learning and can represent any number of assignments that are completed in the classroom, at home, independently, or in a group. While these assignments are a component of Project-Based Learning, the focus shifts to the learning process, rather than the end-product.

Rather than focusing on a perfect diorama or tri-fold poster, PBL projects serve as the rubric in which learners research, ask questions, experiment, address authentic issues, and problem-solve to explore ideas and learn relevant information.

Projects

Can be done at independently, or with parent involvement, at home

Are typically the same year-to-year and typically focus on an end-product (diorama, poster, presentation, etc.)

Students have little choice in the topic or format of the project.


Grades can be subjectively influenced on neatness and quality of materials used.


Do not resemble work done in the real world.


Outcomes for all students are the same and are turned in to the teacher for grading.

Project-Based Learning

Requires facilitator guidance and peer collaboration


Is complex, relevant, timely, engaging and takes a significant amount of time for facilitators to plan, align to competencies, and implement.

Learners make most choices during the process, within a set of pre-approved guidelines and learning expectations.

Scoring directly aligns with learning objectives and are based on a clearly defined rubric, content mastery, and expected outcomes.

Completed work aligns with that which occurs in real world settings and the workplace.

Final product varies and is presented to an authentic audience of facilitators, peers, parents and community members who provide feedback.

I’ve heard students at the STEAM Centers are allowed to do whatever they want. They are unsupervised and roam the halls and play on their cell phones all day. Is this true?

This is not true. Learners at the East and West STEAM Centers are supervised by facilitators during passing time between classes and when they are using the multi-purpose space. Attendance is taken for each class and any learner who is tardy is located and escorted to class.

Cell phones may be used in certain situations, but learners are not permitted to use their phones during direct instruction. During group and independent work times, it is expected that learners are focused on collaborating with others and completing class work.

Why are students permitted to pick their own classes? Aren’t they studying core academic subjects or following academic standards anymore?

TPS follows the Michigan Merit Curriculum, Common Core State Standards for English and Math, Michigan Science Standards, and Michigan Social Studies Expectations. Learners at the STEAM Center and high school do have some flexibility in their scheduling, but must take core academics and meet the district and state requirements for graduation.

STEAM Center learners are required to enroll in core subject area classes, mentorship time, and the project-based learning lab. They may choose to take band, orchestra, choir, physical education, and other electives as time in their schedule allows. In collaboration with facilitators and their parents, learners may choose the frequency of these classes, based on their individual needs. Learners work with counselors, facilitators, mentors, and parents to develop a schedule that is right for their individual needs. (For example, a student who is strong in Social Studies, but needs extra support in English Language Arts, may choose to have Social Studies three days per week, and receive ELA instruction daily.) Parents are encouraged to be a part of the scheduling process, and may request to meet with a facilitator or building principal to discuss, and make adjustments to, their child’s schedule at any time.

High School learners have long had the ability to select the courses that best fit their educational pathway. Working with their counselor, learners choose classes and programs that meet the requirements for graduation and help them meet their individual educational goals.

I’ve heard the district changed the names on the buildings to avoid reporting test scores for three years. How is this possible?

TPS is required to take part in state assessments. This information is available to the public and can be found at www.mischooldata.org. We expect the state assessment data from the spring 2017-18 assessments to be back in the fall of 2018.

The district made the decision to change the building names with input from parents and community members who participated in the district reorganization committees. Feedback gathered at these meetings helped to guide the district’s decision to create building identities that better reflected the learners who attend them, and the learning taking place.

Why do you have 60-100 learners in one room for one teacher to watch, aren’t the classrooms overcrowded? How can one teacher watch 100 kids?

We would never place 100 learners in a classroom or learning lab. On average, our learner to facilitator ratio is 22:1. The teacher contract caps the number of learners permitted in each classroom based on grade level.

Maximum Learner : Facilitator Ratio*
Kindergarten - 26:1
First Grade - 28:1
Grades 2-4 - 28:1
Grades 5-6 - 30:1
STEAM Centers - 34:1High School - 34:1

*Average learner to facilitator ratio at TPS is 22:1.

The district offers a choice for parents at several grade levels on the learning environment for their children. Parents may choose a “single classroom” (smaller room, one qualified facilitator) or a “double classroom” (large room, two qualified facilitators) At any time during the school day, if small group instruction is needed, facilitators may choose to break out into other classrooms.

STEAM Center and high school classes can vary somewhat in size due to course demand, but cannot exceed 34:1. In lab spaces where there may be larger groups of learners, the number of facilitators also increases to maintain a ratio of no more than 34:1.

Why didn’t you tell us about these changes? Community members should have been asked for their input.

The district has worked with a variety of community stakeholders to be inclusive with the planning and implementation process for the changes that occurred in the 2017-18 school year. The district began introducing the possibility of changes in the district during the 2014-15 school year. During the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, the district communicated on a regular basis with staff, parents, and the community regarding the upcoming possibilities for Tecumseh Schools. Every step of the way, input was gathered and this input from community stakeholders informed each decision made in the process.

To see the history of communications from the District office, please refer to the Strategic Design Communications page. The files shared there are in addition to the direct communications that were sent electronically to parents throughout the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

Is it true that most teachers are unhappy with the changes at TPS and the district is losing large numbers of employees?

Just as any workplace, personnel at TPS make the decision to resign their position to advance their career, retire, relocate, or for a variety other personal reasons.

During the 2017-18 school year, 17 out of 170 facilitators chose to resign their position at TPS. Six retired, three relocated due to their spouse’s employment, two left the field of education, and six cited personal reasons. The district has a five-year retention rate of 91% for educators. For comparison, the state and national averages for teacher retention are 80% and 84% respectively.

I’ve heard from several friends that they are pulling their kids from TPS. Isn’t the district concerned about declining enrollment?

TPS is proud to report our enrollment is stable. Michigan is fortunate to offer the Schools of Choice program, allowing families to select the district that meets their needs. The number of learners across the state, our county, and district fluxuates year to year, with families choosing to move into, and out of, school systems for a variety of reasons.

Enrollment changes throughout the school year and over the summer. Some families have opted to leave TPS, while others have chosen to enroll their children in our district. The Schools of Choice enrollment window closed Sept. 7 and the district will have an official enrollment count following the October Count Day. Enrollment trend information for any district in the state is available by visiting www.mischooldata.org.

District

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

Addison

884

855

855

839

850

Adrian

3,066

3,049

2,963

2,960

2,903

Blissfield

1,243

1,211

1,186

1,207

1,200

Britton-Deerfield

754

719

664

587

553

Clinton

1,145

1,073

1,070

1,070

1,110

Hudson

893

939

935

975

1,049

Madison

1,560

1,567

1,601

1,602

1,631

Morenci

682

673

699

658

662

Onsted

1,482

1,437

1,386

1,388

1,318

Sand Creek

930

920

895

888

887

Tecumseh

2,930

2,903

2,942

2,985

2,957


Lenawee County

16,766

15,511

15,349

15,282

15,267

Statewide

1,564,114

1,550,802

1,540,005

1,532,335

1,520,065

County Enrollment Data [Source: MISchoolData.org]

How will my high school child get into college if her transcript doesn’t have grades on it?

Students graduating from Tecumseh High School will receive letter grades each semester and these grades, along with the corresponding grade point average (GPA) will be calculated and added the student’s transcript. 9th grade level competency-based grades will be converted to the traditional letter grade and GPA for transcripts. The transcript for a Tecumseh High School graduate will continue to look the same as it has for several years. For more on competency-based grading please refer to the Conversion Scale.

How will students know if they are doing well if they don’t get a letter grade?

Traditional testing methods are not an effective way to measure a learner’s knowledge, and letter grades can provide a false sense of content mastery, or conversely, discourage learners who need more time to master a particular standard.

Learners are assessed based on their mastery of each academic standard on a 1-4 grading scale, rather than by chapter, unit, or assignment.

4
Consistently demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the standards
Learner is going beyond what has been asked.

3
Consistently demonstrates an understanding of the standards
Learner can apply the knowledge to show understanding.

2
Is approaching an understanding of the standards
Learner has “foundational knowledge.”

1
Does not yet demonstrate an understanding of the standards
Learner cannot independently show they learned the skill

Scores are translated into letter grades and GPA is calculated as before for learner transcripts. that will be used to calculate GPA on the learners’ transcripts. You may refer to the competency-based to traditional grading scale conversion chart.

Why do you rely on the internet to teach your students? Is the reason you call teachers ‘facilitators’, because they don’t teach anymore?

Our educators are committed to creating outstanding learning opportunities and experiences for the students. Each building is different, with direct instruction and independent learning varying based on the developmental level of the learners. The district is in the fourth year of implementation of the Direct Interactive Instruction (DII) framework.

DII includes the gradual release of responsibility of learning from facilitator to learner:

  1. I Do: Facilitator demonstrates skill
  2. We Do: Facilitator and learners work together for instruction, support, and skill practice
  3. You Do: Learner practices the skill independently

The district works with a consultant three times per year to ensure that it is progressing on this implementation. This work includes classroom walk-throughs to ensure that research-based instructional strategies are present in each learning area.

  • Early Learning Centers: Learners in young fives through first grade primarily receive direct instruction in full class and small groups. Some independent learning time is provided for learners to read, complete class work, and explore through play and social interaction.
  • Compass Learning Center: The balance of direct instruction to independent learning begins to shift for learners in second through sixth grades, with the youngest learners receiving more direct instruction than older learners. Learners in 4th through 6th grades have increased supervised independent time to read class materials, complete assignments, and study.
  • STEAM Centers: Seventh and eighth grade learners at the STEAM Centers are expected to take increasing responsibility for their learning. Learners receive direct instruction, take part in small group lessons, work collaboratively with their peers, and independently complete coursework.
  • High School: Learners at the high school level receive a blend of direct full-class instruction, small group instruction, collaborative work, and independent study.

The Internet, like all forms of technology used in the classroom, is a tool and one resource learners may use for research, but learners have access to a facilitator and mentor for instruction and support throughout the school day.

The shift in terminology reflects the shift in a teacher-led instructional model to one that provides flexibility for the learner and holds them accountable for their own learning.

Lecturer
Educator stands in front of the class and delivers information while students listen and take notes. Students complete assignments and take tests to demonstrate learning.

Instructor

Educator drives content delivery through mini-lessons directed toward the entire class while students participate in guided activities. Students complete assignments and take tests to demonstrate learning.

Facilitator

Educators and learners drive content exploration and learners receive instruction in small groups, work independently, and have choice in how learning is demonstrated.

Coach

Educators adapt material to the learner according to specific needs. Learners meet individually or in small groups where they work on different units or tasks for additional support or advanced challenges.

Why won’t the district work with parents who have suggestions for changes?

Administrators, counselors, facilitators, and the superintendent have countless interactions with parents and community members each year. Public and individual meetings are scheduled, phone conversations held, letters are sent, and emails are exchanged to answer questions, address concerns, and ensure the district is meeting the needs of our learners and their families.

At the two STEAM Centers alone, dozens of meetings were held with a variety of parent groups throughout the 2017-18 school year to make building-wide adjustments to learner scheduling processes, adjust classroom and mentor assignments, and make scheduling modifications. Parent feedback has been the primary factor for most changes made since the start of the 2017-18 school year. For example, the new scheduling processes for the STEAM Centers and 9th Grade Learning Center were built upon the feedback we received from parents and learners.


The district encourages families to contact their child’s school with any questions or concerns. Community members are invited to call the school in question, or reach out to the Administrative Services Building at 517-423-2167 or via email at connect@tps.k12.mi.us.